For 30 years of SMS, Google tries to bury the standard once and for all

The SMS is thirty years old. On December 3, 2022, the famous communication protocol celebrated a symbolic anniversary, corresponding to the very first text message sent from one mobile to another in 1992. For the occasion, Google unveiled new features in its Messages app intended to make SMS even more obsolete.

End-to-end encryption and reaction emoji

Those who use Google’s native application to send group messages will soon see their end-to-end encrypted communications thanks to the new features deployed by the Android publisher. Message protection and the ability to add message “reactions” via any emoji began rolling out in the Messages beta. The encryption of face-to-face conversations has already been in effect for a few years.

But there is a subtlety to this announcement. These new features are not actually accessible to SMS users, as they are reserved for RCS messages. Developed since 2007, the RCS wants to be a replacement for the antediluvian SMS. This protocol offers more flexibility in everyday communications. It is a standardized messaging system that uses a mobile’s Internet connection to pass multimedia files more easily or to facilitate the deployment of features such as end-to-end encryption.

The RCS, discreet replacement of the SMS

You are probably using the RCS without knowing it. Google’s Messages app (pre-installed on some Samsung mobiles) uses RCS instead of SMS whenever possible. When you send a message, your phone checks if the mobile opposite is able to open an RCS communication channel rather than SMS. And if so, it passes your messages through this protocol. The manipulation is almost invisible for the owner of the smartphone since the message is sent as usual, thanks to the same application, but via the Internet rather than the telephone network.

The deployment of new encryption features and the ability to add any emoji bring Google’s app a little closer to a real instant messaging software like WhatsApp, Signal or Telegram. It is also a sign that Google is pushing its RCS communication tools more and more, at the expense of good old SMS, which does not have the technical capabilities to encrypt messages or offer other advanced tools. The company also took the opportunity to tackle Apple, which still does not support RCS in iMessage.

“Today, all major carriers and mobile phone manufacturers have adopted RCS as a standard, except Apple. It refuses to embrace RCS and continues to rely on texting when people with iPhones text people with Android phones, meaning their texting is stuck in the 1990s.”denounces Google in a post titled “Happy birthday and goodbye texting”.

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