Text messaging between iPhone and Android devices will get better in the next year

Text messaging between iPhone and Android devices will get better in the next year

Grainy pictures. No Wi-Fi support. Persistent doubts that someone actually saw your message.

Even in 2023, sending a text message from an iPhone to an Android device — and vice versa — seems simple at best. But in a surprise change, Apple has agreed that that should change in 2024.

Apple confirmed on Thursday that it will build support for the Rich Communication Services messaging standard — also known as “RCS” — into future software releases. This support will arrive “later next year,” a time frame that suggests it will be integrated into the next version of the company’s iOS operating system, which is typically released in September.

When it finally happens, iPhone owners and Android users will be able to share media like photos and videos in Messages in high quality. They’ll see read receipts and typing indicators as they chat, too, and Apple says users will be able to share their locations within text threads.

This is a welcome change for consumers on both sides of the iOS-Android divide, but Apple’s concession may also be intended to appeal to another audience: lawmakers in Europe. For months, the European Commission has been trying to determine whether Apple’s iMessage service is large enough to serve as a platform to be regulated under the EU’s Digital Markets Act — a move that could force Apple to make iMessage compatible with competing messaging services.

Regardless of the reason for this shift, Apple was late to the party. Almost every reasonably popular messaging service has had these features for years. (Of course, that includes iMessage.) So why the delay?

The reason these features aren’t available to iPhone users who text their friends using Android phones — and vice versa — is because they’re not possible under the decades-old technical standards that make SMS (also known as regular texting) and MMS (or, MMS) possible.

For years, Apple has chosen to evolve its iMessage service with new features while relying on those older formats for transferring text messages and photos to and from non-iPhone devices. While this was happening, wireless carriers, device makers, and even Google itself bought into the RCS standard and developed the infrastructure to make it work.

Now, by embracing RCS, Apple is also embracing a more consistent type of messaging experience — one that should look pretty similar no matter what type of phone you’re using.

“We believe the RCS Universal Profile will provide a better interoperability experience compared to SMS or MMS,” the company said in a statement.

But none of this means Apple will roll out RCS support in the same way some competitors have. Google has technically gone beyond the technical standard to include end-to-end encryption of RCS messages — meaning they can’t be decrypted by companies and the networks they travel over on their way from phone to phone — that are sent through Google Messages. program.

Apple says this is not something the company plans to do itself; Instead, it wants to make the RCS standard itself more secure, a process that likely won’t happen immediately.

Apple’s announcement is unlikely to herald the end of the tension between the green bubble and the blue bubble. iMessage isn’t going anywhere, and the company says messages shared between Android and iPhone devices will remain color-coded as they are now.

RCS Messaging “will work alongside iMessage, which will continue to be the best and most secure messaging experience for Apple users,” the company statement said.

Short of buying an iPhone the way Tim Cook suggested to someone defending RCS at a conference, Android users tired of the stigma of the green bubble will have to turn to third-party players working to bring iMessage to Android — or wait to see if Europe Apple will force you to open the app. A platform for everyone.

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