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Apple has announced its intention to incorporate support for Rich Communication Service (RCS) standard on iOS next year. The move is a significant departure from the tech giant’s longstanding resistance to RCS. This decision has contributed to the interoperability issues in text messaging between iPhones and Android smartphones.
The RCS Universal Profile is hailed as a solution to the persistent problem of fragmentation in messaging ecosystems, which has disproportionately affected Android users. Apple’s reluctance to embrace RCS has been criticised for perpetuating a sense of exclusivity within its ecosystem, sparking debates in the tech community.
In a statement to 9to5Mac, Apple acknowledged the benefits of RCS, stating that the universal profile “will offer a better interoperability experience when compared to SMS or MMS.”
However, the company clarified that the new support would complement iMessage, touted as the best and most secure messaging experience for Apple users.
The unexpected reversal comes from Google’s persistent efforts to persuade Apple to adopt RCS for iPhones, applying public pressure to address the compatibility issues between the two major smartphone platforms.
Despite embracing RCS, Apple users will still encounter the infamous ‘green bubble’ when exchanging messages. This decision seems to uphold the distinctive visual separation between iMessage and traditional text messages, a characteristic that has become synonymous with the Apple ecosystem.
RCS, an initiative by industry players like Google, Samsung, and various telecom operators, aims to enhance traditional SMS with richer text and end-to-end encryption features. With support for RCS already rolled out to over 800 million users worldwide, the move by Apple is seen as a positive step toward achieving greater messing interoperability.
Critics argue that the lack of compatibility has historically deterred users from transitioning between Android and iPhones. Apple’s internal documents revealed during the legal battle with Epic Games exposed a deliberate decision to keep iMessage within its ecosystem.
Coincidentally, Apple’s announcement aligns with recent efforts by Google and telecom operators urging EU regulators to categorise iMessage as a ‘core’ service under the new Digital Markets Act, potentially pushing Apple to make its chat app fully compatible with rivals.