RCS support is coming to all iPhones with iOS 18

By Adrian Vincent - 19 Jun 2024, 17:39 RCS support is coming to all iPhones with iOS 18
  • Upcoming iOS 18 update will add RCS support for all iPhones
  • iMessage will still be the default for texts between iPhones, with RCS as a fallback
  • Text messages to and from Android phones will use RCS as default
  • RCS is an open standard, which provides rich features similar to iMessage, such as higher quality media, group messaging, read receipts and typing indicators
  • Apple will not support end-to-end encryption with RCS
  • All UK networks currently support RCS, including MVNOs

As expected, Apple announced plenty of new AI features today at WWDC24. However, to less fanfare, they also finally announced RCS support for iPhone, which will land with the upcoming iOS 18 update.

All iPhones which are eligible for iOS 18 will support the RCS Universal Profile 2.4, automatically replacing SMS as the default messaging protocol. This means text messages to and from Android phones will provide rich features similar to iMessage, such as higher quality media, group messaging, read receipts, typing indicators, increased character limits and more.

However, green bubbles will still be present with RCS communication, so you can still identify when a message is sent to an Android phone or non-Apple device.

Messages between iPhones will continue to use iMessage by default (blue bubbles), but will fallback to RCS if one party does not have iMessage enabled.

However, unlike iMessage, end-to end encryption won’t be available, as it’s not defined in the RCS protocol. Google Messages, for example, adds end-to-end encryption on top of the RCS protocol, and is not a requirement for other companies to follow. Apple prides itself as a company that is serious about privacy and security, so it’s possible encryption support may be added at a later date, but this will involve working together with Google - unfortunately, both companies aren't exactly on the friendliest of terms.

RCS has been the standard messaging protocol with Android phones for some time now. In the UK, EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three all support RCS across their networks, including for MVNOs which they power.

Despite being reluctant to support RCS, Apple's hand has been forced. After scrutinisation from the EU and accusations of platform locking with iMessage, finally supporting RCS is more likely a defensive move more than anything. Internal emails from 2013 reveal some higher ups at Apple wanted to bring iMessage to Android, however some pushed backed as they predicted consumers may be tempted to switch to Android, as iMessage would no longer be an iPhone exclusive app.

About the author Adrian Vincent

As the founder and senior editor at CompareDial, Adrian Vincent is a renowned expert in all things related to mobile phones, and is particularly knowledgeable when it comes to helping consumers find the best contract deals. His expertise is widely recognised, with citations from leading news organisations and tech publications. Adrian is dedicated to guiding users through the complexities of the phone contract market, ensuring they receive unparalleled advice and secure the best value for their money.