Apple has announced plans to integrate Rich Communication Services (RCS) support into iOS, marking a significant change in its messaging strategy. This decision is seen as a major reversal of Apple’s previous position, which has been criticized for perpetuating fragmentation in the messaging ecosystem and affecting the interoperability between iPhone and Android devices.
RCS is designed to enhance traditional SMS with modern features like richer texts and end-to-end encryption. The move follows Google’s repeated requests and public pressure on Apple to adopt RCS, which is now supported by various industry players, including Google, Samsung, and telecom operators, reaching over 800 million users worldwide.
Despite this shift, Apple will continue to display RCS messages in the familiar green bubbles, differentiating them from iMessage texts. The company’s reluctance to support RCS in the past, particularly in iMessage, has been a point of contention. Apple’s chief Tim Cook had previously dismissed the idea of adopting RCS in iMessage.
This stance was part of a broader strategy to maintain ecosystem exclusivity, as revealed in internal discussions during Apple’s legal battle with Epic Games. The discussions exposed a prolonged internal debate about introducing iMessage to Android, with concerns about it affecting iPhone user retention.
Apple’s decision to support RCS coincides with recent efforts by Google and telecom operators urging EU regulators to designate iMessage as a “core” service under the new Digital Markets Act. This act would require Apple to make its chat app fully compatible with rival services.
Apple has acknowledged that it expects to make several policy changes to comply with the new guidelines set to go into effect next year.
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