After 25 years, is SMS finally ready for a makeover?
Since the first smartphones were discovered by archaeologists ten years ago, almost everything in mobile has changed.
Photos, maps, games, music – they’ve all got better, faster and easier to use.
But one thing hasn’t changed at all: SMS.
Yes, we now have touch screens and color. But otherwise sending a text is the same now as it was in 1995. No wonder people love WhatsApp, Kik, Facebook Messenger and the rest so much.
These new chat apps let you see messages in real time, get read receipts, join groups, send and receive media files and much more. SMS does none of this. You get 160 characters and, er, that’s it.
However, SMS does have its advantages. It’s truly universal. And it’s (almost) always on. No need for a data connection.
So, is it time for a SMS makeover?
Well, it might be. And – interestingly – it’s Google rather than the world’s operators that is behind the push.
Last year, Google bought Jibe, a company that helped build a messaging system called RCS.
Now, RCS is actually nine years old. At its unveiling in 2008, it was supposed to be SMS v2. But the world’s operators couldn’t agree on the standard and it died.
Now, Google and the networks want to revive it.
Naturally, this has got many wondering: what’s in it for Google? One theory is that it wants to build an equivalent of iMessage – a rich chat app pre-loaded on every Android phone in the world.
It’s easy to see why. Google has a confused messaging strategy. It currently offers around a dozen apps from Allo to Google+ to Hangouts. RCS would really straighten things out.
But this is not a straightforward mission. Convincing every operator to join the project will be difficult. As would getting users to switch from WhatsApp etc.
Google needs to make something happen. Apple and Facebook are constantly updating their messaging apps. They’re targeting business users, adding bots and integrating payments.
Any Android app developer will surely want Google to bundle something similar inside the Android OS. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another nine years.