In a surprising announcement, Apple has revealed its plans to incorporate the RCS (Rich Communication Services) messaging standard, scheduled to launch through a software update “later next year.” This move aims to introduce iMessage-style features to facilitate communication between iPhone and Android users.
Apple’s decision to embrace RCS comes amidst growing regulatory pressure and competition from companies like Google and Samsung. It aligns with the evolution of RCS, which has matured as a platform.
The adoption of RCS by Apple will introduce features similar to those found in iMessage, including read receipts, typing indicators, high-quality media sharing, and more for cross-platform messaging between iPhone and Android devices. This move is anticipated to enhance interoperability for cross-platform messages, according to an Apple spokesperson’s statement to 9to5Mac.
However, iMessage will remain the primary messaging platform for communication between iPhone users. RCS will replace SMS and MMS, operating separately from iMessage while still allowing SMS and MMS as fallback options when necessary.
Apple emphasizes that iMessage is more secure and privacy-oriented compared to RCS. iMessage boasts end-to-end encryption, strengthened further with Advanced Data Protection for Messages in iCloud, whereas RCS currently lacks similar encryption standards.
Apple’s decision to adopt RCS follows years of resistance as it previously focused on bolstering iMessage’s capabilities. The company had, however, introduced some enhancements to SMS interactions between iPhone and Android users, such as improved Tapbacks, threaded replies, and message editing in SMS group chats.
Apple also commits to collaborating with GSMA members to refine the RCS protocol, particularly in terms of security and encryption for RCS messages. Unlike Google’s approach, which includes end-to-end encryption within the Messages app on Android, Apple aims to enhance the core RCS standard without additional proprietary encryption.
This significant shift in strategy by Apple has occurred in anticipation of potential regulatory challenges, particularly within the European Union. Despite resistance in the past, Apple’s move to adopt RCS anticipates a more seamless messaging experience between iPhone and Android users, as supported by major carriers in the US and globally.
Moreover, Apple reaffirms its commitment to other open standards, collaborating on various technological standards such as Matter for smart homes, Passkeys with the FIDO Alliance, and the Qi2 wireless charging standard.
As of now, details regarding whether the distinct green bubbles for non-iMessage texts will remain unchanged have not been disclosed.
The debate remains whether Apple made the right choice in yielding to pressure and adopting RCS or if it should have continued resisting.