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RCS on the iPhone will make sending SMS to Android users seem less archaic. Here’s how

RCS on the iPhone will make sending SMS to Android users seem less archaic. Here’s how
RCS on the iPhone will make sending SMS to Android users seem less archaic. Here’s how

For years, I was a nuisance to every iPhone owner. While I proudly carried around my Samsung Galaxy devices, my friends would complain about the chaos I caused in every text or group chat by “making everything green.” For an iMessage user, there’s apparently nothing worse than an Android user crashing their precious party with the blue bubble.

I have since given up the fight and upgraded to an iPhone. I now enjoy the many benefits of iMessage, including sending high-resolution photos and videos, viewing typing indicators, and sharing reactions. These benefits are limited to messaging other iPhone users. I am now the one who complains about getting green messages from anyone “out there,” much to my chagrin. Exclusivity brings out the worst in us.

Read more: Best iPhone to buy in 2024

Now that Apple has announced it will introduce Rich Communication Services messaging, things should get better. RCS is a protocol that replaces SMS (Short Message Service) and offers many of the same features as iMessage, including typing indicators, high-resolution media sharing, and end-to-end encryption. It’s already available on all Android devices, and after years of pressure from iPhone users, competitors, and lawmakers, Apple has announced it will introduce RCS to iPhones as well.

Although Apple barely mentioned the upcoming arrival of RCS on iPhones during this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference keynote, the update is expected to be available to the public this fall with iOS 18. As 9to5Mac previously reported, it is now rolling out with iOS 18 developer beta 2.

Here’s everything you need to know about how Apple’s adoption of RCS could improve messaging.

Apple RCS SMS Apple RCS SMS

Apple’s RCS SMS screenshot shows a “delivered” status update, media, and a few green bubbles. While it looks very similar to an actual MMS conversation, it’s probably the biggest improvement a non-iMessage conversation has seen on the iPhone in years.

Apple

RCS will replace SMS messages on iPhones

When RCS arrives on iPhones, it should transform basic messaging with Android users into a more modern, sophisticated experience by replacing SMS and MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service). Apple shared a first look at the new feature on its iOS 18 preview page after WWDC, and here’s what we know so far.

Instead of getting small, grainy photos and videos from Android friends, you’ll see high-quality media. RCS will also offer benefits like read and delivery receipts, according to a screenshot posted by Apple.

According to X users who have used the new RCS feature with iOS 18 developer beta 2, iPhone owners will also see typing indicators when sending text messages to friends on Android.

There’s one big caveat, though: the introduction of RCS won’t solve the blue bubble-green bubble problem. iMessage will still be available only to Apple customers, meaning texting someone without an iPhone will still be a separate (but hopefully more comparable) experience.

And yes, texts with Android users will still be green. You’ll just have to deal with it.

Some features will remain exclusive to iMessage or Google’s Messages app. For example, while you can edit or take back texts in iMessage, you probably won’t be able to do that with messages sent over RCS. And exclusive Google Messages features like composing texts using the Gemini AI model probably won’t carry over across devices either. It’s also not yet clear whether messages sent via Android phones and iPhones will be end-to-end encrypted.

Still, this update should make messaging between Android phones and iPhones feel less archaic.

When will RCS be available on iPhones?

Apple hasn’t announced an exact date yet, but it should be available this fall with the release of iOS 18.

Even before the WWDC keynote, Google seemed to accidentally leak the arrival of RCS on iPhones on a landing page for Google Messages. According to 9to5Google, the search giant noted that the new messaging protocol “will be available on iOS soon” and that “Apple has announced plans to introduce RCS in fall 2024.” That mention has since been removed, but it seems Google can barely contain its excitement.

Will the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit make iMessage accessible?

In a sweeping lawsuit against Apple, the U.S. Department of Justice accuses the iPhone maker of hindering competition and addresses a range of practices it considers monopolistic, including allegations that Apple is “undermining cross-platform messaging” by not expanding its iMessage service to Android.

Apple has stressed that it is in the interest of user privacy and security to use iMessage only on its own devices, and that Apple cannot ensure that encryption and authentication measures on third-party devices meet the company’s standards. It also pointed to the company’s ongoing work to support RCS, which is intended to provide an improved messaging experience for non-iPhone users.

And if that’s not enough to make people happy, Apple pointed to the array of other messaging platforms people can use to communicate across devices, including WhatsApp, Messenger and Snapchat. But depending on where you live, you might find it more intuitive to fall back on your phone’s native text app, be it Apple’s iMessage or Google Messages.

Whether the Justice Department’s complaint will force Apple to open its walled garden remains to be seen. The European Union is also putting pressure on Apple and other tech giants under its Digital Markets Act, which is designed to promote fair and open competition in the technology sector. Earlier this year, the EU ruled that Apple’s messaging platform does not qualify as a “gatekeeper” service, meaning it does not have to connect directly to other chat apps. (Meta’s WhatsApp and Messenger apps, meanwhile, have Do fall under the EU Gatekeeper regulation and must therefore allow conversations across other services.) Time – perhaps years – will tell how Apple fares in the face of the Justice Department’s allegations and whether or not changes are in store for iMessage.

In the meantime, iPhone and Android users alike can find relief, as Apple is rolling out RCS soon. That should hopefully make calling friends on other devices less painful. And even if the texts stay green, hopefully the grass on the other side looks a little less green.

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