Rich Communications Services, the next-gen upgrade to standard texting and MMS on conventional carriers, might just be the quietest, subtlest trend in 2016. It's being adopted by a ton of mobile-focused tech companies, including Google, in the somewhat nebulous hope that systems more than a decade old can be either replaced or augmented with more capable tech. To that end Google is partnering with Canadian carrier Rogers, the first company to join the Jibe standard in the country.
Google's Jibe RCS platform supports new features absent from standard texting, like read receipts, writing alerts, and better group and high-res image support - basically all of the same stuff as a tool like Hangouts or WhatsApp, only delivered via a phone's default SMS system. Sprint has already committed to pre-loading Jibe-compatible SMS default apps on all new Android phones next year, and Rogers has made the same commitment. The rollout begins today, presumably on Pixel and Nexus devices. Other phones can access RCS texts via Google's semi-proprietary Messenger app in the Play Store.
Google isn't the only one working on RCS. Because Samsung is, well, Samsung, the company has a competing standard that's hot on its heels. Also AT&T and T-Mobile support RCS... but not Google or Samsung's. It's a bit of a mess right now. We should see a lot more competition, and hopefully a little consolidation, in 2017.
- Google Keyword blog