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What is RCS Messaging? Everything to Know

You might be familiar with SMS and MMS, but what is RCS? These initialisms relate to the technology behind sending texts to other phones. RCS is a newer and more advanced option, offering features like read receipts, longer texts, high-resolution photos and videos, group chats, and more.

In this article, we break down this not-so-new technology to help you understand if it’s something you should use. If you encounter any issues with RCS, don’t worry—you can always disable RCS chats. Standard texts will still be available, so there’s no rush to make a decision anytime soon.

What is RCS messaging?

A person using a smartphone

RCS, or Rich Communication Services, is like the cool cousin of regular text messaging. It’s an upgraded version that turns your plain old SMS into a more feature-packed and interactive experience.

Imagine your usual texting, but with some extra features you’re probably already used to if you use modern texting apps like WhatsApp. With RCS, you can send high-resolution pictures and videos without losing quality, just like when you share them on social media. Plus, you can see when the other person is typing, so no more wondering if they got your message.

RCS upgrades group chats, too, into a sort of mini social network. RCS lets you add and remove people easily, see if they’ve read your messages, and even share your location in real-time. Additionally, RCS expands the limit of your text messages. Whether it’s a one-on-one conversation or a group message, RCS increases the old 160-character limit by a factor of 50, to a whopping 8,000 characters.

Emojis and stickers become more lively in RCS. Instead of static images, you can send animated stickers that express your feelings better.

The cool part? You don’t need a special app for RCS—it works right in your default messaging app on your smartphone. However, both you and your friend need to have RCS-compatible devices and be on a network that supports it.

An RCS-compatible device includes any Android device with operating system Android 5.0 (Lollipop) and later. In November of 2023, Apple announced that it would support RCS messaging in 2024 to allow iPhone and Android users to enjoy the benefits of RCS messaging when communicating with each other.  

In a nutshell, RCS gives traditional texting a makeover. It’s faster, fancier, and way more fun.

What is RCS chat?

RCS chat is what Google calls its version of RCS. It supports all the typical RCS features, but with the inclusion of end-to-end encryption. This means RCS chats, at least Google’s version, is more secure than other forms. RCS chats are turned on by default in the Google Messages app. The app lets you disable certain features, like read receipts and typing indicators.

You can read more about Google’s implementation of RCS in their RCS chats by Google FAQ.

How to Turn off RCS Chat

You can disable RCS chats to revert to SMS at any time. Here’s how it works in the Google Messages app on Android:

  1. Tap your profile image at the top right of the app.
  2. Select Messages settings from the menu.
  3. Choose RCS chats.
  4. At the top, next to Turn on RCS chats, tap the toggle.
  5. Pick Turn off from the prompt.

The RCS Chats toggle in the Google Messages app

Advantages of RCS Messaging

RCS messaging offers several advantages over traditional Short Message Service (SMS), bringing a more dynamic and engaging communication experience. One key advantage is the ability to send multimedia content seamlessly. Unlike SMS, RCS lets you share high-quality photos, videos, and audio clips directly within the messaging app.

Another notable benefit of RCS is the read receipts feature, which informs you when messages have been seen by the recipient. SMS lacks this functionality, leaving senders in the dark about whether their messages have been viewed. This real-time feedback in RCS helps you stay informed and fosters more transparent communication.

Additionally, RCS supports typing indicators, indicating when the other person is composing a response. This feature adds a touch of immediacy to conversations, making them feel more like real-time exchanges.

RCS messaging improves upon SMS by enabling multimedia sharing, read receipts, and typing indicators. These enhancements make communication more vibrant, responsive, and enjoyable, offering a modernized and feature-rich alternative to traditional texting.

RCS vs SMS Message

As you’ve now learned, RCS is quite a bit different from SMS. In fact, there’s even more to the story than what we’ve discussed so far. Below is a look at all the differences between SMS and RCS.

Feature RCS SMS
Content Type Multimedia (images, videos, GIFs, stickers, etc.) and read receipts Plain text, no multimedia support or read receipts
Message Length Longer message length (up to 8,000 characters). Limited to 160 characters per message
Delivery Speed Faster delivery in most cases, especially for larger files Generally quick, but may experience delays during peak times
Read Receipts Supports read receipts, indicating when the recipient has read the message No built-in read receipts
Group Messaging Enhanced group chat features, including real-time typing indicators Basic group messaging
Interactivity Supports interactive elements, such as suggested replies Static text, no interactive features
Cost Requires mobile data or Wi-Fi, potentially incurring charges for data usage Generally included in standard texting plans; no additional data charges (uses the same channels as voice)
Security Offers end-to-end encryption for enhanced privacy and security Standard SMS is not end-to-end encrypted; potentially less secure
Device Compatibility Requires compatible devices and carrier support. Not universally available Universally supported across all mobile devices, including between really old and modern devices
Global Standard Adoption varies by region and carrier. Not a global standard yet Widely adopted globally as a standard messaging service

Frequently Asked Questions

What does RCS stand for? 

RCS means Rich Communication Services.

How do you change RCS to SMS? 

If you’re using Google Messages, look in Messages settings for RCS chats. Tap the toggle next to Turn on RCS chats to switch to SMS.

Does Apple support RCS messaging? 

Apple announced in 2023 that modern text messaging features enabled by RCS messaging is coming to iPhones in 2024. The features RCS is known for will work between Android and iPhone devices.