iOS 18 brings RCS to iPhone chats — here’s what you’re getting

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We’ve known that Rich Communication Services (RCS) would be coming to iPhones at some point this year, thanks to an announcement by Apple toward the latter end of 2023. Now we finally have confirmation what version of RCS will arrive on your iPhone.

After Apple's WWDC 2024 keynote confirmed that the iOS 18 version of Messages would have RCS support, Google provided further details about that RCS integration, which Android Authority reports will be based on the RCS Universal Profile standard published by the GSM Association.

If you're not familiar with RCS, it's a messaging platform that has been around for some time. Essentially, its a successor platform to SMS and MMS, which powered text messaging almost from the beginning of texting.

The platform was created by Google to replace SMS and MMS and has until recently been deployed by wireless carriers in partnerships with Google. After carriers tried to create their own messaging platform, Google flipped the RCS switch on all Android devices, and the carrier platform fell apart when T-Mobile bought Sprint.

At the same, Apple users have iMessage, and the company has been loath to extend support for that platform to Android. Google and the GSM, a lobbying group made up of mobile operators, have been pushing Apple to allow RCS onto iPhones for years.

Currently, the RCS Universal Profile is up to version 2.6. During a conference, EMEA development manager at Google Tim Atkinson said that Apple will support RCS Universal Profile 2.4. Other than end-to-end encryption and some other Google-specific features, Apple will have what is basically the most up-to-date version.

Adding RCS support will improve chats between iOS and Android users. New features will include higher-quality media sharing, group messaging, read receipts and extending character limits. The green bubble on iPhone won’t go away, but that’s a question about elitism for another day.

The addition of RCS support in iOS 18 may not completely be by Apple’s choice. There is speculation that regulations in both China and the EU are forcing Apple’s hand regarding adding RCS to their platform. 

A public beta of iOS 18 is supposed to arrive in July, which is when we'll see if Apple has implemented RCS support. Not every announced feature shows up right away in iOS public betas, so it could be some time before we see how the promised improvements in iOS-to-Android texting.

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Scott Younker
West Coast Reporter

Scott Younker is the West Coast Reporter at Tom’s Guide. He covers all the lastest tech news. He’s been involved in tech since 2011 at various outlets and is on an ongoing hunt to build the easiest to use home media system. When not writing about the latest devices, you are more than welcome to discuss board games or disc golf with him.