OPINION: Apple this week shocked the tech world by finally conceding in a long-running battle between it and Android giant Google to bring RCS support to iPhones. It’s something Apple has refused to do for the past few years, but it’ll finally be coming to iPhones sometime in 2024.
That’s great news for Android and iOS fans alike, as RCS delivers a much richer messaging experience than the standard SMS/MMS experience that’s not too dissimilar to the iMessage experience on iPhones. Considering the SMS/MMS protocols were developed way back between 1992 and 2002, an upgrade is well overdue.
Google and Samsung have both already adopted the RCS standard so Android-to-Android chats already benefit from many new smart features like read receipts, the ability to send stickers and GIFs, enjoy a richer group chat experience and, arguably most importantly, the ability to send and receive high-res photos and videos without the associated MMS costs.
It also works on both cellular and Wi-Fi, just like iMessage and WhatsApp, which makes it easier to message friends and family when in a poor coverage area.
The good news is that once Apple rolls out RCS support in 2024, many of these features will also be available when messaging your iPhone-wielding buddies, which should make for a much more fluid conversation experience than SMS – but conversely, we don’t know all the crucial details about Apple’s plans for integration and the features that’ll be available.
The biggest question I have is, will Apple ditch the dreaded green bubble? Aside from the fact that white text on an azure green background doesn’t look great and might subconsciously put iPhone users off from texting Android friends, it has been reported that green bubbles can go as far as to put prospective daters off.
It’s a silly thing, really, but it’s something that iPhone owners in particular seem to care a lot about – particularly in the US where WhatsApp use isn’t as widespread as in the rest of the world.
Some assume that RCS = blue bubbles, but that’s likely not the case. In fact, initial reporting from the BBC suggests that Apple intends to keep messages in the same green hue – though Apple has yet to publicly confirm.
Another assumption is that RCS will bring the iMessage experience to Android, and that’s also probably not going to be the case. RCS does bring a few iMessage features into the fold, but there are several hugely popular features – like message reactions or the ability to edit or unsend recently sent messages – that likely won’t be a part of the new functionality.
An Apple spokesperson said RCS “will work alongside iMessage, which will continue to be the best and most secure messaging experience for Apple users.” If Apple wants iMessage to continue to be the ‘best’, why would it share all its best features?
So, while it’s a significant step forward for both iOS and Android users, it isn’t iMessage for Android. You’ll still need to use a third-party app like Nothing Chats, Sunbird or Beeper for that.