For years, Google and rival phone makers have been pushing Apple to adopt a next-gen text messaging standard called RCS (Rich Communication Services). And for years, Apple has indicated that it has no intention of doing that.

But now it looks like Apple is changing course: in a brief statement published by Bloomberg and 9to5Mac, Apple says that it “will be adding support for RCS Universal Profile” in 2024.

via Google

RCS is basically an upgrade over the SMS and MMS, that brings support for features including high-quality photo and video sharing, read receipts, and typing indicators to let you know when somebody is responding.

All of those features are already available in Apple’s iMessageservice… but only when you’re using iMessage to communicate with another person using an Apple device.

A big part of the reason that Google has been pushing Apple to support RCS is because it will make it easier for Android and iOS users to send messages to one another without missing out on some of those features. And that’s exactly the reason why Apple has resisted the move: the company has long insisted that you should just buy an iPhone if you want a better messaging experience with other iPhone users.

So why the change of heart? As Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reports, the announcement “comes as Apple faces more scrutiny from regulators,” and maybe showing a little less resistance to interoperability will help prevent future legal actions against the company.

Apple isn’t exactly going all-in on RCS though, suggesting that it’ll “work alongside iMessage,” but that “the best and most secure messaging service for Apple users” will continue to be iMessage.

In other words, iMessage isn’t going to be interoperable with other platforms anytime soon. And green bubbles aren’t going away either (unless Android users jump through some hoops to mask them). And while Apple users will now be able to see things like read receipts and typing indicators on messages from Android users, the messages will still show up as green bubbles.

But Apple is at least dropping its resistance to RCS, which is… something, I guess.

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  1. I wonder if iMessage group chats that contain Android users will get their messages via RCS. Currently those scenarios are a mess for Android users.

  2. If iOS and Android will be using RCS messaging, does that mean anything for the longevity of SMS’s? (MMS too, I guess, though I would think that are less used given the costs & TCP/IP-based alternatives.)

  3. While this does reduce the social pressure to get an iphone, it doesn’t eliminate it. And what’s effectively ended up happening, is that there’s no more ways to convince someone to install things like Signal without falling back on the privacy argument, which people are probably sick and tired of hearing and will just get angry at you for even caring.
    It really sucks that the universal standard for instant messaging is now a totally proprietary standard that completely excludes custom ROMs and Linux phones.