RCS and SMS: the difference explained simply

by Corinna

RCS extends SMS with more modern chat functions, as known from messenger apps. A data connection via WLAN or the mobile network is required

RCS and SMS: The most important differences

Most mobile phone providers now support RCS. The standard uses the data network and adds functions to SMS that are also known from messenger apps such as WhatsApp. So far, RCS messages only work on Android smartphones, but Apple has announced that it will implement the feature on iPhones from 2024.

  • SMS stands for “Short Message Service” and has been around since the early 1990s. Simple text messages up to 160 characters long are transmitted like a call via the mobile network. This means that no data connection or smartphone is required.
  • RCS (“Rich Communication Services”) has become increasingly popular as a replacement for SMS in recent years. RCS can be used to send not only texts, but also files, images, emojis and videos. RCS also offers read receipts and location sharing. The functionalities are therefore similar to those of well-known messengers such as WhatsApp.
  • RCS messages require a smartphone that is connected to a Wi-Fi network or has access to LTE or 5G. Outside the WLAN, RCS messages are therefore billed via the data volume. Unlike SMS, messages sent via RCS are now encrypted.
  • Most mobile phone providers now support RCS messages. So far, you need an Android smartphone with Android 5.0 or higher and the Messages app from Google. However, if the recipient’s device does not support RCS, SMS messages can still be sent.
  • Apple resisted equipping its iPhones with RCS functions for a long time. In November 2023, however, after some pressure, the technology giant announced that iPhones would be equipped with RCS from 2024.

Set up RCS in Google Messages: Here’s how

On Android smartphones, RCS messages can be activated and deactivated in the Google Messages app.

  • First tap on your profile picture or icon in the top right-hand corner of your Google Messages app. In the menu that opens, select “Settings for Messages” or “Message settings”
  • In the message settings, tap on “RCS chats” or “Chat functions”. Here you can switch RCS messaging on or off.

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