Google Messages on Android phones and iMessage on iPhone.
What you need to know
Apple will enable RCS support on iPhone in 2024.
The company says this will enable better interoperability between iOS and Android.
Google has been publicly bugging Apple about its lack of RCS support for some time now, arguing that SMS is less secure.
Regulators are also looking into iMessage and whether Apple should open it up.
It’s official: RCS is coming to iPhone. Apple announced the surprise move in a statement to 9to5Mac on Thursday, saying that bringing in RCS would “provide a better interoperability experience than SMS or MMS.”
Apple didn’t explicitly say when RCS support would drop on iOS, only that it would come later “next year,” so it could potentially be part of the next major update in 2024, perhaps on iOS 18. However, when it drops, it will use the same RCS Universal Profile as Android.
Apple also says it will stick with iMessage in Apple’s Messages app, which will remain separate for iPhone users. This means that while green bubbles may still be a thing, the experience will eventually get much better.
Bringing RCS to iPhone is a big deal as it promises to fix many of the problems users have when messaging between Android phones and iPhones. The problem is primarily North American, but in its current state, group chats or sending media between iOS and Android is a bit glitchy. Photos and videos sent via MMS tend to be of lower quality, and having an Android friend in a group chat can effectively downgrade the experience.
With RCS, hopefully many problems will become a thing of the past. This standard has been pushed by Google for years and has effectively become the default on Android devices through the Google Messages app. It enables features like typing indicators, read receipts, high-quality media, and more. According to 9to5, Apple will also allow users to send their location in a thread.
And like Android, Apple plans to use SMS/MMS as a fallback when needed.
Enabling RCS will also make chats between iOS and Android more secure, at least more secure than SMS. The company argues that RCS is still not as secure as iMessage, but Apple is also working with GSMA to improve the RCS standard, which means we may see better encryption in the future.
Google Messages RCS chatting on Pixel 4a.
Google hasn’t been shy about trying to convince Apple to adopt RCS, even publicly shaming the company for its refusal with campaigns like #GetTheMessage. On the one hand, the move could be seen as a way for consumers to better understand why messaging between platforms wasn’t particularly good. On the other hand, it ultimately seemed a bit disappointing on Google’s part.
Just recently, it was reported that Google had gone to regulators to try to move things forward. The EU is already considering iMessage whether it should be opened up or not. And while that’s not happening yet with this move, it’s unclear how it will impact things going forward.
Still, this announcement is probably very exciting for Google because it can now stop spending money on aggressive marketing campaigns.
“Everyone deserves to communicate with each other in a modern and secure way, no matter what phone they have,” a Google spokesperson told Android Central. “That’s why we’ve worked closely with the mobile industry to accelerate RCS adoption, and we’re pleased to see Apple take its first steps by coming on board to adopt RCS today.”
“We welcome Apple’s participation in our ongoing work with GSMA to develop RCS and make messaging more equitable and secure, and look forward to working with them to implement it this way on iOS. Which is good for everyone.”