Apple announced that it will implement RCS (Rich Communication Services) in iMessage, allowing iPhones and Android devices to better communicate with one another and support full-featured modern messaging.
What is RCS?
RCS is a messaging protocol first introduced back in 2008 with the goal of replacing outdated SMS messaging with more feature-rich versions with read receipts, typing indicators, better image-sharing support, and more. Essentially the same features that iMessage, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger have.
RCS was first implemented on the carrier level, requiring carriers across the world to support it and maintain infrastructure to do so. This meant that support never reached 100%. Google decided things had to change. After adding RCS support to its default messaging app, it decided to remove the carrier infrastructure requirement and do it itself.
Google’s RCS implementation is done via its Jibe backend, which is baked into its default Messages app. Doing this along with Samsung’s default messaging app adding RCS support has allowed over 800 million Android users to use the new messaging experience.
RCS also supports business’ sharing dynamic content via text messages, such as movie or airplane tickets, location reminders, and more.
Why is Apple adopting RCS?
Historically Apple has been against adopting RCS, even with the pressure from Google. We don’t 100% know why but it could be due to the fact of iMessage being a selling point for the iPhone or due to the lack of encryption by default, which has now been enabled by Google for Android devices using its default messaging app.
You might be asking why Apple has now changed its mind, seemingly overnight. We believe there’s more to it. The European Union is currently going after what it considers to be ‘gatekeeper’ messaging apps, which iMessage is currently being investigated for as a part of its Digital Markets Act. Apart from being named a gatekeeper means that the developers must allow interoperability with other messaging services, e.g. WhatsApp working on third-party chat support.
Based on the EU Digital Markets Act regulations and Google implementing encryption by default on RCS chats we believe Apple has decided to support RCS. By doing this Apple will not have to deal with EU lawmakers and face potential fines and lengthy court cases.
Green bubble, blue bubble
Messaging between iPhones and Android devices has always meant Android users would show up on the iPhone as a green bubble, signifying that they aren’t using iMessage and therefore don’t have an iPhone. While this is often a status symbol in first-world countries it isn’t cared about around the world.
That being said, we believe that Apple will keep the green bubble for RCS chats with some sort of messaging to signify that it’s an RCS chat. Another option is for iMessage to use a third colour for RCS chats. Making it easy for iPhone users to see what type of messages are being sent.
RCS iPhone release date
Apple have stated that RCS support will come in 2024. No other information has been shared but we assume it will be before the EU’s gatekeeper laws go into place in 2024. Apple haven’t shared any information on what the implementation will look like but we can assume it will keep the green bubbles for messages with an Android device.