Apple says that, in 2024, the iPhone will add support for RCS messaging, the newer standard used by most Android phones, according to a report from 9to5Mac.
“Later next year, we will be adding support for RCS Universal Profile, the standard as currently published by the GSM Association,” Apple spokesperson Jacqueline Roy says in a statement also shared with The Verge. “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.”
The iPhone adopting RCS could enable support for encryption, read receipts, typing indicators, high-res images and videos, and more, when sending texts between iPhone and Android devices. Apple will let users share locations in text threads and RCS messages will be green, like SMS messages are now, the company confirmed to 9to5Mac.
It’s still not clear exactly how RCS messaging will work on iPhones, but 9to5Mac says “this is not Apple opening up iMessage to other platforms” (emphasis theirs). RCS will instead replace SMS and MMS and “exist separately from iMessage when available.”
“This is not Apple opening up iMessage to other platforms”
The change likely comes in response to regulatory pressure from the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), a rule that requires major companies, such as Apple, to make their services interoperable with other platforms. In September, the European Commission opened up an investigation into iMessage to determine whether it should be considered a “core platform service.” However, Apple reportedly argued iMessage isn’t popular enough in Europe for the rules to apply, and it’s planning to file an appeal against the government’s regulation of its App Store.
Companies like Google and Samsung have long pushed for Apple to add support for RCS with splashy marketing campaigns and videos. (Samsung didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.) Earlier this month, Google sent a letter to the European Commission that argues iMessage should be considered a core platform service under the DMA. Even Nothing, the phone company owned by OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, decided to hit back at Apple by bringing iMessage-style messaging to its Android phones.
“Everybody should have secure and modern messaging without worrying what kind of phone they’re texting to,” Google SVP of platforms and ecosystems Hiroshi Lockheimer said on X (formerly Twitter). “So glad to see Apple joining our ongoing work with the GSMA on RCS to make texting better for all!”
Apple may not be doing this out of its own willingness, but the addition of RCS is a more-than-welcome change for anyone who has had to deal with the many issues of texting between iPhones and Android phones, such as the sending of low-quality videos and SMS’s lack of encryption.
Update November 16th, 8:24PM ET: Added that RCS messages will be green on iPhones.
Update November 16th, 9:44PM ET: Added mention of encryption.