In a noteworthy development, Apple has revealed plans to integrate the Rich Communication Services (RCS) messaging standard into its devices. This upgrade, expected to roll out in a software update “later next year,” aims to enhance messaging interactions between iPhone and Android users with features akin to those found in iMessage.
This decision by Apple is partly influenced by the ongoing pressures from regulatory bodies and competitors such as Google and Samsung. Additionally, the maturation and development of the RCS platform have played a significant role in this move.
One of the key attractions of RCS is its ability to introduce iMessage-like functionalities to cross-platform text messages. An Apple spokesperson told 9to5Mac that RCS is anticipated to significantly improve the interoperability of messages across different platforms.
The RCS Universal Profile, endorsed by the GSM Association, will be supported by Apple. This step is expected to provide a more seamless messaging experience compared to traditional SMS or MMS and will function alongside iMessage. iMessage remains Apple’s primary messaging service, especially given its high security and privacy standards.
RCS will enable users to enjoy features such as read receipts, typing indicators, and the ability to send high-quality images and videos. Additionally, Apple plans to incorporate location sharing in text threads through RCS. Unlike standard SMS, RCS can operate over both mobile data and Wi-Fi.
However, iMessage will continue to be the default messaging system among iPhone users, with RCS serving as a supplementary option to SMS and MMS. SMS and MMS will still be available as alternatives when necessary.
It’s important to note that this move does not signify Apple making iMessage available on other platforms; it’s about adopting RCS as a separate entity.
Apple has also emphasized that iMessage offers superior security and privacy, especially with its end-to-end encryption and recent enhancements like Advanced Data Protection for Messages in iCloud. RCS, in contrast, currently lacks this level of encryption.
This decision follows years of resistance from Apple to pressures from rivals such as Samsung and Google, during which it focused on enhancing iMessage. However, Apple has made some improvements to SMS interactions between iPhone and Android users, like better Tapbacks support in iOS 16 and features such as threaded replies and message editing in SMS group chats in iOS 17.
Lastly, Apple has committed to collaborating with GSMA members to further refine the RCS protocol, focusing on boosting its security and encryption. Apple also confirmed to 9to5Mac that it doesn’t plan to implement proprietary end-to-end encryption over RCS, but rather to enhance the RCS standard itself.
Now that Apple has supported RCS, will this make you switch out of other messaging apps such as WhatsApp?