In what is apparently an enormous change of direction, Apple reportedly plans to add support for Rich Communication Services to the iPhone Messages app in 2024. This will enable iPhones and Androids to communicate more effectively, with more of the bells and whistles associated with Apple’s proprietary iMessage platform.
It also could be the end of the green bubble versus blue bubble controversy, though not necessarily.
RCS on iPhone?!
iPhone and Android users can already exchange simple SMS and MMS messages. But because iMessage does not support Rich Communication Services, communications between the platforms are limited. There are no emoji reactions, read receipts or other advanced features.
But that’s going to change in the coming months. Apple gave a statement to 9to5Mac that reads:
“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.”
Many details are still lacking. The company did say that users should expect higher-quality images as well as the ability to share location data between platforms. But there is no word if Android users will start appearing in the same color bubbles as iPhone users.
Other improvements that potentially might be included are end-to-end encryption and typing indicators.
To be clear, the Messages app won’t use RCS for communications between iPhone users, according to 9to5Mac. It’ll be an addition for texting between iPhones and Android devices.
Has hell also frozen over?
Apple always resisted adding RCS support because making it easier for Android users to text with iPhones will likely lead to some iOS users switching to the other platform.
But there’s regulatory pressure to open up the Apple ecosystem. The EU Digital Markets Act is forcing a variety of changes on Apple, including adding support for sideloading iPhone applications. And while European regulators have not yet required the iPhone Messages app to support RCS, it’s moving in that direction.
Blue bubbles vs. green bubbles could continue
A whopping 87% of U.S. teens own an iPhone and are accustomed to the full benefits of chatting between these devices. There’s peer pressure to not use Android, as a lack of RCS support in cross-platform communications can cause problems for everyone in group chats.
Users can tell what type of handset everyone is using. In Apple’s Messages application, texts from an iPhone show up in blue bubbles but Android users are in green bubbles.
And it’s not only teens who get judgy about bubble color. The CEO of a popular startup says that entrepreneurs seeking funding from venture capitalists are less likely to get it with texts that appear in green bubbles.
But adding support for RCS doesn’t automatically mean the end of the blue/green bubble divide. Because the application is adding RCS only for cross-platform communication, it will be able to tell who is using an iPhone and who is not. That could be reflected in bubble color.