Apple has decided to integrate support for RCS messaging on iPhones next year. The decision was unexpected, as Apple generally focuses on integrations between their own devices. There are relatively few third-party integrations. Google has been running advertisements that attempt to bring iPhone <> RCS integration to the public’s attention.
Rich Communication Services (RCS) is a messaging standard that aims to replace SMS text messaging across many different makes and models of phones. Modern messaging apps have long overcome the inferior feature set of SMS texting. They don’t have 160-character limits, a lack of gif support, among other issues that SMS has. However, they are not integrated with each other.
All this means is that you have to install Signal to message a friend on Signal (which is free), or install WhatsApp to talk to a WhatsApp user (also free). This can be done in a matter of minutes. Both are available on all brands of phones, as well as all operating systems. So what’s the big issue with iMessage? iPhone users would have to install whichever app their friends are using to message them.
That’s not a major issue unless they still try to use iMessage to when their Android friend shows up as green (because exorbitant SMS charges from the phone carrier will be incurred). Nonetheless, some people don’t like to install additional apps on their phones and interoperability between messaging apps is quite convenient. Apple was likely benefiting from the lack of RCS support because some iPhone users continue to use iPhones because their friends are on iMessage. iMessage is only available on iPhones, iPads, Macs, and Apple Watches.
RCS enables multiple different messaging apps to communicate with each other. The style of encryption used by each messaging app also varies to some extent, and that makes interoperability more difficult. Android (owned by Google) stands to benefit from more iPhone users switching to Android because they won’t be cut off from using iMessage now that Apple has decided to implement it.
That incentive to stay on iPhone (albeit small) will now be gone. That may be one of the drivers between the ‘Get The Message’ ad campaign pressuring Apple to support RCS. RCS has end-to-end encryption that has only been implemented by certain RCS apps, such as Google Messages.