The great divide between iOS and Android is closing up at a faster pace than expected, with news of Apple promising RCS support in 2024. Rich Communication Services (RCS) has been the messaging standard for Android phones for years, allowing users to exchange messages and enjoy all the features of these devices between different Android devices. Apple, always the one to do things its own way, has resisted the switch for decades. While this hasn’t presented any issues in the usability of either device, it has limited the compatibility between Apple devices and other phones. Reports of iPhone’s RCS support will probably mean a big shift in the dynamics of the smartphone industry. Fans of the iMessage service needn’t worry either as the addition of RCS in iPhones will not cause iMessages to go away just yet.
Apple RCS Support for iPhones: Why Now?
A majority of the landmark changes that Apple is making now appear to be attempts to appease the EU and its regulations. The European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) is the latest attempt by the union to identify digital “gatekeepers” and encourage them to make the digital world more “fair and contestable” for all its key players as well as its customers. The DMA was adopted by the European Parliament on 14 September 2022 and went into effect a little later, on 1 November 2023.
Companies identified as providers of core platform services have since had to report their services to the EU and prove that their services allow for a fair and open digital market. The lack of iPhone’s RCS support is likely one of the services that could have been flagged as an obstruction. Apple and other companies must now work harder to ensure their services are interoperable with other platforms. In September, the DMA launched an investigation into Apple’s iMessage and Microsoft’s Bing to assess whether these platforms warranted further restrictions and regulations, but the companies argued that they weren’t nearly popular enough in Europe to necessitate such regulations. For now, iMessage will continue as an Apple service, but the RCS support will be added to facilitate message sharing between devices.
With the threat of fines and periodic penalties to back up the DMA, companies will have to review their services and make necessary changes in the next six months to stay on the European Union’s good side.
What Does iPhone’s RCS Support Change?
While Apple fights to hold on to iMessages and leave it unchanged in the middle of the regulations, the RCS in iPhones will soon work more as a parallel message support service. Of the many benefits this change could offer, end-to-end encryption support, high-quality photo and video sharing, and read receipts are a few of the benefits. Instead of relying on third-party platforms like Whatsapp and Telegram, companies could now work to ensure that the basic texting features built into mobile phones could provide the same extent of benefits that the other services provide.
Google has been one of the most prominent voices in the mission to ensure RCS in iPhones. The company repeatedly vocalized and publicly goaded Apple with ad campaigns like “Get the Message” to address the problems Apple was causing by sticking to its guns about using SMS instead of switching to RCS. While the campaigns were admittedly funny, it was unlikely that it was convincing enough for Apple to make the move as it wasn’t necessarily a move that its users were pushing for. Now though, to continue operating in the EU market, Apple likely has no choice but to give in.
Everybody should have secure and modern messaging without worrying what kind of phone they’re texting to. So glad to see Apple joining our ongoing work with the GSMA on RCS to make texting better for all! 🙏https://t.co/C2eS2OeNxc
— Hiroshi Lockheimer (@lockheimer) November 16, 2023
Earlier this year, Apple was also forced to give up its proprietary Lightning port design and switch to the more universal USB-C charging port. This was also a result of EU regulations cracking down on the great divide between devices, pushing for more standard ports that could simplify matters for its population. Meanwhile, Google was preoccupied with an entirely different legal battle with the U.S. for its own policies and for attempting to monopolize the search engine market with its practices.
While these regulations are in no way similar, these big moves by governments are clear signs of them overseeing the digital and tech sector with greater sincerity than ever before. Gatekeeping and monopolization discourage competition in the market, which then stifles innovation from smaller players. It appears to be time for tech giants to tread with greater care as the global scenario continues to evolve. We’re excited to see what changes the iPhone’s RCS support brings in 2024.