Apple has announced plans to support the Rich Communication Services (RCS) messaging standard, which will improve messaging between iPhone and Android, reports 9to5Mac. It is being actively promoted by Google and other Android smartphone manufacturers, for whom Apple’s closed iMessage messaging standard has become a big problem over the past few years. Especially in the United States, where the iPhone has a significant market share, leading to the complication of messaging between Apple and Android smartphones, known as the “blue bubble-green bubble”.
Apple’s introduction of RCS, which the company plans for 2024, should partially solve this problem. RCS is a more mature platform today than it once was, offering features such as read marks, typing indicators, high-quality images and videos, and more. Apple’s introduction of RCS will also allow users to share their location in text threads and will work over mobile data or Wi-Fi.
In general, iPhone users will get iMessage-like features with RCS, but this is unlikely to solve the “blue bubble – green bubble” problem, as RCS messages will continue to be marked in green. At the same time, iMessage will remain the main messaging platform for iPhone users, and RCS will replace SMS and MMS for cross-platform communication, existing separately from iMessage. SMS and MMS will still be available as fallback options.
Apple also emphasizes that iMessage remains more secure and privacy-friendly than RCS thanks to its end-to-end encryption, which was recently enhanced with enhanced data protection for iCloud messages. In contrast, RCS does not yet support encryption as strong as iMessage.
Overall, Apple’s decision to introduce RCS is a response to years of competitive pressure and marks a shift in messaging strategy. The company has made incremental improvements to SMS between iPhone and Android users, such as better support for Tapback responses in iOS 16 and features such as inline reply and editing in iOS 17 for iPhone users in group SMS chats.
In addition, Apple plans to work with GSMA members to improve the RCS protocol, focusing on security and encryption. The company has clarified that it will not use its own end-to-end encryption on top of RCS, but instead seeks to improve the RCS standard itself.
The announcement is a proactive move by Apple to address potential regulatory concerns, especially in the European Union, where legislation could require Apple to open iMessage to other companies.