Apple unveiled its plan to integrate the rich communication services (RCS) standard into iPhone text messaging.
Anticipated in a 2024 iOS update, iPhones will soon support RCS, bridging the gap between iMessage-exclusive features and Android-inclusive conversations.
This unexpected shift was disclosed through a statement provided to 9to5Mac.
An Apple spokesperson stated, "Later next year, we will be incorporating support for RCS Universal Profile, following the standard currently published by the GSM Association. We believe that RCS Universal Profile will enhance the interoperability experience compared to SMS or MMS. This will complement iMessage, maintaining its position as the premier and most secure messaging experience for Apple users."
Under mounting pressure to adopt RCS, Apple faced calls from Android in 2022 to “fix texting” by enabling RCS for iPhone-to-Android conversations, which lacked end-to-end encryption.
Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, playfully suggested the solution was to switch to an iPhone, dismissing the need to bridge the two technologies.
Despite Apple's resistance, Google, Android's parent company, continued to criticize Apple for sticking to the aged SMS and MMS standards.
In a more serious turn, Google recently joined telecommunications providers in urging European Commission regulators to mandate Apple's adoption of RCS.
The Nothing Phone 2's new mock iMessage capabilities may have also played a role in Apple's decision.
It's important to note that iMessage functionality will remain unchanged for iPhone-to-iPhone conversations.
RCS adoption will exclusively impact conversations involving an iPhone and one or more Android phones.
Previously reliant on SMS and MMS, RCS will now take precedence, with SMS and MMS serving as backup options.
RCS for iPhone-to-Android conversations will introduce several long-awaited features, including location-sharing, read receipts, typing indicators, and higher-quality media sharing.
These RCS messages will be transmitted via Wi-Fi and mobile data, expanding beyond basic cellular service.
Although RCS offers more secure encryption than SMS and MMS, Apple emphasizes that its encryption level is not as robust as the end-to-end encryption used in iMessage.
For users particular about the colour of their text message bubbles, it remains uncertain whether RCS messages will retain the iconic green hue.