Speaking about RCS with Hiroshi Lockheimer

Max Weinbach –

March 24, 2023, 11:00 a.m

A couple of weeks in the past, at MWC 2023, I had the chance to sit down down with Hiroshi Lockheimer, Senior Vice President of Platforms and Ecosystems at Google, to discuss RCS messaging. Whilst there is not a lot someday of what Google plans with Google Messages and RCS as a protocol, I have had a just right have a look at how RCS may glance and the way Google sees it.

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For some background, RCS used to be offered via the GSMA in 2008 because the successor to the SMS carrier. GMSA is the International Machine for Cell Communications, a bunch of greater than 750 cellular operators and greater than 400 firms within the cellular ecosystem. The principle purpose of the GSMA used to be to create a contemporary communications protocol that may now not paintings on voice networks, as a result of then and to some degree now, SMS used the similar cell channels as a telephone name. It used to be, and nonetheless is, extraordinarily old-fashioned, useless, and hazardous. That is why the GSMA RCS is designed to exchange the legacy platform.

A couple of years after the GSMA rolled out RCS (and with apps like WhatsApp commencing), Lockheimer mentioned the GSMA reached out to Google about the usual at MWC. Google, upon investigating RCS, learned that the GSMA used to be proper, and that SMS used to be about twenty years previous on the time and had to be up to date. This used to be prior to iMessage used to be introduced – Apple found out the similar factor and determined to enforce iMessage as a solution to the getting older protocol.

This used to be the start of RCS for Google and the Android workforce, however as Lockheimer mentioned, “It is a lengthy recreation, you already know, that is one of the crucial courses it’s a must to persist with and persist with.” He defined that even if the GSMA had approached them about offering strengthen for RCS, carriers had other concepts about how they sought after to enforce RCS.

All that mentioned, 2015 came to visit and there have been nonetheless no service messages. As an alternative, it used to be restricted to carrier-to-carrier simplest, like Verizon-to-Verizon, messaging or even particular units that use sure apps, like Verizon Messages+. For instance, in case you have a Samsung telephone from T-Cell, there is not any be sure that it is going to paintings even with T-Cell. You’re going to want particular telephones on particular firmware and there is not any be sure that your pals could have get entry to to it. If you make a decision to get an unlocked telephone and it is not via a service, there is not any technique to get entry to RCS in any respect. Successfully, the RCS far off keep watch over machine used to be nugatory.

The turning level for RCS used to be with the Common Profile. The Common Profile used to be a collection of core RCS options that have been all supported in the similar method via all carriers the use of RCS. This incorporated typing signs, learn receipts, leaving staff chats, sharing footage with out information loss, shifting information, and extra. The Common Profile implies that RCS will in spite of everything turn out to be a crossover service that is wealthy in options in an invaluable method! Positive, some carriers have rolled out the Common Profile to a couple LG and Samsung telephones via devoted apps through the years, however nonetheless, the Common Profile did not topic as a result of, once more, it used to be arduous to inform for those who or your contacts would have the ability to. Your contacts cannot get entry to it, and it is unimaginable to get entry to if you do not purchase a telephone via a service.

As Lockheimer defined, Google knew it would pace this up, they usually sought after to make it in order that customers may “get that have via downloading an app as a substitute of looking forward to one thing they may be able to’t keep watch over to occur.” This used to be in 2019, when Google determined to roll out RCS Chat. This straightforward addition to the Google Messages shopper allowed any consumer to get entry to a very powerful options of RCS with out depending on their service for common profile strengthen or software producer for RCS strengthen. Merely put, RCS is beginning to reside as much as its attainable.

Now, all of that is historical past. It is how RCS got here to be that, relatively frankly, it isn’t important. What issues is the place it is going from right here. As of remaining yr’s Google I/O, Google’s RCS had 500 million customers, a host Lockheimer mentioned is far better now.

Google does not need RCS to exchange different messaging apps

I would like initially a Google quote right here:

Our analysis presentations that the typical consumer makes use of 3 to 4 messaging apps, be it WhatsApp or Snap. That is nice. We are not looking to construct RCS into one app to rule all of them.

Hiroshi Lockheimer

One of the vital major drawbacks that RCS has with extra customers, and Apple’s push to strengthen it, is third-party apps. Why now not simply set up WhatsApp, Telegram or Sign? Why do you want RCS? The typical consumer does not, nevertheless it does not harm that the default can be a little higher.

