RCS vs SMS: The Ultimate Comparison Guide

RCS vs SMS: The Ultimate Comparison Guide  

We take a close look at RCS, how brands can benefit from its unique features, and how it compares to SMS overall as a business messaging tool. We also look at use cases where businesses have been able to combine SMS and RCS effectively to provide a better and more cost-effective customer experience.

Ever since the first text message was sent 30 years ago, SMS has been the dominant messaging channel. Considering that over 5.32 billion people own mobile phones globally, and every handset can send and receive SMS by default, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

With 16 million SMS messages sent every minute worldwide, and 60% of consumers reading texts within the first 5 minutes of receiving them, it’s quite possible that replacing SMS with another messaging channel would be almost impossible.  

However, RCS Business Messaging has taken the spotlight over the last couple of years as a leading customer communication channel. With the reliability of SMS and the rich functionalities that enable users to send images, videos, files, and more.

The benefits of RCS as a business messaging channel have time and time again been revealed through the results of campaigns launched by brands around the world.

Let’s deep dive into the differences between SMS and RCS and which channel is ideal for which use case, so that your business can offer customers the best experiences across channels.    

What is RCS Business Messaging?

RCS stands for Rich Communication Services. It is an IP-based messaging service provided to users through their operator networks. It’s used for both Person-to-Person (P2P) and Application-to-Person (A2P) communication.

RCS messaging might also be referred to as:

RCS chat

RCS texting

In the context of A2P communication, it’s formally known as RCS Business Messaging (RBM), and can be used to deliver branded, 2-way, and interactive mobile experiences for consumers.

Other notable features include multimedia message capability, suggested reply buttons, barcode delivery, click-through options, and carousel messages with multiple images. All

this good stuff is included natively on consumers’ phones with no need to download an app, leading to a steady rise in RCS adoption.

What is SMS?

SMS (short message service) is a messaging service available on all phones worldwide. It allows users to communicate with each other or with businesses using short text messages (160 characters) over a cellular network. SMS was developed in the 1980s and only allows for text exchanges – no rich media like emojis, images, videos, etc.

SMS is one of the most reliable ways to send messages because of its reach and availability on all mobile phones worldwide (that are connected to a cellular network). That’s why businesses around the world use SMS as a staple channel in their communication strategy; to dependably reach customers anywhere.

SMS vs. RCS: A Feature-by-Feature Comparison

While SMS remains a dominant channel valued for its reach and universal device compatibility, it lacks functionalities that RCS offers in abundance. This table highlights the key differences between the two:

Given the enhanced capabilities offered by RCS, it's understandable that brands are increasingly leveraging it to interact with their Android customer base. This shift allows for richer and more engaging communication experiences.

OTT vs. RCS: Key Differences Explained

While both Over-The-Top (OTT) messaging apps and RCS offer rich features like sending images, videos, and files, some key distinctions set them apart:


  • OTT: Users need to be aware of the brand and have the app pre-installed to access their services. Chatbots might be discovered through websites, social media, or other external sources.
  • RCS: Users can discover and interact with chatbots from both familiar and unknown brands directly through the native messaging app's "bot store" functionality.


  • OTT: Developed by independent tech companies, raising concerns about data security and lack of involvement from mobile network operators in development and security protocols.
  • RCS: Requires cooperation from multiple carriers and countries, leading to stricter regulations and potentially higher security standards compared to OTT apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.

Standardization of User Interface:

  • RCS: Utilizes the native messaging app interface, resulting in a consistent experience across different devices and carrier networks. While the conversational flow might vary, the overall look and feel remains similar.
  • OTT: Each app has its own unique interface, leading to significant variations. For instance, WhatsApp requires a business number for contact, while Facebook Messenger allows interaction directly from the brand's page.

Comparing RCS with Email:

While both RCS and email serve as communication channels, their strengths lie in different areas:


  • RCS: Primarily used for real-time, interactive communication between businesses and customers, similar to instant messaging apps.
  • Email: Primarily used for asynchronous communication, often involving longer messages, file attachments, and a less immediate response time.


  • RCS: Relies on a data connection for message delivery, making it unsuitable for situations without internet access.
  • Email: Can function with or without an internet connection. Messages are stored on a server and delivered upon connection.


  • RCS: Offers higher potential for engagement due to its real-time, interactive nature and ability to capture attention with visuals.
  • Email: Engagement rates can vary depending on content and user attentiveness. Generally considered less engaging than real-time communication channels.


  • RCS: Can be integrated with other business tools and platforms to streamline workflows and enhance customer experience.
  • Email: Can also integrate with various business tools, but the level of integration and complexity might differ compared to RCS.

The Unique Advantages of RCS Business Messaging

RCS offers a unique blend of features and functionalities that set it apart from other communication channels, providing businesses with several advantages:

1. Enhanced Brand Experience:

  • Custom branding: Embed logos, brand names, and colors directly into messages, fostering brand recognition and familiarity within the message inbox.

2. Richer Engagement:

  • Rich media cards: Integrate eye-catching visuals like images, GIFs, videos, and documents to grab attention and increase click-through rates.

3. Simplified Interactions:

  • Suggested replies and actions: Offer pre-populated buttons within messages, allowing users to respond with a single tap, streamlining interaction and improving response rates.

4. Interactive Content:

  • Rich media carousels: Create swipe able, interactive elements showcasing multiple offers or options, replicating a chat-app experience within the messaging inbox without requiring app downloads.

5. Seamless Communication:

  • Leverages existing data: Utilize customer phone numbers, eliminating the need for additional contact information. SMS fallback ensures uninterrupted communication even if RCS delivery fails.

6. Data-driven Insights:

  • Extended metrics: Track key performance indicators like open rates, click-through rates, and user engagement to gain valuable insights for optimizing future campaigns and improving conversion rates.

7. Efficient Communication:

  • Extended message length: Send longer messages compared to SMS limitations (160 characters), reducing the need for multiple messages and associated costs.

8. Verified Sender Identity:

  • Verified sender status: Adhere to the GSMA's Universal Profile standard, ensuring message authentication, preventing fraud, and fostering trust with customers, leading to higher response rates.

By incorporating these unique benefits into their communication strategies, businesses can leverage RCS to create more engaging and interactive experiences, ultimately driving higher customer engagement and conversion rates.