Following Carl Pei’s recent announcement of Nothing’s upcoming iMessage chat app for its Android phones, Apple pulled a rather unexpected (but very much welcome) surprise move, announcing that it will bring over RCS support for its iPhones next year. This new breakthrough does open up new developments towards inter-platform messaging, going beyond the confines of SMS and MMS.
For those not familiar with the term, RCS stands for “Rich Communication Services,” a messaging standard which has been in use on all Android devices for some time now. RCS features wider compatibility among different OEMs and carriers, in addition to enhanced multimedia capabilities for file sharing, advanced group chat functionality, as well as better privacy and security.
The announcement was made by an Apple representative to 9to5Mac, stating the following:
“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.“
In addition to the features that will be brought over once RCS makes its way into Cupertino territory, one big takeaway from this is that Apple seems to be loosening up a bit on its once tightly-controlled hardware and software features and services. One example would be the addition of USB-C connectivity on the iPhone series, although the feature was earlier made available on several of the company’s iPad and MacBook models, for example.
The initiative to bring RCS compatibility for Apple devices is something that Google has long pushed for, as seen with its “Get the Message” campaign, and most recently its move to turn to EU-based regulators to try and get Apple to adopt RCS implementation for its products. There’s even talk that apple might soon make app side-loading a reality for users in the EU, another feature that was always available on Android devices.
Prior to the announcement, various third-party app developers have tried their hand at developing software-based workarounds to enable iMessage communication for Android users – the most recent being Nothing with its Nothing Chats app for Android. Developed in collaboration with Sunbird, Nothing Chats offers RCS functionality in addition to iMessage features, which include P2P and group messaging, as well as high resolution file sharing, read and delivery receipts.
Going back to the whole RCS-iMessage debacle, it’s certainly surprising to see Apple bend the knee towards the competition, although this does beg the question of how the company will go about implementing RCS communication for its devices when the time comes.