The iPhone will be gaining RCS (Rich Communication Services) support starting next year, as Apple has confirmed to 9to5Mac. The messaging standard, currently adopted by Android phones and carriers nationwide, will allow for a more cohesive communication experience between iPhones and Android devices.
Right now, communicating with a non-iPhone user through iMessage sees several feature limitations, including the lack of typing indicators, disorientated group chats, and image- and video-sending at a lower resolution. RCS alleviates those pain points and, by leveraging both cellular and Wi-Fi services, introduces other user benefits. These include location-sharing and read receipts between iPhones and Androids.
In a statement to 9to5Mac, Apple says "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."
This comes at a time when companies like Google, Samsung, and, just this week, Nothing, continue to pressure the Cupertino tech giant to make the switch in order to foster better interoperability and feature parity across different operating systems and products.
More fittingly, the announcement comes on the deadline day for appeals to the EU's Digital Markets Act (DMA), to which Google had previously signed a letter urging for the regulation of iMessage.
A Google spokesperson has responded to the news with the following: "Everyone deserves to communicate with each other in ways that are modern and secure, no matter what phone they have. That's why we have worked closely with the mobile industry to accelerate the adoption of RCS, and we're happy to see Apple take their first step today by coming on board to embrace RCS. We welcome Apple's participation in our ongoing work with GSMA to evolve RCS and make messaging more equitable and secure, and look forward to working with them to implement this on iOS in a way that works well for everyone."
It's encouraging to see Google, who has been the biggest critic of Apple's positioning of iMessage, welcome the tech giant with open arms, much like a parent waiting on the other end of the room for their baby to take their first steps. It's clear that the company sees the news as an opportunity to collaborate for all.
It's worth noting that RCS adoption doesn't spell the end of iMessage. Apple's text messaging service remains the safer and more private platform thanks to end-to-end encryption support. In a conversation with Apple, TechRadar cites that the company "won't be supporting any proprietary extensions that seek to add encryption on top of RCS and hopes, instead, to work with the GSM Association to add encryption to the standard." That's great news, no matter what phone you own, as the standardization of encrypted messaging means better security for all.
Instead, the opening up of one of Apple's most influential vantage points -- having a "superior" texting experience than Android -- means that there's more of a safety net now to try a device that doesn't have an Apple logo attached. How this decision ultimately affects the iPhone's future (read: sales) -- especially among teenagers who may find appeal in foldable phones and devices that look and feel like iPhones but have more unique design aesthetics -- is up in the air.
What's certain is that sometime next year, we may hear a little less chatter about who's in the right when it comes to messaging protocols.