We're rolling out the next generation of mobile messaging, and we're doing it before anyone else. Here's everything you need to know about RCS and Message+.

message plus 2

We’re in the midst of rolling out a new messaging platform to our legion of Android users across the UK. It’s called Rich Communication Services (RCS), and it’s landing alongside a Vodafone app called Message+.

But what is RCS, how is it different to your phone’s current inbuilt messaging capabilities, and why should you care? These are the big questions we’ve put to Vodafone’s Caroline Naylor. Read on to find out why RCS is the next generation of messaging, and how you can get on board…

Change is good

What is RCS, and what is Message+?
“I can see why there might be some confusion on this,” says Caroline, “because we’ve got RCS and we’ve also got Message+, and you might sometimes see the terminology used interchangeably. The thing is, RCS and Message+ are pretty much the same thing. RCS is like a chocolate bar, and Message+ is just our specific version or flavour.

“RCS is a new, cross-network standard for sending messages via data, and Message+ is our app that uses it. Message+ is like WhatsApp or Google Hangouts. It means you can message other customers that have got Message+ (or another network’s RCS app), and you can send pictures, video and sounds using your data allowance. It’s essentially messaging over the internet rather than through the radio network.”



“There is a difference, though. With WhatsApp, if the person you’re speaking to isn’t online, then nothing happens – the message doesn’t send. What makes Message+ great is that your offline recipient get sent a text or MMS instead. If they’re online, Message+ will send them your text through your data connection, and if they’re offline, they’ll receive it using your SMS allowance.

“Put simply, instead of your Android phone’s native, inbuilt messaging capability just being text, we’re moving to RCS, which is designed to allow richer messaging with pictures, videos and more. Message+ is our own app that leverages all of those capabilities in one slick package.”

Why has my phone downloaded RCS capabilities automatically?
“RCS is the new industry standard. All the operators (not just Vodafone) have been working on what RCS should look like, how to implement it and everything like that. So what we’re doing right now is giving Android phone owners RCS through a firmware maintenance update, and allowing people to download Message+ from the Google Play Store.

“RCS is a new industry standard for sending messages via data…”

“Once that’s done we’ll send you a text saying that you’ve now got RCS capabilities, but that you can turn it off in the settings if you really like. Otherwise, you’re then free to message with RCS, using the stock text messaging application that came on your phone, and you’ll get all of the benefits from using an online app.”

What are the benefits?
“Messaging through data has lots of plus points. Things like sending picture messages over the web instead of via MMS, or sending and receiving international texts at no extra charge. When people start using it, they will see that it can save them money – each text message is only a couple of kilobytes in size, so it’s tiny compared to our data allowances. Your messaging experience will also be richer – you can add pictures, emoticons, locations, videos and more.”

message plus 1

What happens when I text my friends on other networks?
“If you’re messaging someone else who has RCS,” Caroline explains, “then you’ll be doing that as you would if you were using a service like WhatsApp. If you have it and they don’t, you’ll send it by the traditional means – through a text.

“This is something that the handset manufacturers want us as operators to implement.”

“We’re the first network to roll out RCS in the UK,” she adds, “so at the moment you’ll only be able to use it with friends and family who’re on Vodafone. But we do expect the other networks to all follow soon, because it’s the new industry standard. This is something that the handset manufacturers want us as operators to implement.

“All of this, along with our trials of Voice over 4G, is us making steps towards entirely data-based communications. We’re moving to a data world, and this is how it’s going to be. Right now it might look and feel different to what people are used to, but it’s the future of messaging.”

Which phones will be getting RCS?
“We’re focussing predominantly on Android at the moment, but we’re working on rolling it out to everyone soon.”

So there you have it… With RCS installed you’ll be able to text all your contacts as normal, only now with the added benefits that come with data-based messaging. It’s win-win. If you want to jump on board and try our own flavour of RCS, you can download Message+ from the Google Play Store here.