Hell has frozen over. On November 16, 2023, Apple made the very unexpected announcement that it was bringing support for RCS to the iPhone in 2024.
In 2022, Tim Cook himself said that he would rather sell you an iPhone than bring RCS support to the iPhone because he felt there was no customer demand for RCS. Over the years Google has made several attempts to embarrass Apple into withdrawing RCS.
Knowing how stubborn Apple can be with such decisions, no one expected Apple to finally relent, especially after what Cook said. But it’s happening, and it could be one of the biggest announcements Apple makes all year.
rcs crash course
There has been some confusion since this surprise announcement. Many people, especially those who may not have used an Android phone and have only used an iPhone, are not familiar with Rich Communication Services (aka RCS).
We’ve covered the history of RCS many times at , but in short, it’s basically a replacement protocol for SMS/MMS that was first established in 2007. In 2018, Google said it was working with major carriers to adopt it. RCS, and resulted in Chat – a protocol based on the RCS Universal Profile. Basically, it is a global RCS standard that allows subscribers from different carriers and countries to communicate with each other.
Currently, Android phones have RCS support, and it works very similarly to iMessage. With RCS, you can see typing indicators, read receipts, the ability to send and receive messages over cellular and Wi-Fi, share your location, and send and receive high-resolution photos and videos. .
While RCS’s feature set is similar to iMessage, it doesn’t have everything that iMessage has, like stickers and Memoji, as well as the ability to edit or unsend a message.
An Apple spokesperson sent this statement to 9to5Mac:
“Late next year, we will add support for the RCS Universal Profile, which is the standard currently published by the GSM Association. We believe the RCS Universal Profile will provide a better interoperability experience than SMS or MMS. It will work with iMessage, which remains the best and most secure messaging experience for Apple users.
So why is this important?
Although you may or may not care about RCS since all your friends and family use iPhones anyway, it’s still huge news. In the end, this is a move that benefits everyone, and it’s a step in the right direction.
There may have been EU pressure on Apple to open up iMessage (and the App Store), just as Apple switched to USB-C for the iPhone 15. Yet, it seems that the law is what really drives progress and the advancements in technological products that we use rather than competition.
It is also important to note that SMS/MMS are not and never will be end-to-end encrypted. This makes SMS incredibly vulnerable when it comes to secure messaging, and anyone who is able to intercept them is able to read them. RCS, at least currently on Android phones, is end-to-end encryption. It may not be as strong as Apple’s encryption with iMessage, but it’s certainly more secure than plain SMS.
However, it appears that Apple’s upcoming support for RCS will not include Google’s end-to-end encryption extension. Instead, it appears that Apple will work with a standards body to approve a universal encryption method. This is a logical approach since Google’s E2EE extension is proprietary and would exclude other RCS Universal Profile users.
For most people, they’ll never notice a difference after adding RCS to iOS, especially if they don’t already text with someone who uses Android. But just because one group of users doesn’t care doesn’t mean it won’t please others. Apple bringing RCS to the iPhone is definitely a big deal, and everyone will benefit from it, whether they need it or not.
The blue and green bubble war is not ending
When it was first announced, there was much speculation over whether the color of RCS messages would be different from that of SMS, which is green. As it turns out, no, RCS messages will stick with green bubbles like SMS.
Unfortunately, this means that the social divide between blue and green bubbles will remain in place. For most adults, this probably doesn’t matter too much (unless you’re in the dating scene, I guess), but it seems to be a big deal to teenagers.
To be honest, the color of the bubbles never bothered me – I wouldn’t talk to someone just because they use an Android phone. It just means that I won’t be able to do all the features of iMessage with that person. But I can still communicate with them, and that’s the whole point of the Messages app in the first place. Yes, I usually make fun of the blue/green bubble thing, but I never take it seriously.
Since RCS messages will remain green, most people probably won’t notice any difference when texting, at least right away. But when they start seeing typing indicators and read receipts, as well as media that doesn’t look like it came from a flip phone in the 2000s, people may wonder what’s going on.
it’s about time
I’ve been looking for a better solution for messaging between iPhone and Android for the past few years. This is because I’m constantly communicating with my family via group chats, and while my mother and brother both use iPhones, my sister is the farthest among us with an Android phone.
One of my biggest complaints has been the inability to send and receive high-resolution photos and videos, especially when it comes to sharing what my daughter is up to or what our pets are up to. Whenever my sister sends a video or vice versa, it seems to be of potato quality and looks like it came from the early 2000s. Basically, I can’t tell what’s going on in the video because it’s so small and pixelated – what does this mean?
I have also had many instances where I felt I did not need to participate in a group conversation because it was not relevant to me. However, group chats with Android users on iPhone have been very annoying because you cannot leave the group like iMessage group chats. So, I’ve left them on mute for now.
It appears that, RCS can’t solve all my problems – for example, it’s not clear whether you’ll be able to leave a group chat with an Android user. But as long as the image and video quality doesn’t look like it was taken with potatoes, I think I can live with it.
As I said earlier, it seems the law is more effective at opening the door to Apple’s walled doors than it is to competition. The EU was a major factor in Apple switching from Lightning to USB-C on the iPhone 15, and antitrust laws are continuing with the App Store and now iMessage services.
Like the switch to USB-C for the iPhone, Apple adding RCS support is huge. This is one of the biggest announcements the company has made this year, mainly because no one expected it, and it’s another step towards a more universally accepted platform. and you know what? This is great.