In news that will surprise just about everyone reading it, Apple has confirmed that it is going to add support for RCS to the iPhone starting in 2024. And early 2024, at that.
While iMessage is an Apple-only instant messaging service that allows for rich messaging features like high-quality media, reactions, and more, it means that iPhone owners can't use it to communicate with those who have Android phones. It's been a bone of contention for years, with Google choosing to use the RCS standard instead. That offers much of what iMessage is capable of, but it works across all devices that support it. The iPhone was the last holdout - until today.
Speaking to TechRadar, Apple says that it will start to support the RCS messaging standard from early 2024 thanks to a software update that will enable the RCS Universal Profile. That will ensure that people will be able to send and receive messages with others no matter what device they have, all without having to use a third-party app like WhatsApp or Telegram.
This is a most surprising move because it means that the iMessage advantage is no more, and that has long been a source of lock-in for Apple's users. The so-called shame of being a green bubble in a sea of iMessage users with their blue bubbles has often been a reason for people not to switch to Android, but RCS will change that for good. Now, iPhone owners can send the same high-resolution cat meme to everyone, regardless of what platform they use.
Apple still hasn't said exactly when the new RCS support will ship, but we can be sure that we don't have to wait until iOS 18 to arrive in September. By saying that RCS is coming to the iPhone in early 2024, we can likely hold Apple to that.
It isn't immediately clear why Apple is making this move now, but we have a couple of thoughts. The company has long been on the receiving end of much ire from companies like Google for the lack of RCS support, but that likely isn't the main reason. With the EU looking more closely at iMessage and whether it should be forced open to allow Android owners to use it, this is perhaps Apple's attempt to get ahead of any legal requirements it might have to deal with as 2024 progresses.
If that's the case, we can just be thankful that Apple isn't making this an EU-only feature as it is likely to do with iPhone app sideloading.