If you asked a year ago whether Apple would ever adopt RCS, most people’s response would probably be “when pigs fly.” If you have a farm, this might just be the time to walk out and check whether your pigs have wings, because Apple has confirmed that RCS support will be coming to iOS after all.
After a long time of seemingly dismissing the idea, Apple has confirmed to news outlets that it plans to add support for the RCS messaging standard to a future iOS update coming next year. In a statement to 9to5Mac, a spokesperson for the company said the following:
Later next year, we will be adding support for RCS Universal Profile, the standard as currently published by the GSM Association. 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.Apple statement to 9to5Mac
The statement does make it pretty clear that iMessage will continue being its own separate thing. As a matter of fact, an RCS conversation will still have green message bubbles that will help differentiate them from iMessage chats, which will have blue bubbles. The silly blue bubble elitism that could be responsible for the apparent 87% Apple adoption rate among teens will still stick around.
What Apple seems to want to do here is “unbreak” green bubble chats by upgrading from SMS to RCS. The new standard supports your typical features like read receipts, typing indicators, and perhaps more importantly, the ability to send high-quality photos and videos. Plus, there’s the ability to partake in group chats and be added/removed freely, something that Android users stuck in iMessage group chats will certainly appreciate.
Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, infamously shot down the idea of iPhones adopting RCS just last year, telling people that the solution to green bubbles and not being able to send photos and videos through SMS/MMS was to “buy your mom an iPhone.”
This 180-degree turn seems motivated, once again, by impending European Union legislation. More specifically, the Digital Markets Act — Google has reportedly pressed for iMessage to be considered a “core platform service” under that act, while Apple and other companies are fighting it hard.
None of the features that are exclusive to iMessage, such as Memoji, will make their way to RCS. This means Apple will still have a few “only on iPhone” perks to entice future customers. By making Android phones not annoying to interact with from iPhones, it’s possible a lot of the stigma associated with green bubbles will go away. Only time will tell.
As for when this might come, this would technically count as a major feature, so if it’s coming next year, it might land as part of iOS 18.