The US' "big 4" carriers announce a joint initiative to finally get RCS on more phones
Many smartphone enthusiasts may be inclined to think iMessage when asked which SMS-like service is the first to come to their minds. This is due to the (theoretically) proprietary Apple system's well-provisioned range of media and editing options when composing messages - as well as the cachet many average users may attach to those blue speech bubbles.
However, there is an alternative called Rich Communications Service (RCS), which is capable of delivering as much choice and expressive features as iMessage or other platforms - in theory, at least. Furthermore, RCS, a standard proposed by the GSM Alliance, should also be capable of supplanting SMS, meaning that users would have no need of additional phone apps for messaging, or of trying to convince others to do the same.
Then again, RCS integration has been spotty at best: major OEMs such as Google have been lax when it comes to baking the standard into their default apps (it is only available as a result of a workaround at present), and it is only compatible with a handful of carrier-locked phones.
This side of the RCS divide may be liable for a crossing soon, however. The United State's 4 biggest carriers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon) have jointly annnounced the debut of the Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative, or CCMI. This project is intended to produce and distribute an interoperable RCS service that "will enable an engaging way for consumers to interact and transact with each other and with businesses".
To this end, the CCMI-deployed RCS will support general user-to-user messaging, as well as that to corporate chatlines. The carriers have also stated that it will allow users to connect with services such as ride-sharing companies and even to pay bills. This next generation of SMS is slated to arrive on Android devices first, and to roll out as early as 2020.