Telstra’s new messaging service mashes together your SMS and MMS

Alex Kidman 26 October 2017

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However, not every phone user will automatically get the new service.

Telstra has announced that it has flicked the switch (realistically, lots of them) on its new Telstra Messaging service. While that's something of a brand name, it's built on the Rich Communications Services (RCS) standard, and Telstra is quick to point out that as other Australian carriers adopt RCS, it hopes to work at an interoperable level with them.

So what are Rich Communication Services?

The RCS standard allows for a wider variety of content to be sent to a single messaging inbox, similar to the way that current SMS and MMS works. That makes it simpler to have a one-stop shop for your messaging experiences, whether you prefer simple text-based communications or richer chat experiences.

Conceptually, it's not a mile away from Apple's iMessage service, which Telstra also supports.

Telstra also advises that RCS can be used for the following services:

  • Use a single inbox for SMS, MMS & RCS data message types.
  • Have your Voicemail delivered as an audio file with speech to text attached if you are a Telstra Voice2Text or Message2text customer.
  • Have your Voicemail delivered as an audio file if you’re a MessageBank customer.
  • Send any file type including pictures, videos, documents & voice messages (up to 19MB).
  • Create Group conversations for the people you message most, group members (must be Telstra Messaging customers).
  • Exchange chat messages or files when you are connected to Wi-Fi.
  • See when your RCS chat messages and files have been delivered. *
  • See when your SMS messages have been delivered.
  • See when another Telstra Messaging contact is online, last active or typing a message to you.
  • Undelivered RCS File Transfers are stored and forwarded when you’re back online.
  • Undelivered RCS chat messages will be sent as SMS.
  • Share your location with a friend or group of friends that have Telstra Messaging.

How do I get Telstra Messaging active?

Telstra advises that if you've got a compatible device, Telstra Messaging will be automatically enabled when a Telstra SIM, either postpaid or prepaid, is inserted into the device. If you're already running a SIM in a phone, you may need to restart the device to get Telstra Messaging up and running.

Which phones are compatible with Telstra Messaging?

At the moment it's a relatively short list of premium Samsung devices. Telstra states that the following phones are compatible:

What happens if my contact doesn't have Telstra Messaging?

As with iMessage, the RCS standard allows for communication to incompatible devices by the simple expedient of delivering messages as SMS or MMS as needed by individual messages. Again, this is pretty much what Apple's iMessage does if you send content to an Android handset, for example.

Are there any downsides to Telstra Messaging?

The one factor to realise with Telstra Messaging is that it's delivered as data, not as actual SMS or MMS messages. The vast majority of Telstra's plans now come with unlimited SMS, but sending a text through Telstra Messaging won't qualify as an SMS.

Telstra's estimate is that a single chat message of 3-5 lines should only use around 2kb of data, but the service does support attachments of up to 19MB.

Can I disable Telstra Messaging if I prefer SMS/MMS?

Yes, you certainly can. From the "Messages" section of your Android device's settings, there should be a section for Rich Communications, which you can disable if you never want to use Telstra Messaging. If you're undecided, you can also simply opt to send messages as SMS/MMS on a per contact basis.

Interested in a Telstra SIM-only postpaid plan? Here are all the details you need to compare:

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