Apple to Adopt RCS Messaging Standard for Better Interoperability With Android Devices
After years of persuading from Google, Apple plans to adopt the Rich Communication Services (RCS) standard. An Apple spokesperson told TechRadar and 9to5Mac that support for RCS will be coming next year.
Later next year, we will be adding support for RCS Universal Profile, the standard as currently published by the GSM Association. We believe the RCS Universal Profile will offer a better interoperability experience when compared to SMS or MMS. This will work alongside iMessage, which will continue to be the best and most secure messaging experience for Apple users.
According to Apple, RCS will "work alongside iMessage" and will improve communication between iPhone and Android users. iMessage will continue to be the default for iPhone to iPhone communication, with RCS serving as a replacement for the existing SMS and MMS standards. SMS and MMS will remain available as a fallback when necessary, though.
Rich Communication Services is a communication protocol adopted by Google. Smartphone makers and carriers worldwide have adopted RCS, but Apple has been resisting its adoption. Google has been pushing Apple to accept RCS through a long-running ad campaign involving billboards, a website, social media pressure, and more.
Google has had a "Get the Message" website since August 2022, with the site calling on Apple to "fix what's broken" in texts between iPhone and Android users. Earlier this year, even Samsung got into the PR campaign, publishing a bizarre ad where "Romeo" with his green bubbles and "Juliet" with her blue bubbles were unable to be together because of Apple's hesitation to adopt RCS.
"Green bubbles and blue bubbles want to be together," read Samsung's ad, which also included the #GetTheMessage hashtag Google used for its social media push.
Compared to MMS and SMS, the standards that Apple uses for text messages, RCS supports higher resolution photos and videos, audio messages, and bigger file sizes. It also adds improved encryption for chats between iPhone and Android users, cross-platform emoji reactions, and more reliability for group chats across different devices.
With RCS, real-time typing indicators, read receipts, better photos and videos, and much improved group chats will be standard on iPhones and Android phones, putting an end to the frustration that some iPhone users experience when attempting to communicate with Android smartphone owners. Apple claims that while RCS improves security for cross-device messaging, it is not as secure as iMessage.
According to Apple, RCS will provide users with the option to share their location with others inside text threads over text messages, and like iMessage, RCS will work over Wi-Fi in addition to cellular.
Back in September 2022, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that adopting RCS was not a priority for Apple. "I don't hear our users asking that we put a lot of energy into that at this point," he said. It is not clear why Apple has changed its stance, but the company is facing regulatory scrutiny over the App Store, iMessage, and other proprietary technologies in multiple countries, so adopting RCS could be seen as a willingness to work with other companies to improve device interoperability.
The European Union, for example, has been working on legislation that would have required Apple to make changes to iMessage to make it available on other platforms. With RCS, iMessage will no longer have as many benefits that are unavailable cross-platform.
Going forward, Apple plans to work with Google and other Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) members on further improving RCS. RCS support will be introduced in a software update next year, and carriers will need to implement support for full functionality. In the United States, Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T already support RCS.