T-Mobile's RCS details: Samsung upgraded native messaging for Advanced Messaging, but iPhone support unclear

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) shed some additional light on its launch of Rich Communication Services (RCS) technology, noting that Samsung upgraded its native messaging app to include support for T-Mobile's new RCS-based Advanced Messaging service. "Generally, T-Mobile Advanced Messaging replaces the existing messaging app on RCS-capable phones and offers enhanced messaging features right out of the box, without the need to download and configure an over-the-top application," explained a T-Mobile representative in response to questions from FierceWireless.

However, it's unclear whether that support will extend to Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhones. When questioned about Apple's smartphone, the T-Mobile representative told FierceWireless that "we think iMessage works well with SMS/MMS today, and it could later be incorporated into rich communications services (RCS) as well. Our desire is to provide a seamless messaging experience within the native apps that customers are most familiar with, and that means working closely with our OEM partners to upgrade their native messaging apps to be Advanced Messaging (RCS) capable."

Apple generally keeps its iPhone development plans secret and does not discuss planned services or features.

Added the T-Mobile rep: "T-Mobile Advanced Messaging will not conflict with any over-the-top apps, so customers can choose to use it exclusively or with other apps if they choose. T-Mobile Advanced Messaging brings text messaging into the mobile internet age with features consumers have grown used to with popular apps and will work across platforms and devices."

The carrier has said it expects Advanced Messaging to be a standard feature on new smartphones sold in the future. T-Mobile said Samsung's Galaxy Grand Prime will be the first phone to support its offering, followed by the Samsung Galaxy S5 and S6.

Earlier this week, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray boasted that "T-Mobile is now the first and only wireless provider in the nation to offer messaging built on a standard called Rich Communications Services (RCS)." However, shortly after T-Mobile's announcement, Sprint (NYSE: S) confirmed to FierceWireless that the carrier has been offering RCS services for a year now via the carrier's "Messaging Plus" app from Jibe Mobile. But Sprint's Jennifer Walsh said the app "does not replace the existing messaging app in the phone; the original OEM messaging client is still on the phone."

When asked whether T-Mobile's RCS-based Advanced Messaging offering would interoperate with Sprint's RCS-based Messaging Plus app, T-Mobile's rep said "Previous 'RCS' launches were simply over-the-top apps, not true rich communications services that are interoperable across all wireless providers. Sprint's launch didn't really integrate with the carrier's network and only worked for customers who have exactly the same over-the-top application like Whatsapp or Snapchat."

For its part, AT&T (NYSE: T) said it will launch RCS-based messaging services sometime in the future, but didn't provide details. Verizon (NYSE: VZ) said the carrier doesn't support RCS and has no timeframe to do so, but noted its "Verizon Messages" offering features many of the same features as T-Mobile's RCS-based Advanced Messaging service.

The new messaging services are an attempt by the nation's wireless carriers to upgrade legacy, circuit-switched communications with IP technology. For example, Voice over LTE (VoLTE) technology turns voice calls into data packets, thereby making voice communications clearer and more network efficient. Similarly, messaging using the RCS standard allows carriers to offer IP features like notifications that a message has been read. Of course, services like Apple's iMessage and Facebook Messenger already offer those services, albeit generally only to users of the same service.

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