What is the difference between RCS and SMS

Coline Constant
20 Feb, 2024

We’ve been talking about RCS (Rich Communication Services) for some time now. But what about SMS? What is the difference between RCS and SMS? Because reality has changed, and we can now seriously consider using this channel for business communication. So let’s take a look at the status of RCS, SMS and the difference between the two.

difference rcs sms working

SMS: a glimpse into history and functionality

The evolution of SMS

Before we get into the comparison, let’s go back to basics and understand the origins of SMS. The history of Short Message Service, or SMS, dates back to the early 1990s. Originally conceived as a simple communication tool, SMS revolutionized mobile communication by enabling the exchange of short text messages through cellular networks. A real revolution then.

How does SMS work?

SMS operates on the backbone of cellular networks, utilizing the signaling path that’s always present between mobile devices and cell towers. In fact, it works as a store-and-forward service, allowing messages to be stored briefly before being forwarded to the recipient’s device when it becomes available. It’s as simple as that.

SMS in action

Once launched, SMS quickly became a ubiquitous and reliable means of communication worldwide. Thanks to its simplicity and broad compatibility with all devices, it quickly established itself as the preferred choice for instant messaging, notifications and even basic business communications. Certainly, from two-factor authentication to appointment reminders, SMS is an integral part of our daily lives.

RCS: the next frontier

Understanding Rich Communication Services (RCS)

RCS, or Rich Communication Services, emerges as the evolutionary step beyond SMS. Designed to address the limitations of its predecessor, RCS introduces a wealth of features to enhance the messaging experience. High-resolution images, delivery receipts, video sharing and interactive buttons are just some examples. And these are just a few of the possibilities offered by RCS, which have put it in the spotlight.

what is the difference between rcs and sms

Key features of RCS

1. Rich multimedia content

RCS enables the transmission of images, videos and other high-quality multimedia content. Unlike SMS, RCS uses the data network for a richer multimedia experience.

2. Read receipts and delivery reports

To ensure successful communication, RCS incorporates a read receipt and message delivery report mechanism. Then, in this way, you can keep track of the status of your messages.

3. Interactive buttons

With RCS, you can integrate interactive buttons into your communications. You integrate then these buttons into the message payload and enable users to interact directly with the content.

4. Answer suggestions

To facilitate and accelerate interaction, the RCS enables response suggestions to be made directly in a conversation. So you can guide the user in the exchange or the needed support.

5. Message length

While SMS messages are limited to 160 characters, RCS lets you send longer messages, with no text limit. Perfect for more detailed and comprehensive communication.

6. Location sharing

The customer experience can be made even more interactive and hyper-personalized with location sharing. This feature makes it possible to offer services based on the user’s geographical context: navigation assistance, appointment scheduling, helpdesk…

7. Application launch on phone

RCS messages can contain links to mobile applications. So these links appear as buttons or clickable links directly in the message. The result? One click takes you to the right application.

If we ask ourselves what the difference is between RCS and SMS, the characteristics cited above and the context in which each technology has emerged are quite illuminating.

What is the difference between RCS and SMS: comparison

For greater clarity and to complete the comparison, a small summary table showing what the difference is between RCS and SMS would be welcome.

 SMSRCS
Message length160 characters250.000 characters
MultimediaText onlyHigh-resolution images, video, audio, emojis
ReachCompatible with all mobile devicesCompatible only with Android smartphones (for now)
Not yet active on iOS iphones
SecurityBasic encryptionEnd to end encryption (P2P)
BrandingLimitedCustomizable
Integration with other servicesLimitedUnlimited (reservation, ticketing, scheduling…)
User experienceText chatInteractive buttons
ConversationsTwo-way, one timeMulti-way, non-stop
SenderShort code at bestVerified sender
Group chatNot allowedPossible
Delivery statusSent, deliveredSent, delivered, read (option)
File sharingLimited to linksPossible (documents, PDF, presentations)
Location sharingNot real timePossible real time
Message formattingPlain textAdvanced (bold, italic, underlined…)
Message expiryVariable in timeVariable in time
ROI100%400%
Delivery costPer message sentPer message delivered or per conversation (24h period)
VideoLinkLive video

Bridging the gap: RCS for business advantages

Now, let’s check the use of RCS in business communications. Because, in fact, the introduction of RCS bridges the gap between traditional text-based communication and the demands of modern, multimedia-rich interactions. And for businesses, this means a more engaging and interactive communication channel with customers.

Let’s now consider the main benefits of RCS for companies and what the difference is between RCS and SMS on a business level:

1. Enhanced brand image

With the possibilities offered by RCS, companies can seamlessly integrate their brand identity into messages: logos, colors and interactive elements. Indeed the guarantee of a visually consistent experience (in most cases).

2. Improved customer engagement

The rich media capabilities of RCS open up new opportunities for customer interaction. For example, companies can send product catalogs, promotional videos and interactive surveys directly into the messaging interface. The result: a deeper, easier connection.

3. Increased conversion rates

With the ability to include interactive buttons, such as “Buy Now” or “Book Appointment”, RCS messages enable customers to take immediate action, streamlining the conversion process.

4. Real-time communication

Features like delivery and read confirmations and reports improve transparency and facilitate real-time communication. And thanks to this, companies can adapt their approach according to customer interactions.

5. Communication reliability

A little extra: to ensure communication, it is possible to detect, when sending, whether a device can receive RCS. If this is not the case, you can send the communication by SMS as a back-up. Clever, isn’t it?

Because of its youth, the RCS still suffers from a few shortcomings that you should be aware of before staking your entire communication on it. There are three main points to keep in mind:

  • RCS is not yet compatible with all devices. Present on Android for a long time, RCS should appear on iOS by the end of 2024. And even on Android smartphones, RCS consistency and experience is not yet guaranteed.
  • While Google’s sender verification system is an undeniable asset for communications security, it can also hamper the deployment of the RCS solution.
  • For the moment, not all operators allow RCS communication. In Belgium, only Proximus, Orange and Telenet offer this technology.

RCS is clearly an important development in business communications, and one that shouldn’t be overlooked. Now’s the time to get started! And if you’re still wondering which tool is best suited to your communication or business? We explored the subject in our blog post “RCS vs SMS: which one to choose for your business“.

And for more information on SMS or RCS, please visit our dedicated product pages. Our team will be happy to answer any questions you may have about RCS or SMS. We’re experts in both.

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