In today’s hyper-connected world, it’s never been easier for brands to interact with their customers. From Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp Business to SMS and RCS, there is a myriad of ways business-to-consumer conversations are taking place.


But if your company has never used text message marketing before, or you’ve only used SMS, you might be wondering what’s the difference between SMS and RCS. While some consider RCS to be the evolution of traditional SMS, the reality is a bit more complicated.


Luckily, Mitto is here to shed some light and help you make confident decisions for your business.


Here’s everything you need to know about SMS vs. RCS and which tool is the best choice for your unique needs.


What is SMS?


Surprisingly enough, short messaging services, or SMS, have been around for decades. Commercially deployed in 1992, SMS is today’s most popular form of text messaging. With SMS, brands can send 160-character texts to customers. These messages can be enhanced with images and videos, allowing businesses to tailor texts to their target audience’s preferences and needs.


Almost 30 years after its initial release, countless brands still depend on this highly-effective method of communication. That’s because SMS has a 98% open rate, with 60% of customers reading your message in less than 5 minutes. Talk about a smart way to engage!


Although SMS is popular, with over six billion texts being sent daily, businesses and consumers desire enhanced and more flexible solutions. Here enters RCS.


What is RCS?


Rich communication services, or RCS, takes SMS and kicks it up a notch. Backed by Google, RCS makes it easy for consumers to interact with their favorite brands within their phone’s built-in texting app. The advanced capabilities of RCS include:


  • Branded messages


  • Larger file sizes, such as high-resolution audio and video


  • Group texting features


  • Typing indicators


  • Read receipts


  • Payment initiation and QR codes


These enhanced capabilities allow brands and customers to better communicate with each other. Marketers can send rich content to opted-in subscribers, customer success teams can provide dynamic two-way conversations to help solve customer inquiries, and customers can initiate payments for goods or services via RCS. 


However, there’s a caveat. While RCS has estimated to average annual growth in adoption of 290% over the next four years, the technology has struggled to gain market penetration. Factors affecting wider adoption are limited availability and accessibility. Not all carriers have enabled RCS traffic, and at present, it only works on Android devices. 


SMS vs. RCS: what’s the difference?


So, how does SMS stack up to RCS? Some of the key differentiators between the two services include:



While RCS has more enhanced features than SMS, the latter is supported in all countries and can be sent and received by all cellular devices.  


How can your brand benefit from RCS?


While RCS is still gaining traction, big-name brands, including Virgin Trains and Boston Pizza, are incorporating the technology in their marketing efforts.  


If your target audience’s demographics align with those presently using RCS, the benefits to your brand could be substantial. Imagine the creative marketing campaigns your company could offer with the enhanced capabilities of RCS. Payment integration and robust two-way chat also significantly improve the customer support experience. 


But if a customer has a device that doesn’t support RCS, they will not receive your RCS messages. 


If your business wants to target an inclusive group of customers effectively, it would be best to offer both SMS and RCS. This way, you can still send engaging messages while ensuring no recipients fall through the cracks.


Will RCS replace SMS?


Not anytime soon. SMS is still the industry standard channel for mobile text communication, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for both. SMS provides massive market penetration and ease of use but lacks some flexibility and modern features. RCS enables richer communication between brands and their customers, which many consumers prefer. Knowing your audience will help you decide which channels will benefit your communication strategy the most. 


RCS is currently only available to Android users through their phone’s native texting app or Google Messages. 47% of smartphone owners in the U.S. use Apple products, which do not support the service. But iOS market share falls to 27% globally. Depending on the location of your customers, RCS could prove more valuable.


When deciding if RCS is suitable for your brand, it could be helpful to analyze your current email campaign statistics. Most CRM platforms provide device/operating system data alongside email open rates. Are many of your contacts viewing your marketing emails with an Android device? If so, you may see a strong return on investment in offering RCS.


Start elevating your marketing efforts with text messages today


Whether you want to use tried-and-true SMS or embrace next-gen tech with RCS, Mitto can help. Our state-of-the-art solutions allow you to effectively engage customers, expand your global footprint, and grow your business.


To get started, contact us today.