In what has to be the most surprising thing you’ll read all day, Apple has confirmed that they will add RCS support to iMessage in 2024. Before you start getting your hopes up, the green bubble vs blue bubble dichotomy most likely won’t be ending anytime soon. In fact, adding RCS support to iMessage may not mean much at all outside of better audio and video quality between iPhone and Android.
In theory, RCS should bring many new capabilities to chats between iOS and Android. With RCS in its current state, Android users can enjoy things like reactions, read receipts, typing indicators, and high-quality media transfer. One glaring area of concern is the fact that even though messaging security will improve as a result of Apple supporting RCS, encryption will not be a thing. At least not immediately. This is partially because RCS will be working ALONGSIDE iMessage, not fully integrated with it.
RCS stands for Rich Communication Services and was initially rolled out for Android by Google back in 2019, and soon became the default for messages and chats for new and existing Google Messages users. Ironically enough, Google has been poking at Apple to adopt RCS compatibility for several months now, but the final move may have been spurred by something entirely different.
Carl Pei’s Nothing Phone brand recently announced a partnership with Sunbird to bring iMessage compatibility to their Android handsets. Sunbird works by essentially allowing users to log into an Apple ID that is then assigned to a Sunbird-managed Mac Mini that then acts as a passthrough for iMessage. The messages you send will appear as blue chat bubbles on your friend’s iPhones, but they won’t see your phone number. Instead, they’ll be chatting with you via the email address you used to establish your Apple ID.
Just a few short days after Nothing announced this partnership, Apple announced they’d be bringing RCS support to iPhones. The biggest question here is whether or not this is a weirdly timed coincidence, or if Apple is concerned about people using a pass-through for iMessage compatibility.
Either way, this is a big development in the world of tech and a major step forward in the future of communications.