Thanks to iOS 18, iPhone will receive support for RCS, the successor to SMS

Communicate with Android users directly from the Messages app

Good news for anyone who prefers to use Apple’s Messages app instead of WhatsApp or other chat services. Apple has officially announced support for RCS, the successor to SMS. This was previously confirmed 9to5Mac.

RCS stands for Rich Communication Services, and it is a communications standard for mobile networks intended to improve on traditional SMS (Short Message Service). RCS offers a range of advanced features and capabilities similar to those of popular chat apps such as WhatsApp and iMessage.

RCS for iPhone

Under iOS 17 or earlier, you can use iMessage and SMS in the Messages app. As everyone knows, iMessage is exclusive to Apple users and you can use it on iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch or Mac for free. SMS is a standard worldwide and is chargeable in most.

Messages you receive in the app of the same name can have two colors; blue for iMessage and green for SMS. In the autumn, from iOS 18, a new service will be added: RCS.

Speech bubbles in Messages app
Speech bubbles in Messages app – iMessage | TEXT MESSAGE

What is RCS?

RCS stands for Rich Communication Services and is a communication standard for mobile networks that is intended to improve traditional SMS (Short Message Service). RCS is based on an open source protocol and offers a range of advanced features and capabilities similar to WhatsApp and iMessage.

Some features of RCS include:

  1. Text messages with increased text formatting: Unlike SMS, RCS supports a wide range of text formatting options, such as bold text, italics, and lists.
  2. Delivery confirmations and read receipts: Users can see when their message was delivered and when it was read, similar to many other messaging apps.
  3. Attachments and media sharing: Users can easily share images, videos, audio recordings and other files via RCS.
  4. Group chat functionality: RCS supports group chats, allowing users to communicate with multiple people at the same time.
  5. Location sharing: Similar to other messaging apps, users can share their location with others via RCS.
  6. Real-time typing indicators: Users can see when the other person is typing, which promotes real-time conversations.
  7. Internet connection: The messages are sent via a WiFi connection or mobile network connection

No end-to-end encryption by default

Unlike iMessage, WhatsApp, Signal and other chat apps, messages you send via the RCS method are not provided with end-to-end encryption. Developers can add this encryption to RCS via the linked app. However, both recipients must have this in order to ensure full encryption.

Apple has indicated that it will not encrypt RCS messages for the time being, but they are now working with the GSM Association to make end-to-end encryption standard for RCS.

Already available on Android

Google has supported RCS in the standard Messages app for Android since 2019. This will make it easier to chat with Android users from the Messages app without the intervention of other applications, including WhatsApp.

The EU also wants services in the long term be merged in the standard Messages app of smartphones. For example, they want you to be able to contact people from these apps who, for example, only use WhatsApp.

Availability of RCS on iPhone

Apple indicates that it will add support for RCS to iPhone in the fall of 2024 together with iOS 18. In addition, RCS also requires support from the mobile network provider. In the Netherlands this is only Vodafone for the time being. Other providers will probably follow soon.

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