RCS on iOS 18 Will Make Texting Between iPhone and Android Users Feel Less Archaic

RCS on iOS 18 Will Make Texting Between iPhone and Android Users Feel Less Archaic

For years, I was a nuisance to anyone with an iPhone. While I proudly toted my Samsung Galaxy devices, my friends would deplore the havoc I’d wreak on any text or group chat by “turning everything green.” There’s apparently nothing worse to an iMessage user than an Android user who crashes their precious blue-bubble party. 

I’ve since given up the fight and switched to an iPhone, and now I reap the many benefits of iMessage, including sending high-resolution photos and videos, seeing typing indicators and sharing reactions. These perks are limited to messaging fellow iPhone users. I’m now the one who, much to my chagrin, laments getting green texts from anyone on the “outside.” Exclusivity brings out the worst in us. 

Read more: Best iPhone to Buy in 2024

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

Despite the fact that Apple barely acknowledged the imminent rollout of RCS on iPhones during this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference keynote, the update is slated to arrive in the fall with iOS 18.

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

Apple RCS texting Apple RCS texting

Apple’s RCS texting screenshot shows a “delivered” status update, media and a few green bubbles. While it might look a lot like a current MMS conversation, it’s likely the biggest improvement a non-iMessage conversation has seen in years on the iPhone.

Apple

RCS will replace SMS texting 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 capability 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 bring perks like read and delivered receipts, according to a screenshot the company posted. We still don’t have confirmation about other details, like whether there will be typing indicators or how group messaging will improve. 

But there’s a big caveat: Adopting RCS won’t solve the blue-bubble-green-bubble issue. iMessage will continue to be available only to Apple’s customers, meaning texting anyone who doesn’t have 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 cope with it.

Some features will remain exclusive to iMessage or Google’s Messages app. For instance, while you can edit or unsend texts in iMessage, you probably won’t be able to do so for messages sent via RCS. And Google Messages-exclusive features like drafting texts using the Gemini AI model likely won’t transfer across devices either. It’s also not clear yet whether messages sent across Android phones and iPhones will be end-to-end encrypted. 

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

When will RCS become available on iPhones?

Apple hasn’t shared exact timing, but it should be available in the fall with the release of iOS 18. 

Even before the WWDC keynote, Google seemed to have accidentally leaked RCS’s arrival on iPhones in a landing page for Google Messages. According to 9to5Google, the search giant noted the new messaging protocol is “coming soon on iOS” and that “Apple has announced it will be adopting RCS in the fall of 2024.” This mention has since been removed, but it’s as if Google can hardly contain its excitement. 

Will the DOJ’s antitrust suit open up iMessage?

In a sweeping complaint against Apple, the US Department of Justice accuses the iPhone maker of hindering competition, delving into a range of practices it sees as monopolistic. This includes allegations that Apple “undermines cross-platform messaging” by not extending its iMessage service to Android.

Apple has maintained that keeping iMessage exclusive to its own devices is in the interest of user privacy and security, noting it wouldn’t be able to ensure that encryption and authentication measures on third-party devices meet its standards. It’s also pointed to the company’s ongoing work to support RCS, which it says will allow for an improved messaging experience with non-iPhone users. 

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

Whether the DOJ’s complaint will force Apple to open up its walled garden remains to be seen. The European Union has also been applying pressure on Apple and other tech giants as part of its Digital Markets Act, which is designed to promote fair and open competition in the tech sector. Earlier this year, the EU determined Apple’s messaging platform doesn’t qualify as a “gatekeeper” service, meaning it won’t have to connect directly with other chat apps. (Meanwhile, Meta’s WhatsApp and Messenger apps do fall under the EU’s gatekeeper label and will therefore have to allow for conversations across other services.) Time — years, perhaps — will tell how Apple fares in the face of the DOJ’s allegations and whether or not changes are in store for iMessage. 

In the meantime, iPhone and Android users alike can find reprieve in Apple’s imminent adoption of RCS, which should hopefully make talking to your friends on different devices less painful. And even if the texts stay green, hopefully the grass on the other side looks a little less so.




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