“Buy your mother an iPhone.” This was Apple CEO Tim Cook’s blunt response to an attendee at the Code 2022 conference when asked if the company would adopt the RCS messaging protocol so that his mother could view the videos he sent her.
In its article entitled “Tim Cook would rather have you buy an iPhone than use RCS,” digital magazine TechCrunch reported on the controversy between Google and Apple over the implementation of the technology which, despite having been on the global technological agenda for years, has yet to gain traction.
What is RCS?
The RCS standard, which stands for Rich Communication Service, was developed as the intended successor to SMS. Journalist Yúbal Fernández of Xataka, a digital publication specializing in technology, defines it as follows: “a standard messaging protocol, capable of equipping your cell phone’s messaging or SMS application with the same functions as instant messaging applications like WhatsApp or Telegram.” He adds, “you don’t necessarily have to install other applications to send photos, videos, or voice notes because it can be done from any cell phone without registering with third-party sites.”
As Francesc Pérez, Chief Revenue Officer of Latinia, explains, “RCS is a universal protocol devised by telecommunications companies that provides interesting functionalities such as session protocols, traceability, being multimedia enabled and allowing delivery and read receipts.”
Why, then, with all these advantages over conventional SMS, is RCS not in widespread use? “Despite being universal and pushed for by the operators themselves, even they’re holding back from implementing it, mainly because of the stance being taken by Apple’, which has 20% of the market and has already said it has no plans to adopt the protocol due to security issues,” explains Francesc Pérez. “Apple is a technological island, and there’s no way it will allow third-party developers to interfere with its ecosystem, which, in addition, enjoys fierce loyalty from its users. Instead, it will continue to focus on its own Apple Push Notification Service,” he concludes.
The experts also point to other reasons that might explain why RCS has not enjoyed the same popularity as SMS did in its day. Manuel Naranjo of ComputerHoy explains in his article “What is RCS messaging?” that “the first reason is that, possibly, the protocol arrived too late and didn’t meet the compatibility standards it would have needed. In other words, although the system was created before WhatsApp, the truth is that the different operators were unable to agree on compatibility, and by the time they had resolved their issues, WhatsApp had already cemented its position as the undisputed king of the messaging world.
Security and RCS
Another major issue likely to be holding back widespread uptake of the messaging protocol is security. Yúbal Fernández of Xataka points out that “the downside of RCS is that the messages won’t be end-to-end encrypted, which means they won’t benefit from the layer of protection that prevents them from being read by operators or governments, and this could be viewed as a liability by people who are concerned about privacy.”
Francesc Pérez of Latinia fully agrees with this assessment, especially in the context of RCS being adopted as a communication channel between banks and their customers. “Security is going to be hugely important for customers, who are increasingly sensitive to the issue, and channels outside the bank’s in-house app, such as WhatsApp and other social networks, as well as SMS and RCS messages, are highly vulnerable to fraudulent activities like identity theft,” explains the company’s executive.
For Latinia, an expert on developing real-time decision and communication software products for the financial sector, the push notification channel is the best way to guarantee the delivery of all relevant customer communications. “Banks should concentrate their efforts on boosting their own channels, as there is no more secure way to establish a conversational environment with customers than through their private area on the mobile app, which also offers maximum traceability and features such as those offered by our inbox,” explains Francesc Pérez of Latinia. “Being multi-channel isn’t about using all the available channels, but about using those best suited to the type of notification and its relevance, so why should a bank use the more expensive ones, especially if it has no control over their security?