RCS Messaging in iOS 18: What iPhone Users Need to Know

Rich Communication Services (RCS) is a messaging standard Apple is adopting in iOS 18 that will revolutionize the messaging experience between iPhone and Android devices. Think of it as SMS 2.0 – a major upgrade to the traditional text messaging we've been using for years.

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Key Features of RCS

Apple's decision to embrace RCS came last year after persistent persuasion from Google, which has been championing RCS adoption worldwide – and with good reason. Compared to MMS and SMS, the standards that Apple uses for text messages, RCS offers the following advantages:

  • Higher quality photos and videos
  • Larger file sizes for attachments
  • Audio messages
  • Improved group chats
  • Read receipts and typing indicators
  • Better encryption for chats between iPhone and Android users
  • Cross-platform emoji reactions
  • Location sharing within text threads
  • Works over both cellular networks and Wi-Fi

RCS vs. iMessage: Bridging the Gap

While RCS offers many features that iPhone users have long enjoyed with iMessage, it's important to understand the differences between these two messaging protocols. The most significant advantage of RCS is its ability to work across different smartphone platforms.

Unlike iMessage, which is exclusive to Apple devices and creates the infamous "green bubble" effect when iPhone users text Android users, RCS aims to eliminate this disparity, creating a more unified messaging experience regardless of device type. That said, RCS messages will still appear as green bubbles in Apple's Messages app, but they will be accompanied by the label "Text Message – RCS" in the conversation thread to identify them.

In terms of features, RCS brings many of the capabilities iPhone users have come to expect from iMessage to cross-platform conversations. High-quality media sharing, read receipts, and typing indicators – all staples of the iMessage experience – will now be available when texting Android users through RCS. This marks a significant improvement in the messaging experience between different platforms.

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When it comes to security though, iMessage still holds the upper hand. It offers end-to-end encryption for all communications between Apple devices. RCS, while offering improved encryption compared to traditional SMS, doesn't quite reach the same level of security as iMessage. However, it's a significant step up from the unencrypted SMS messages that have been the standard for cross-platform texting.

Another area where iMessage still maintains an edge is in its immediate availability across all Apple devices. RCS, on the other hand, depends on carrier support and implementation on both ends of the conversation. This means that while RCS promises a more unified messaging experience, its availability might not be as universal as iMessage is within the Apple ecosystem, at least initially.

Despite these differences, the adoption of RCS by Apple represents a major step towards bridging the gap between iMessage and Android messaging. While it may not completely eliminate the distinctions, it certainly narrows them considerably, promising a richer, more consistent messaging experience for all users, regardless of their choice of smartphone. In summary, here's a breakdown of what users can expect when messaging between iPhone and Android devices:

  • Enhanced Media Sharing: No more tiny, pixelated photos or videos when sharing media with Android friends. RCS allows for higher resolution and larger file sizes.
  • Rich Messaging Features: iPhone users will be able to see when Android users are typing, know when messages are read, and use emoji reactions in cross-platform conversations.
  • Better Group Chats: Group conversations including both iPhone and Android users will be more cohesive, with features like naming group chats and adding/removing participants working smoothly across platforms.
  • Wi-Fi Messaging: Like iMessage, RCS can work over Wi-Fi, allowing for messaging even without cellular service.
  • Seamless Fallback: If RCS isn't available for some reason, the system will automatically fall back to SMS/MMS, ensuring messages always get through.

When Will iPhone Users Get RCS?

Apple plans to introduce RCS support with iOS 18, which is set for a general release in the fall. However, full functionality will depend on carrier support. The good news is that major U.S. carriers like Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T already support RCS.

If you have the third iOS 18 beta installed and you use one of the above carriers, you can try out RCS messaging support now by toggling the RCS Messaging switch in Settings ➝ Apps ➝ Messages ➝ RCS Messaging. iOS 18 beta 3 also rolls out RCS support to carriers in some other countries, such as Bell in Canada, Telefonica in Spain, and O2 in Germany.

The Future of RCS

Apple isn't stopping at just implementing RCS. The company plans to work with Google and other members of the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) to further improve the RCS standard worldwide. This collaboration should lead to even more advanced features, such as the ability to edit and delete sent RCS messages.

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Top Rated Comments

icanhazmac Avatar
6 days ago at 04:59 am

Yep. People use Whatsapp here.
I'll accept just about anything, RCS included, if it keeps me from using Whatsapp.
Score: 41 Votes (Like | Disagree)
eduardodfj Avatar
6 days ago at 04:55 am
For us non-US users, this means nothing since very few people uses SMS, iMessage or the RCS standard at all.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
robvalentine Avatar
6 days ago at 04:53 am
I won't use RCS because it facilitates communication with Android comments in 3.2.1.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
daniesy Avatar
6 days ago at 04:56 am

For us non-US users, this means nothing since very few people uses SMS, iMessage or the RCS standard at all.
Yep. People use Whatsapp here.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
WarmWinterHat Avatar
6 days ago at 06:17 am

I really couldn't care less what it does. I have texts with one Android person, and that was my realtor. We're in the house now, so I won't be texting her anymore either. No one I know has or even thinks about getting an Android phone.
Not all of us are anti-social.

A big chunk of American people discriminate users that have green bubbles in a conversation (vs the blue ones in the iPhone).
No they don't; a big chunk of high-schoolers, perhaps. 99.9% of adults, in the US, don't give a crap.

That said, my daughter (in high school) and the majority of her friends use Snapchat.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
subjonas Avatar
6 days ago at 02:02 pm

For us non-US users, this means nothing since very few people uses SMS, iMessage or the RCS standard at all.
I don’t understand the purpose of “this means nothing to me” posts.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)