After years of pressure from competitors, Apple has announced that it plans to adopt RCS (Rich Communication Services) messaging in a software update coming next year. RCS is the next-generation messaging standard that will provide iMessage-like features for communication between iPhone and Android users.
By adopting RCS, Apple will be able to provide an enhanced messaging experience between iOS and Android users. With RCS support, iPhone-Android conversations will include features such as read receipts, typing indicators, high-quality photos and videos, location sharing, and messaging over WiFi or cellular data instead of SMS.
Apple said it will work with GSMA, the mobile industry's standards body, to further improve RCS security and features over time. On the oher hand, the company was quick to point out that iMessage will remain the primary messaging service for Apple users. RCS will exist separately as an enhanced replacement for SMS/MMS.
Apple emphasizes that iMessage offers even more advanced and secure features with end-to-end encryption and will continue to evolve independently.
An Apple spokesperson said (via 9to5Mac);
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.
The move comes after accusations from Google and Samsung that Apple's refusal to support RCS contributes to the "green bubble" effect. The Android maker also released an ad titled "Meet iPager," mocking the fact that iPhones still rely on SMS and MMS instead of RCS to chat with Android users.
Meanwhile, the EU is considering designating Apple as a gatekeeper, which could force the integration of competing standards such as RCS if Apple gains too large a share of the messaging market in Europe.