Apple Barely Mentioned the Best Feature Coming to iOS 18

Apple Barely Mentioned the Best Feature Coming to iOS 18

It’s been just under a week since Apple’s big WWDC 2024 showcase, and while the company’s new AI features were the star of the show, Apple’s best announcement was completely glossed over, RCS chats.

There’s a long history of Apple and RCS chat support, with the feature long being absent from the company’s walled garden, while deeply needed for better messaging support for all users, iPhone owners or not. It’s been a long time coming.

Android phones have been using RCS chats for years now, moving on from the SMS standard, and for good reason; it’s more secure with end-to-end encryption, it adds group chat support, read receipts, and it adds support for photos, videos, and audio clips – not to mention longer messages. Samsung and Google have long lobbied Apple to make the switch, and the company faced mounting pressure from regulators to do so. Also, let’s not forget this interesting response from Apple CEO Tim Cook.

But have you ever been in a position where you’ve texted a photo or video between an iPhone or an Android phone, only for it to arrive pixelated or in poor quality? That’s because Apple’s devices didn’t have RCS enabled, and when it comes to Android-to-iPhone messages and vice versa, instead are reliant entirely on the former, much less versatile SMS and MMS protocol.

Between iPhones, however, Apple’s rich-text alternative has been iMessage for more than a decade. iMessage has always been exclusive to iPhones and a pretty sturdy pillar of the company’s walled garden. When we talk about ‘green’ and ‘blue’ bubbles, we’re essentially talking about users who have iMessage (blue bubbles) and those who don’t (green), as they appear to Apple users.

Image: Apple

But hopefully no longer. Green and blue bubbles may remain a thing to differentiate between users of iMessage or not, but RCS support will enable a better texting experience between iPhones and Androids. The image above was shared by Apple as an example of RCS support, including a new caption in the text box noting RCS being enabled.

“RCS (Rich Communication Services) messages bring richer media and delivery and read receipts for those who don’t use iMessage,” Apple wrote on its iOS 18 page.

But details remain murky. Cross-device compatibility, such as for things like read receipts, text formatting, tapbacks, and chat effects may not be compatible across both device families. No doubt higher category counts and broadened support for high-quality video and photo sharing are among the leading features of this announcement, though. iMessage features will obviously remain iMessage exclusive.

Apple only gave RCS messaging a small shout at the end of its iOS 18 section of its WWDC 2024 presentation, and a tiny square on the features panel during the segment. It’s a shame, because it’s easily what got me the most excited. Finally, my brother will be able to text me, an Android user, photos of my niece, without us having to resort to a third-party app like Discord or Facebook Messenger.

Not that it’s surprising. It’s not like RCS chats improve things much for iOS users anyway, unless they themselves are sick of texts coming through poorly to and from Android devices.

Anyway. RCS support is part of the iOS 18 update, set to roll out in September.

Image: Apple