Apple to bring RCS support to iPhones in 2024: what is RCS, why does it matter

  • Apple to supplant SMS and MMS with RCS on iPhones.
  • This will be separate from iMessage, which is still extolled as the better and more secure messaging platform on iPhones.
  • Apple must be doing this because of mounting regulatory pressures.

Apple is finally bringing RCS support to iPhones later next year. However, Apple isn’t equipping or making any changes to iMessage. Rather, RCS would supplant SMS and MMS on iPhones.

RCS or Rich Communication Services, is a messaging protocol that could replace SMS someday. At present, it enhances SMS with new features found on modern messaging apps like iMessage. More importantly, being a universal standard, it enables interoperability between iOS and Android.

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Let’s see what Apple is planning:

iPhones with RCS in 2024

Apple has shared a statement with 9to5Mac which says, “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”.

RCS Messaging OxygenOS 13

So, Apple acknowledges the better interoperability argument for adopting RCS. However, it will be offered as an alternative to SMS or MMS, not iMessage

Apple still emphasises how secure and hence better iMessage is for Apple users. So, it would continue being the primary mode of messaging between iPhones. 

Benefits of RCS on iPhones

Instead of relying on dated SMS or MMS protocol, iPhone users would be able to use RCS to send text and high-quality media to their Android contacts.

RCS also offers read receipts, typing indicators, etc to this messaging between iPhones and Android phones. 


However, this won’t reduce the blue bubble and green bubble friction between iOS and Android users. Apple has confirmed that post adoption of RCS too, messages from Android phones would continue to appear in Green Bubbles on iOS whilst the iMessage messages will show up in Blue.

Why Apple is adopting RCS for iPhones?

RCS will be a separate messaging solution and Apple is bringing it to the iPhones probably because of the European Union. More specifically, the forthcoming Digital Markets Act of the EU

As per it, if Apple and other big tech giants (called Gatekeepers by the EU) don’t change their monopolistic behaviours, they will be fined up to 10 percent of the company’s total worldwide annual turnover, and if they are found to be repeated offenders, this fine will rise up to 20 percent. In addition to this, they have to pay a periodic penalty of up to 5 percent of their average daily turnover.

So first, the USB-C port, then the rumours of sideloading and 3rd party app store on iPhones and now there is this report about RCS on iOS. The EU seems to be making Apple open up its walled garden one gate at a time. 

For a long time now, Google (which spearheads RCS) has been calling out Apple for not adopting RCS and Apple has time and again steered away from any conversation involving opening up iMessage beyond iOS. Meanwhile, some offshoot and stopgap solutions like Sunbird have appeared on the Android land. And when brands like Nothing back such projects, that’s also some form of evolving threat, however meagre that may be to Apple now. 

In any case, it will be interesting to see how RCS on iPhones plays out. Apple has assured it won’t be using any proprietary end-to-end encryption on top of RCS. Rather, it will work with GSMA to improve the RCS protocol from a privacy and security standpoint. This would be good for the broader market.