RCS messaging takes over from SMS for Android users – what you need to know

You may have seen a pop-up on late-model Android phones asking you to swap to RCS messaging. Google could have better explained what this means and why you should swap over.

RCS messaging stands for Rich Communication Services. It allows for more types of content, high-res photos/videos (up to 100MB), end-to-end encryption, read receipts, and knowing when the recipient is typing a response. You can also use it for voice and group chats.

In other words, it does everything SMS does and more with no downsides.

How to turn on RCS messaging

If you use Google’s standard Messages App, open it and look at the top left for an icon with a stick figures head and shoulders or … (press that to access your profile).

  • You will see message settings – press that.
  • Press ‘RCS Chats’ and turn it on. It will ask you to verify your number and agree to the Terms and Conditions (which are benign).
  • Only late-model Android phones support this, so you should turn on “Automatically resend as text (SMS/MMS)” if the recipient’s phone won’t accept RCS messages.
  • Also, turn off using mobile data or roaming unless you need to use this feature.

Note: RCS is only applicable to Google Messages App. It won’t work on other messaging Apps.

RCS uses the internet and mobile data

Standard SMS/MMS uses the P2P (person-to-person) channel of the public switched 4/5G telephone network. That is becoming clogged with robocall spam and scam SMS. RCS uses the internet or mobile data to go to your Telco carrier (Telstra, Optus and Vodafone support it), which uses the internet to send to the recipient’s Telco carrier, and the ‘last mile’ is via internet or mobile data. If the recipient cannot receive it, an SMS is sent.

In many respects, it is like Apple’s iMessage but based on open standards. WhatsApp also does a similar thing.

This should circumvent the growing trend by some countries to block SMS messages from international numbers. Read Australia to UK SMS blocked.

Issues – none really

Your message is end-to-end encrypted. It can only be read by the recipient or law enforcement with a court order. SMS has no encryption.

Google does check your contacts to see if they are RCS compatible before sending.

If an RCS is sent over Wi-Fi, there is no charge. Normal plan costs apply if it is sent over mobile data (and you can stop this).

And if your phone is not compatible, it will show the status when you try to turn on RCS.

Businesses will be able to send you much more immersive messages with clickable links, embedded videos, booking confirmations, click-to-pay, and much more.

CyberShack’s view – RCS messaging is the new safe SMS alternative

As we said, Google et al. did not do enough to explain the switch. We have been using it for a few months, and data charges are negligible (as we turn off roaming).

Please give it a go. If it does not work for you, switching off and reverting to SMS/MMS is simple.