In a significant move, Apple has announced plans to support RCS messaging on iPhones starting in 2024. This development, highlighted in a report from 9to5Mac, marks a notable shift in Apple's approach to messaging.
Embracing RCS messaging
Apple spokesperson Jacqueline Roy stated, “Later next year, we will be adding support for RCS Universal Profile, the standard as currently published by the GSM Association.” This statement, also shared with The Verge, underlines Apple's commitment to improving interoperability between iPhone and Android devices. Roy added, “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 adoption of RCS by Apple promises several enhancements, such as encryption, read receipts, typing indicators, high-resolution images and videos, and more. The company also confirmed that RCS messages would be green, like SMS messages.
The broader impact and implications
This change is not about opening iMessage to other platforms, as clarified by 9to5Mac. Instead, RCS will replace SMS and MMS and exist separately from iMessage. The shift to RCS may be partly driven by regulatory pressure from the European Union's Digital Markets Act (DMA), which demands major companies like Apple make their services interoperable with other platforms.
In September, the European Commission investigated iMessage's role as a “core platform service.” Apple countered that iMessage needs to be more popular in Europe for the rules to apply and is planning to appeal against the government's regulation of its App Store.
Tech giants like Google and Samsung have long advocated for Apple's adoption of RCS. Google recently sent a letter to the European Commission, arguing that iMessage should be recognised as a core platform service under the DMA. Carl Pei's phone company, Nothing, also introduced iMessage-style messaging for Android phones.
Google SVP of platforms and ecosystems Hiroshi Lockheimer commented on X (formerly Twitter), “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. “So glad to see Apple joining our ongoing work with the GSMA on RCS to make texting better for all!”
While Apple's move to integrate RCS may not stem from a voluntary decision, it is a significant step towards resolving issues faced by users texting between iPhones and Android phones, such as low-quality video sharing and SMS's lack of encryption.