Google RCS Messaging goes live in Kenya

Finally, Messages just got better, and RCS Support has gone live in Kenya. You may have already seen the notification if you use the Android Messages app by Google. If you don’t, install it on your phone now, and set it as your default messaging app to enjoy the new experience. (Link to the app)

If you’re reading this and wondering, what the hell is RCS? Well, it stands for Rich Communication Services. And so as to not type a lot of technicalities here, the important thing to know is that it is a standard that lets you send messages over the internet without using your credit/airtime. Very simply, it is the latest advancement to SMS/MMS. Latest as in it is arriving now, and attempting to become mainstream now. But as a standard, it has existed for a while.

With RCS enabled, all you need is to activate the features on your Messages app, and be able to send text, GIFs, Images, Videos, location, contacts and much more over the Messaging app. This works seamlessly over an internet connection, and you needn’t tinker with anything as long as CHAT FEATURES is enabled in your messaging app.

Google RCS Messaging goes live in Kenya

iPhone users already know of and love iMessages. Well, RCS is sort of a copy of that now brought to Android. Here are the similarities and differences between these two messaging standards:

RCSiMessage
Send over rich messages to friends and familyDoes the same thing with more iOS integration allowing stuff like memoji
Requires users to have enabled Chat Features Requires users to have enabled iMessage
Works on Android OnlyWorks on Apple devices only
Preinstalled on some Android phones
But many Android Users need to install it
Pre-installed on ALL Apple devices
Users can see delivered and read notificationsUsers can see delivered and read notifications
Users can see typing indicatorUsers can see typing indicator
Smart replies suggestions based on conversationNo smart reply suggestions
No encryption, meaning Google/Telco may see conversationsEnd to End encrypted meaning Apple won’t see conversations
Accessible via desktop website No desktop website
Not yet available worldwideAvailable for all iPhone users

Apparently, Google is looking to bring end-to-end encryption to RCS. We have no idea on the timelines for this. When that becomes available, it means we may see a significant shift in the use of Chat apps like WhatsApp, Telegram. However, we can’t say that confidently because one, WhatsApp is an App with strategic goals, and features like communicating with businesses, fingerprint lock to make sure no one accesses your messages, and much more. RCS is basically just a standard. And two, we also don’t know if Kenyans will be open to going back to using their default Messages apps, or if this has come a little too late.

How to enable RCS Messaging:

  • Update to the latest Messages App on Google Play Store
  • Wait for the notification like in the picture above and follow steps.
  • If the notification doesn’t pop, go to settings > chat features > and verify your number.
  • Enjoy RCS texting. But you’ll need to tell more people about it, or you’ll have no one to text for free.
Google RCS Messaging goes live in Kenya

The benefits of the new standard are obvious: it is fast, it is free, and there are no signups required as with Over The Top messaging apps like WhatsApp. Also, ideally in future, multiple devices could be supported like with iMessage, but that’s not currently live. The only way to use the feature on multiple devices is by going to the website on your desktop and linking your phone.

I am looking forward to seeing how Kenyans take up the new standard. Especially given most of us buy devices that don’t come with the Google Messages app. Recently though, we’ve seen many phones embrace the Google Messaging app and having it as the default app. If this becomes a common default app, we may see significant uptake of RCS messaging. What are your thoughts? Do you think this will affect WhatsApp and other messaging apps?

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