In a very surprising move, Apple has just officially announced that iMessage will support RCS or Rich Communication Services starting in 2024 via a software update. The support for RCS means iOS and Android users can use the built-in messaging/SMS app to send richer messages to each other – though Android users will still be green bubbles in iMessage.
Speaking to 9to5Mac, Apple said that:
“Later next year, we will be adding support for RCS Universal Profile, the standard as currently published by the GSM Association We believe 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.
The implementation of RCS in iMessage here doesn’t mean that Apple is opening its messaging service to other players – instead, Apple is adopting it to allow message interoperability between iOS and Android.
With the adoption, both sides will now have rich messaging features such as read receipts, typing indicators, high-quality images, videos and more. Additionally, users will now be able to share locations inside the text threads, working over mobile data and WiFi.
Apple said that while it is adopting RCS, it feels that iMessage is still the best and most secure messaging platform around.
This adoption follows years of pressure from competitors and recently, the EU legislation that asks Big Tech with gatekeeping features to be regulated and open to competitors to promote fairness.
With the announcement, Apple said that they will be working with the GSMA members on how to futher improve the RCS protocol – including improving the security and encryption of the messages. They told 9to5Mac that they will not use proprietary end-to-end encryption on top of currently used by RCS. The focus is to improve the standard itself.
It was just a year ago when Tim Cook famously said to just “buy your mom an iPhone” when asked about adopting the modern RCS standard. We have come a long way since then; of course the looming potential EU legislation may be one of the straws that broke the camel’s back on RCS for Apple. Meanwhile the rest of the world are happily cross-messaging with Whatsapp, Telegram or Signal anyway.