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Tapping Into Mobile Text

Texting, particularly mobile texting, has become so ubiquitous that even casual users think they understand the game. However, those of us who might be responsible for implementing text solutions for an enterprise or utilizing them as part of a business-to-consumer (B2C) application will need a more detailed and refined understanding.


In reality, enterprises have their choice among several different types of mobile text solutions with differing capabilities, and importantly, different degrees of reach. To intensify the business challenge, different classes of text applications have different requirements and constraints. That means the choice of the right vehicle for a particular application is something that should be left to professionals.


Parsing the Mobile Text Options

The main dividing line in mobile text solutions is public versus private. The most readily available public solution is the carriers’ short message service (SMS). While limited to simple text characters, the key advantage SMS provides is access to any mobile phone using its mobile telephone number for addressing; hence its moniker as the least common denominator (LCD) of mobile text.


The big news in public texting is Rich Communications Services (RCS), a new texting standard from the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). RCS will add group text, enhanced graphics, typing indication, and other features typically found in over-the-top (OTT) premium texting services; I’ll have more to say about those premium services in a moment. Virtually all carriers have either deployed or plan to deploy RCS in the near term, but there are some serious caveats.


The biggest issue surrounding RCS is that both the carrier and the mobile device vendor must support it. Google has been a major driver for RCS adoption, and even offers a backend platform called Jibe to support it. So it’s no surprise that RCS is widely available on Android devices. However, Apple doesn’t support RCS on any of its devices, and its support doesn’t seem likely anytime soon given its penchant for proprietary solutions.


To maintain universal access, RCS messages sent to iPhones and other non-RCS phones will revert to and be defined by SMS -- again, the LCD factor comes into play.


Build a Wall and Raise the Ante

Most consumer texting has migrated from traditional SMS to premium OTT solutions like Apple Messages, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger. These solutions offer great integration and all the bells and whistles, but they operate as closed communities. That characteristic makes them less than ideal if you need to reach heterogeneous communities like all your customers. Some, like Apple Messages, do interoperate with SMS, but again, the SMS limitations (and Apple’s objective of making its closed solution look better) define what the user gets.


The public premium OTT services dominate this space, but some providers offer specialized solutions for particular enterprise requirements. Virtually every UC&C/team collaboration solution supports mobile text, though they all require a special client on the mobile device (a major impediment to user adoption). Some interoperate with SMS, but the disintegrated experience of a separate app to text means that most enterprise users stick with the same public platform they use for their personal texting.


And for certain enterprise environments, some specialized texting requirements preclude the use of consumer-focused services. For example, some texting solutions providers specifically target regulated industries and provide message archiving and retrieval for compliance. When an organization has mandated use of a specialized texting platform for compliance reasons, users who opt for a public service do so at the risk of severe penalties.


To round out the lot, you can include Web chat and you can add texting capability to virtually any custom app. These, too, are essentially closed solutions.


Click below to continue to Page 2: Delineating the Applications

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