Telstra unlocks next-gen SMS messaging on newer Android handsets

There’s competition brewing in the messaging world, with Australia’s largest telco announcing the launch of Telstra Messaging, a service that uses the Rich Communication Services (RCS) messaging standard.

The GSM Association – the global body that sets many mobile standards – has developed RCS as a kind of industry-standard alternative to Apple’s feature-rich iMessage. Compared to the existing SMS and MMS protocols, it adds various dynamic features like group chat, high-resolution photo sharing, read receipts and typing indicators to the native Android message app.

Switching on RCS on the Telstra network will allow the telco's Android customers to send and receive these richer message formats along with basic text messages from within the same inbox, much like how the current SMS and MMS services work.

Not every phone is lucky

However, not every Android phone on Telstra’s network will be able to use the new messaging service. Telstra Messaging is currently available for only a handful of premium devices, namely the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, and the previous generation of Samsung Galaxy 7 and 7 Edge.

There's no word yet on other handset compatibility, but we will keep you updated when we know more.

How it works

If you’re a Telstra customer who owns one of the aforementioned handsets, Telstra Messaging will automatically get activated on your device, becoming the native texting app.

If you’re not a Telstra customer, however, and want to jump on the Telstra Messaging bandwagon, you’ll need to switch providers and get yourself either a postpaid or prepaid Telstra SIM card on one of the compatible Samsung devices. 

Once set up, there are no additional fees to use the service, but data usage charges will apply, unless the phone is hooked up to a Wi-Fi connection.

And just like how Apple’s Messages app has an indication of whether a contact can receive an iMessage or not, the message composing window in Telstra’s new service will label messages either as a ‘chat’ or an ‘SMS’ – with chats colour-coded green and SMSes coloured yellow – to let users know if the recipient is using Telstra Messaging or not.

In case the contact doesn’t have Telstra Messaging on their handset or belongs to another network, the message will reach them the usual way – as an SMS or MMS.

Telstra isn’t forcing customers to use the new RCS-based service – Telstra Messaging can be blocked by deactivating Rich Communications found within the device’s Settings.

For more information on Telstra Messaging, head over to the telco’s CrowdSupport page for a detailed FAQ.

Sharmishta Sarkar
Managing Editor (APAC)

Sharmishta is TechRadar's APAC Managing Editor and loves all things photography, something she discovered while chasing monkeys in the wilds of India (she studied to be a primatologist but has since left monkey business behind). While she's happiest with a camera in her hand, she's also an avid reader and has become a passionate proponent of ereaders, having appeared on Singaporean radio to talk about the convenience of these underrated devices. When she's not testing camera kits or the latest in e-paper tablets, she's discovering the joys and foibles of smart home gizmos. She's also the Australian Managing Editor of Digital Camera World and, if that wasn't enough, she contributes to T3 and Tom's Guide, while also working on two of Future's photography print magazines Down Under.