FINALLY: Apple announces RCS support coming to iPhones via iOS 18 this fall

FINALLY: Apple announces RCS support coming to iPhones via iOS 18 this fall
Image credit: Apple

Apple's latest operating system, iOS 18, will finally bring Rich Communication Services (RCS) support to its Messages app this fall, as mentioned in passing today during Apple's WWDC 2024 conference. This move, long-awaited by consumers and industry experts alike, promises to enhance cross-platform messaging between iOS and Android devices.

For years, communication between iOS and Android users has been hampered by the outdated SMS protocol. The difference in messaging protocols has led to issues such as reduced image and video quality, message length limitations, and a lack of end-to-end encryption in cross-platform conversations. The visual distinction between blue iMessage bubbles and green SMS bubbles further emphasized this disparity.

RCS, developed as a modern replacement for SMS, has already become the standard for Android devices. This protocol boasts features like typing indicators, read receipts, support for longer messages, and high-quality media sharing. It essentially mirrors the iMessage experience but is designed to work across different platforms.

RCS support for the Messages app was mentioned as a footnote during the WWDC 2024 keynote | Credit: Apple

While pressure from companies like Google and Samsung to adopt RCS may have played a role, the catalyst for Apple's decision seems to be tied to regulatory scrutiny from the European Union. The timing of Apple's November announcement, promising RCS support in the coming year, suggests a strategic move to appease EU regulators.

A look at what RCS messaging on iPhone will look like. Green bubbles will remain. | Credit: Apple

Previously, in a statement to the press, Apple had said that it would be "adding support for RCS Universal Profile, the standard as currently published by the GSM Association," which left room for speculation as to what that would entail. The RCS standard that is currently used on the Google Messages app on Android is not the RCS Universal Profile and includes some extra features such as end-to-end encryption. It will be interesting to see if some type of encryption will be included in Apple's version.

Although Apple has not yet provided specific details on how RCS will be implemented in iOS 18, this development is a significant step towards a more unified and feature-rich messaging experience for users across different mobile platforms. It remains to be seen how this change will impact iMessage's popularity and whether Apple will extend RCS support to group chats or leverage it for features beyond basic messaging.

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