30 years after sending the first text, Vodafone opts for Google RCS

UK-based telco group Vodafone will adopt Messages by Google as the default messaging app on every Android device it sells.

The move is part of an expanded European partnership announced on Tuesday. Under the deal, Vodafone will migrate its Rich Communication Services (RCS) service to Google’s RCS infrastructure, Jibe Cloud, which underpins the Messages by Google app. The migration applies to business users as well as consumer customers.

The operator talked up the benefits of using RCS for securely and reliably sharing photos, videos and files with one or multiple people – benefits that have been available from over-the-top (OTT) messaging apps like WhatsApp for nearly 15 years.

The migration is perhaps more meaningful for businesses though, which as things stand today, prefer SMS to OTT apps as a marketing and customer service channel.

For business customers, “Vodafone’s adoption of Google’s RCS business messaging platform…will dramatically simplify business onboarding and operations, helping businesses engage with consumers through innovative conversational experiences for services and sales,” said Vodafone, in a press release.

Vodafone is not the only major telco to place its RCS future into the hands of Google. US giants AT&T and Verizon both made the switch in 2021, for example.

Going with Google RCS doesn’t mean Vodafone will end support for SMS. It will still be available on Android phones, it just won’t be the default messaging app. Furthermore, iPhone’s iMessage app is not interoperable with Android – and won’t be any time soon – so an Android user sending a message to their cooler, more popular friend who has an iPhone will have to make do with SMS, MMS, or the aforementioned OTT app.

Nevertheless, Tuesday’s announcement is worth marking because for three decades, Vodafone has – understandably – dined out on the pioneering role it played in the development of SMS. If it is December and the year ends in a two or a seven, chances are there will be a retrospective press release from Vodafone about programmer Neil Papworth sending a ‘Merry Christmas’ text to his colleague Richard Jarvis in 1992.

But the world keeps turning, and despite telcos coming out with MMS and collaborating on RCS, OTT apps have become the true default messaging app for consumers. They gained popularity primarily because they worked over Wi-Fi. That meant there was no limit to the number of messages that could be sent. Videos and pictures were easy to share and they didn’t eat into the user’s data allowance. And messages could be sent across borders without incurring roaming charges. By the time telcos had their collective act together with data allowances, RCS and roaming plans, it was already too late.

Moving on, as well as the RCS migration, Tuesday’s expanded partnership will also see Voda expand the availability of Pixel devices – which includes watches and earbuds in addition to smartphones – to more countries this year. Vodafone Group will also use Android TV as its preferred set-top-box (STB) platform for Vodafone TV services going forward.

“Expanding our excellent relationship with Google further will enable us to leverage their technological innovation to provide our consumer and business customers with engaging new experiences built on best-in-class services, all of which will be underpinned by our 5G and Gigafast broadband networks,” said Aldo Bisio, Vodafone’s chief commercial officer, in a statement.

“Google and Vodafone are teaming up to bring users modern messaging with RCS, an engaging interactive TV experience and exciting new Android smartphones,” added Hiroshi Lockheimer, SVP of platforms and ecosystems at Google. “We appreciate the partnership with Vodafone and we’re excited to delight our millions of mutual customers across Europe.”


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  1. Avatar Gee 22/02/2023 @ 5:07 am

    “so an Android user sending a message to their cooler, more popular friend who has an iPhone will have to make do with SMS”

    WTF, come on with your nonsense here. This isn’t journalism.

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 22/02/2023 @ 9:32 am

      What is it then?

  2. Avatar Trr 22/02/2023 @ 12:13 pm

    Stupid 🐏. Your cool friend sending sms unerupted. Real cool

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 23/02/2023 @ 9:49 am


  3. Avatar konstantinos dendrinos 22/02/2023 @ 12:45 pm

    I might think you are stupid that you have iPhone, but saying all iphone users are stupid is not journalism and most importantly, it is not the right thing to do.

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 23/02/2023 @ 9:48 am

      Agreed, that’s why we didn’t, but you did.

  4. Avatar AD 22/02/2023 @ 3:54 pm

    In what way is an iOS user more popular than an Android user?

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 23/02/2023 @ 9:47 am

      They’ve got more friends.

  5. Avatar Michael 22/02/2023 @ 10:37 pm

    Suggesting that a person’s choice of mobile operating system, or handset is in some way relevant to how “cool” or popular they are is at best laughable. At worst it is deeply tragic and damaging. The author of this article (who’s name I choose not to grace by repeating) should be utterly ashamed of themselves.

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 23/02/2023 @ 9:47 am


  6. Avatar Elliot 23/02/2023 @ 12:44 am

    I’m pretty sure it’s to poke fun at the stereotype, regardless of the writers opinion. This is good nuanced writing and good journalism.

  7. Avatar David 23/02/2023 @ 6:12 am

    It’s editorialism masked as journalism. It’s sounds more like something you would find in a college or high school newspaper, though I think a student might actually have more journalistic integrity than this.

  8. Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 23/02/2023 @ 9:46 am

    Lots of hilarious projection from Apple snowflakes on this story. Love it! Make sure you share your story with all your cool friends so they can denounce that sentence too.

  9. Avatar Nestor 23/02/2023 @ 5:37 pm

    Chill guys, the Android/iOS comment is a (rather good) joke.

  10. Avatar Three 23/02/2023 @ 11:32 pm

    I agree Elliot, it’s just a little bit of fun, people are wayyyy to touchy about comments when it comes to which type of phone they use (android iOS). 😁

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