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Apple’s Embrace of RCS Signals Major Upgrade for iPhone Messaging

Apple has announced plans to incorporate support for the RCS standard on iOS in the coming year, signaling a significant shift for the tech giant. This move aims to address the longstanding issue of compatibility in text messaging between iPhones and Android smartphones, a matter often referred to as the “green bubble” dilemma.

The reluctance of Apple to embrace RCS has been criticized for perpetuating fragmentation in messaging ecosystems, particularly impacting Android users. Critics argue that Apple’s stance, seemingly geared towards maintaining ecosystem exclusivity, has sparked debates in the tech community regarding interoperability and user convenience.

In a surprising announcement, Apple stated today that it now believes the “RCS Universal Profile will offer a better interoperability experience when compared to SMS or MMS.” The company plans to roll out this support next year, emphasizing that it will coexist with iMessage, which will remain the preferred and most secure messaging experience for Apple users.

This reversal follows repeated requests from Google and public pressure on Apple to adopt RCS for iPhones. Hiroshi Lockheimer, SVP at Google, highlighted the “green bubbles” issue, referring to the visual distinction when messages are sent from Android to iPhone, appearing in green bubbles.

Despite adopting RCS, Apple confirmed that messages will still be displayed in green bubbles. Google’s plea to Apple was clarified: “We’re not asking Apple to make iMessage available on Android. We’re asking Apple to support the industry standard for modern messaging (RCS) in iMessage.”

Apple had previously expressed reluctance to embrace RCS. Tim Cook, Apple’s chief, dismissed the idea of incorporating RCS into iMessage a year ago, suggesting someone buy their mom an iPhone during a conference Q&A.

RCS, a collaborative effort by industry players, aims to enhance traditional SMS with modern features such as richer texts and end-to-end encryption. Google, Samsung, and other firms, including telecom operators, have already implemented RCS support for over 800 million users worldwide.

Critics argue that the lack of compatibility between Android and iPhone users in group chats has historically deterred many from transitioning to Android smartphones, a tactic allegedly revealed in Apple’s legal battle with Epic Games. Internal documents disclosed during the dispute revealed deliberations about introducing iMessage to Android-operated devices.

Notably, Apple’s decision aligns with recent efforts by Google and telecom operators urging EU regulators to categorize iMessage as a “core” service under the new Digital Markets Act, compelling Apple to ensure full compatibility with rivals. Apple has acknowledged an expectation to make policy changes to comply with the new guidelines taking effect next year.

by Paul Britton

Full-time CBG author covering everything from business to wellbeing news, in Cyprus. and abroad.


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