RCS on Android is not supposed to exchange the remainder of your apps. Sign remains to be where to move in case you are searching for extremely safe messaging. Telegram and Discord are the place you cross when on the lookout for teams or speaking for your pals. WhatsApp, Fb Messenger, Snapchat, Instagram, that is the place you cross to family and friends. Google isn’t looking to trade this; They do not need to trade this. Hiroshi defined.

Each and every app has its personal objective, and Google does not suppose RCS will trade that. Google desires one thing higher as a default.

The ironic case of why Google desires RCS to be successful

After speaking to Google about RCS messaging, something is obvious: Google actually desires to release RCS out of doors of the Android platform. There are numerous theories as to why Google would need to push RCS and feature it substitute SMS because the default on units globally. Some have assumed that the aim of that is to gather information, however the end-to-end encryption this is enabled via default makes that not going. Others have assumed that Google desires it so there is no such thing as a unmarried brick in Apple’s walled lawn, which makes some sense.

RCS does now not require the usage of each characteristic. Common Profile does now not require write signs, learn receipts, and many others. Apple, if they need, can pick out and make a choice which portions of RCS they need to enforce. In the event that they need to upload end-to-end encryption and higher staff chats, they may be able to. The walled lawn destroy concept falls aside whilst you believe what Apple can do to take care of the walled lawn whilst additionally bettering safety and different studies.

I believe that is because of verified messages and RCS for Industry. RCS for Industry permits Google and different carrier suppliers promoting companies get entry to to higher messaging with consumers. As a part of Jibe, Google makes use of RCS to offer wealthy navigation with consumers. This might be, as an example, Very best Purchase the use of RCS to offer QR codes and the power to ship when you find yourself there in an RCS chat.

Google sells this as a carrier to firms for B2C (business-to-consumer) communications, so the extra units, particularly when iPhone customers, normally, are prepared to spend more cash with their telephones, the simpler it turns into to promote firms to put money into Google communications products and services. B2C from Jibe. This along side all connected Google accounts to post complete answer footage in Google Pictures,

Messaging is now not an Android drawback, it is an iPhone drawback

Messaging answer for Android customers. If you happen to cross out and purchase a brand new Android telephone now, your default messaging shopper it will be Google Messages with RCS chat. Even on older units, all it takes is putting in an authentic Google app from the Play Retailer.

One of the vital major takeaways from talking with Lockheimer used to be trendy messaging and the fundamentals of RCS on Android have been solved. Android customers globally can get entry to RCS with every different. It’s encrypted peer-to-peer the use of the Sign protocol, each person-to-person and in staff chats (these days in beta) of as much as 100 other folks.

SMS issues now not exist for the majority of Android customers. The issue is now for iPhone customers.

iPhone customers have iMessage – Android customers have RCS. The one technique to have unique pass connections according to a telephone quantity is a 20 yr previous protocol. Pictures glance worse, video appears to be like worse, staff chats turn out to be a multitude of behind schedule messages in teams you’ll by no means depart. Simple and easy, the revel in is the worst.

This protocol isn’t safe, which is necessary as a result of one of the vital not unusual sorts of two-factor authentication is completed by way of textual content message. RCS permits firms to make use of the RCS Common Profile along side the Sign Protocol to encrypt those messages. This implies, in concept, that two-factor consumers with Android will have extra safety than iPhone customers. Realistically, this is not out but, and most likely may not till it is well worth the funding, as though iOS helps RCS.

As Hiroshi mentioned:

Because you discussed Apple, I’m going to simply point out, they have mentioned how necessary privateness actually is as a human proper and the way necessary this is to them. I believe like, “Take a look at the generation that is to be had at the moment…” Now I believe unhealthy for iPhone customers who’re going to revel in degraded options, and it might be great if they may supply that for them. And the most efficient coverage for them, too. You already know Android customers are wonderful, they textual content every different lovely securely and all that stuff, and now it simply will get bizarre as a result of now when they have interaction with iPhones we are going to need to maintain a degraded safety revel in.

He is proper. There may be numerous dialogue about RCS and whether or not Apple will have to strengthen it, many tech fanatics and the ones within the business cite the grim revel in till lately as the root for why they mustn’t, however as I mentioned previous, that is it. The way it came about does not topic, what issues is how we transfer ahead. No one calls for all of Apple’s apps on Android — they may be able to stay that. What Google desires, what my customers need, and what I would like is unassuming: one thing higher and extra safe than SMS.

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