The good news is come to your group chat. Today, Apple announced that it will add support for the RCS messaging standard to the iPhone. The 9to5Mac website announced the news that Apple will release a software update next year that will bring support to iOS for the messaging standard, already widely used by Android phones.
RCS, or Rich Communications Standard, is a mail service it’s a step up from the SMS and MMS messaging standards that smartphones have used since their arrival. RCS can do more than SMS and MMS: it allows users to share higher resolution photos and videos between their devices; it supports read receipts; and there are more fun things, like the ability to easily insert emoji and GIFs into a conversation. It also adds additional layers of security that older email standards lack.
Apple has eschewed RCS in favor of its own iMessage platform, leading to a layer of incompatibility that anyone with an Android phone — or any iPhone user who regularly texts people with Android phones — is painfully conscious. Videos shared between iOS and Android are crunchy and have low bandwidth, and Android users are often confused by group chats, with missed messages, missing emoji, and other issues.
For years, Apple has relied on SMS and MMS to bridge the digital divide between these messaging platforms. This is the last major hurdle, as RCS is already supported by major players like Google, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. When Apple adds support for RCS, it will no longer need this old bridge, and the move could mean the eventual death of SMS.
“It’s long overdue for texting to go away,” says Anshel Sag, principal analyst at technology analysis firm Moor Insights and Strategy. “Now texting may die, it may be sunset. Thus, all viruses and security breaches due to SMS can be eliminated.
The move does not happen immediately; Apple told 9to5Mac that RCS support would arrive “in the second half of next year.” This timing suggests that support could arrive with the next version of iOS, which is usually rolling out in September.
So that’s a way out, but it’s certainly closer than Apple’s previous plan for this feature, which was apparently “never.” A year ago, it seemed like Apple wasn’t even considering supporting RCS on the iPhone. Tim Cook, Apple CEO joked casually that you can “buy your mom an iPhone” if you have difficulty communicating with users on different devices. Since then, pressure has increased on the company to implement RCS, and some compatibility emerged between platforms as they evolved.