The good news is Coming to your group chat. Today, Apple said it will add support for the RCS messaging standard to the iPhone. Website 9to5Mac I reported the news Apple will release a software update sometime next year that will bring support to iOS for the messaging standard, which is already widely used by Android phones.
RCS, or Rich Communications Standard, is a messaging service that represents a step above the SMS and MMS messaging standards that smartphones have used since they first arrived. RCS can do more than just SMS and MMS: it allows users to share high-resolution photos and videos between their devices; It supports read receipts; And there’s more fun stuff, like the ability to easily drop emojis and GIFs into the conversation. It also adds additional layers of security that older messaging standards lack.
Apple has famously eschewed RCS in favor of its own iMessage platform, creating a layer of incompatibility that anyone with an Android phone — or any iPhone user who regularly texts people with Android phones — is painfully aware of. Shared videos between iOS and Android are clunky and low-bandwidth, and Android users are often confused by group chats, with missed messages, absence of emojis, and other glitches.
For many years, Apple has relied on SMS and MMS to bridge the digital divide between these messaging platforms. It’s the last major holdout, as RCS is already backed by major players like Google, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. When Apple adds support for RCS, it won’t need that old bridge, and the move could spell the eventual death of SMS.
“SMS is long gone,” says Anshil Saj, principal analyst at technology analysis firm Moor Insights and Strategy. “Now SMS can die, and the sun can set. So all viruses and all security flaws generated by SMS can be eliminated.
This step does not happen immediately. Apple told 9to5Mac that RCS support will come “in the latter half of next year.” This timing suggests that support may arrive with the next version of iOS, which is typically released in September.
So, it’s a way out, but certainly closer than Apple’s previous plan for this feature, which was apparently “never.” A year ago, it seemed like Apple wasn’t thinking about supporting RCS on iPhones. Apple CEO Tim Cook has joked that you can “buy your mom an iPhone” if you have trouble communicating with users on different devices. Since then, pressure has mounted on the company to implement RCS, and some compatibility between platforms has emerged as each has evolved.
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