In a notable shift, Apple has announced plans to introduce support for RCS (Rich Communication Services) messaging on the iPhone in 2024. RCS is the standard widely used by Android phones for text messaging. Apple spokesperson Jacqueline Roy stated that Apple intends to adopt the RCS Universal Profile standard as published by the GSM Association, aiming to enhance interoperability between iPhones and Android devices.
Roy emphasized that RCS Universal Profile is expected to provide a superior interoperability experience compared to SMS or MMS. This move aligns with Apple’s commitment to maintaining iMessage as the premier and most secure messaging experience for Apple users. The decision to integrate RCS into the iPhone could potentially introduce a range of features such as encryption, read receipts, typing indicators, and the ability to share high-resolution images and videos when exchanging texts between iPhones and Android devices.
While the specific implementation details of RCS on iPhones remain unclear, Apple clarified that RCS messaging will exist separately from iMessage, serving as a replacement for SMS and MMS. Users will be able to share locations within text threads, and RCS messages will be identified by a green colour, similar to SMS messages.
This development is seen as a response to regulatory pressure, particularly from the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA). The DMA requires major companies, including Apple, to ensure interoperability of their services with other platforms. In September, the European Commission initiated an investigation into iMessage to assess whether it qualifies as a “core platform service.” Apple is reportedly planning to appeal against the government’s regulation of its App Store, arguing that iMessage’s popularity in Europe is not substantial enough for the rules to apply.
Advocacy for RCS support on iPhones has been a longstanding effort by companies like Google and Samsung. Google, in a recent letter to the European Commission, argued that iMessage should be recognized as a core platform service under the DMA. The addition of RCS on iPhones is seen as a positive step, addressing challenges associated with cross-platform texting, such as low-quality video transmission and the absence of encryption in SMS. The move is expected to bring about a more seamless and feature-rich messaging experience for users across different devices and platforms.