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Apple to roll out RCS support in 2024

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Mobile phone showing capabilities of Rich Communication Services (RCS)
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Have you ever wondered why Apple’s messages are blue and Android’s are green on iPhone? Or have you ever wondered why Android users often use WhatsApp instead of text messaging? These distinctions have historically had to do with limitations in messaging protocols, and compatibility issues with different operating systems.

Enter Rich Communication Services (RCS), which brought features like GIFs, fully verified sender IDs, high-resolution images, and the promise of an improved messaging experience for Android and Apple users alike. But despite its capabilities, Apple was reluctant to embrace it. Until recently. 

In November 2023, Apple made waves with a huge announcement: It would adopt RCS messaging sometime in 2024. This announcement not only signifies a shift towards enhanced person-to-person (P2P) messaging but holds the promise of new opportunities for brands to enhance their customer communications with richer conversational messaging – or at least, that’s what we’re hoping for!  

Let’s unravel this news a bit and look at what could unfold in the future.  

The news: Apple announces they will embrace RCS

 

In November 2023, Apple announced that they’ll adopt the RCS messaging standard sometime in 2024. The news broke in 9to5Mac, which reported that Apple would launch RCS via a software update sometime that year.

“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.” - Apple spokesperson, 9to5Mac, November 16, 2023

Now, this isn’t an ordinary announcement. You may remember when Apple CEO Tim Cook famously suggested that a reporter should buy his mom an iPhone rather than Apple adopt RCS. Given their historical reluctance to adopt the technology, this move feels like a significant shift in Apple’s strategy.

However, in the aftermath of the announcement, a lot of things remain unclear. For example, it’s uncertain whether Apple will adopt RCS business messaging. We’re monitoring for any additional details or updates as they come.

What this means for you: Better interoperability for cross-platform messages

 

Though it’s still early days and we don’t know yet how Apple would implement RCS and how it would work, Apple adopting RCS may translate into a major upgrade in messaging experiences for users. This change could give senders a similar (or better) experience than when iPhone users text each other, or when an Android user messages another Android user.

This experience will mean major upgrades for cross-platform messaging, bridging the gap between iPhone and Android interactions.

Currently on iPhones, Apple users text each other over iMessage. However, when they text Android users, they need to rely on SMS, which offers fewer features. The same happens when Android users want to reach Apple device-holders.

Apple supporting RCS means that iPhone users who text those with Android devices could have more feature-rich conversations that include capabilities like:

  • Group chats

  • Read receipts

  • High-resolution media

  • GIFs

  • Stickers

  • Suggested replies

And if/when Apple adopts RCS for business messaging, it could mean support for:

  • Full enterprise branding including a Business Information page

  • Verified senders

  • Clickable response buttons

  • Multiple-choice carousels

  • Ability to share location, send quick-dial buttons, save-to-wallet

  • ...and more!

What this means for your customers: A new era of conversational messaging

 

Primarily, this announcement sparks a wave of optimism. RCS Universal Profile support suggests the potential for business-backed features of RCS, which has the potential to transform person-to-person and business communications on both Android and iPhone so that businesses can engage with a significantly broader audience.

Despite its basic features, SMS has long been favored because of its reach on every phone. Other messaging channels with more advanced features like WhatsApp and KakaoTalk lack this same widespread availability. Following this announcement, RCS offers the possibility to combine the best of both worlds.

Illustrating the potential, Jonathan Campbell, Senior Director of Messaging at Sinch says it best:

“With Apple’s full commitment of RCS, it's evident that RCS Business Messaging as a channel will dominate. Enhanced security, superior customer experience, and advanced features make it a crucial channel for businesses. Going into 2024, RCS will be available on 1+ billion devices, and accelerating everything from simple, secure branded text only messaging to AI-driven interactions. At Sinch, we're thrilled for the future!”

Get ready for RCS to take off

 

We’re already seeing RCS usage grow exponentially in markets like the US, Brazil, Mexico, India, and the UK. And while there are details of this announcement that need clarification – from backend platform integration, through to onboarding and compliance – there's no denying that it brings the potential for further growth.

At Sinch, we’re committed to keeping you posted as we learn more. However it plays out, though, Apple’s support for RCS means you can expect more robust, feature-rich communication possibilities. The good news? You can rest assured that our platform is ready for this change.

In the meantime, here are some resources for you to learn more about RCS and conversational messaging:

And if RCS is on your list of 2024 resolutions, Sinch can help. Contact us to speak with a member of our team about how you can create a conversational messaging strategy your customers will love!