T-Mobile Brings Messenger-Like Features to SMS

T-Mobile Brings Messenger-Like Features to SMS

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T-Mobile has announced that it’s switching on a new messaging technology called, “Advanced Messaging.” Built on the international GSM Association‘s Rich Communication Services (RCS) standard, T-Mobile promises to do to text messaging what VoLTE has done to voice calling—essentially, bring it into the modern age.

 

When most of us think of standard SMS messaging, we think:

  • Slow
  • Unreliable
  • Finicky
  • Basic
  • Featureless
  • Limited

…and unfortunately, ubiquitous.

SMS messaging has been around in some form since the early 90’s, and it was devised as a way to allow short (160-character) messages to be sent and received over legacy telephone and cellular networks. MMS was later constructed using the same principles, extending cellphone messaging capability from mere text-based messages to full binary data transfer (e.g., photos). However, legacy telecommunication networks were built for analog communication; the world is now moving away from old-fashioned telephony—and its inherent limits—and moving towards the limitless possibilities of internet protocol (IP) data.

How does RCS improve standard SMS?

You can think of SMS and MMS like old dial-up modems—you’re sending and receiving data over a telephone network. The RCS protocol is all-digital—you’re sending and receiving data via the internet. This has numerous benefits, not the least of which is speed and reliability. Ever notice how much faster and more reliable sending a photo via e-mail is compared to via an MMS message? That’s because data sent over the internet on 3G or 4G LTE—hell, even 2G—is a whole lot faster than data sent via telephone networks.

In addition, migrating messaging from legacy telephone networks to the internet allows for a substantial amount of features that we now take for granted in third-party messaging apps. All of the following are possible with RCS:

  • Unlimited message size
  • Group chat
  • File-transfer
  • Multimedia sharing (stickers, emoji, GIFs)
  • Location sharing
  • Real-time chat (So and so “is typing…“)
  • Delivery receipts
  • Read receipts
  • Presence (online/offline/away statuses)
  • Service discovery (detect if friend’s phone is RCS-capable)
  • Voice over IP calling
  • Video calling
  • International voice/text (the internet knows no boundaries, right?)
  • Phone number blocking/blacklisting

Essentially, anything that is currently possible with third-party messaging apps (Hangouts, WhatsApp, LINE, Viber, FB Messenger, etc…) will become possible with standard messaging as carriers roll out RCS support. Best of all, since RCS is a standard developed by the international GSM Association, you can count on widespread international adoption wherever cell networks follow the GSM standard (nearly everywhere).

RCS isn’t currently a household acronym like 4G, LTE, and VoLTE, but if T-Mobile’s Advanced Messaging gains steam and popular messaging apps like Google Messenger, Textra, and even Hangouts begin to implement new features enabled by RCS, standard carrier messaging could reach feature-parity with third-party messaging apps.

Don’t jump for joy too soon, though, because RCS “Advanced Messaging” is currently only available in the US via T-Mobile on the Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime. T-Mobile has promised that future software updates to the Galaxy S5 and S6 will enable the features on those phones, as well. Ultimately, the fate of RCS depends entirely on how willing carriers, OEMs, and software developers are to implement the new features on their networks and in future phones and updates.