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Apple to roll out RCS support in fall 2024

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 for iOS 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 wasn'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 felt like a significant shift in Apple’s strategy.

However, Apple left out a critical detail: that is, when RCS would be introduced to iPhone. 

Then, in March 2024, 9to5Google reported that Google announced on the Android website that RCS would come to iPhones in fall 2024.

"The Android website has added a new landing page for Google Messages that talks about the first-party messaging experience, while also noting that RCS on the iPhone is coming in fall 2024. A section describing the benefits of RCS — high-res photo/videos, typing indicators, and a better group chat experience — talks about how it’s “Coming soon on iOS.”" -9to5Google, March 28, 2024

Though there's still some speculation (and the original card on the Android website is no longer visible), TechCrunch indicated that this could mean RCS support in the upcoming iOS 18 update. 

Despite this, 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 that includes RCS in iOS

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!” -Jonathan Campbell, Senior Director of Messaging at Sinch

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.

Watch the video to hear from Robert Gerstmann, co-founder and Chief Evangelist, on how Sinch is preparing for Apple's announcement that they'll support RCS in 2024.

Here are some resources for you to learn more about RCS and conversational messaging:

Or, if you're ready to get started, download our comprehensive RCS guide which will walk you through how to make a compelling business case to bring RCS into your organization. 

How to make a compelling business case for RCS CTA

You can also always contact us to speak with a member of our team about how you can create a conversational messaging strategy your customers will love!

This is an updated version of the article "Apple to roll out RCS support in 2024" published to the Sinch blog on December 1, 2023.