It seems Google's incessant vouching for the RCS (Rich Communication Services) standard with the #GetTheMessage campaign has finally caught Apple's attention. The company says that next year, it will bring support for RCS Universal Profile to the messaging experience on iPhones. Now, this is not Apple opening iMessage to Android. Instead, this is just Apple opening up to a messaging standard that breaks the feature wall when messages are exchanged between Android and iOS devices.
The shift to RCS was first reported by 9to5Mac courtesy of an official statement by Google. With Apple's adoption of RCS, the messaging experience between iPhones and Android phones will no longer be a feature-devoid experience. Apple has usually kept features like read receipts, typing indicators, the ability to share locations, and high-resolution media exchange locked to iMessage pathways between iPhone users. The controversial green/bubble debate is also a part of that ecosystem gatekeeping.
That's because Apple used to downgrade the iPhone-Android messaging experience to the SMS and MMS protocols, the aging communication standards that lack a lot of meaningful features and happen to be far less secure, as well. Moreover, that ecosystem wall also blocked cross-platform messages from latching onto Wi-Fi lanes for a speedy exchange. Apple's adoption of RCS is a huge shift in its messaging strategy, but more importantly, it makes the messaging experience far less frustrating for users.
Why RCS matters for everyone?
So, Google has been working with phone companies to roll out what it calls "Chat," which is based on the RCS Universal Profile, allowing users across different carriers and countries to text each other without any feature gatekeeping. You'll find the system active on most Android phones as they already have Google's Messages app installed out of the box. It's pretty much Android's answer to iMessage with a whole bunch of features similar to your standalone messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram.
You can send messages with high-res photos, videos, and all that jazz. Plus, it has cool features like seeing when someone's typing, read receipts, delivery status, and even those fun tapbacks for quickly responding to a message with an appropriate emoji reaction. Moreover, for folks worried about safety, Google has baked end-to-end encryption for RCS messages to the core, a big upgrade over the regular old SMS messages.
But RCS or not, iMessage will remain locked inside Apple's walled garden. Apple has no official plans to bring iMessage to Android. However, sketchy hacks like the Sunbird app aim to replicate the iMessage experience on Android down to the blue bubble. Nothing is officially bringing the experience to the Phone (2), but we would suggest staying away from any third-party app that needs your Apple ID credentials to allow messaging for the sake of your own security.