Texting is so boring — at least, the kind that you can do by default on all handphones, no matter how basic. It offers plain vanilla when we long for the cassata quality of a WhatsApp or a Facebook Messenger, where we can attach photos, videos or sound bytes.

But these new age messaging apps have their limitations. For starters, you need an Internet connection — which many basic feature phones lack. And the biggest hassle is that your recipient must also be a WhatsApp or FB Messenger user. But all that is about to change: 2019 should see India among a handful of nations graduating to a new multimedia avatar of the basic SMS. It’s called Rich Communication Service or RCS and incredibly, is technology that was adopted, a full ten years ago, by the GSM Association, the global body of cell phone services. The main evangelist is Google and it looks like its push has finally come to shove: Three months ago, Samsung came on board to incorporate RCS into its mobile phones starting with the Galaxy S8. In the US, Verizon is the first telecom player to offer RCS, in a limited way — on Google’s Pixel 3 XL handset.

Leading cloud communication player, Route Mobile is the first to bring RCS to India by joining Google’s early access programme; they will offer a robust business messaging platform to help brands achieve an engaging 2-way communication with their customers, says group CEO Rajdipkumar Gupta: “It will allow brands to send interactive messages like images of their products, GIFs, videos, and location to the nearest point of sale (POS). It supports browsing and purchase of products through online payments –without leaving the messaging app. Retailers can now demonstrate products, airlines can handle bookings and banks can process banking transactions – all over messaging. Brands today have been looking for a more holistic mobile communication solution apart from traditional messaging. With Google’s RCS, we now have one.”

In 2019, we can expect to graduate from SMS to RCS as more devices and services providers join in. Is it a big deal — and if so how big?

Other than the obvious advantage that you can send multimedia messages — with animated GIFs, still photos, and videos — to anyone with an Android device, it will let you know if the person you’re texting is available, and can send you a receipt to prove they received your message. It will handle longer messages and larger files. It will also bring some group messaging features not currently possible with SMS. All this may sound much like WhatsApp today — but Google is cannily pitching RCS to businesses as a huge value adder, For example once you have bought a flight ticket, the airline can remind you to check in for a flight and can leverage the multimedia capability to provide easy check-in complete with a boarding pass, visual flight updates, and a personalised route map of the terminal which you can follow from entry to baggage check-in to security to boarding gate, without having to look for all these signs…..

The possibilities are infinite. RCS promises to live up to its name and bring a rich new level of communication your phone in the New Year.

Published in India Tech Online: Get set for a rich new messaging experience in 2019
Published in Asian Age: Rich Communication Service coming to India
Published in Deccan Chronicle: Rich Communication Service coming to India