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Google confirms what version of RCS Apple will support on iPhones

Apple will implement a version of RCS that supports business messaging.
By

Published onJune 10, 2024

 

TL;DR
  • Last year, Apple confirmed it would bring RCS support to the Messages app for iOS.
  • However, it didn’t confirm which version of the RCS Universal Profile it would implement.
  • A Business Development Manager at Google says that Apple will support Universal Profile 2.4, which supports business messaging.

To combat the awful green bubble stigma, Google has been pushing Apple to #GetTheMessage, i.e., add support for RCS messaging in the iOS Messages app. In a surprise announcement late last year, Apple confirmed it planned to add support for RCS in the Messages app. RCS in Apple Messages will roll out sometime this year, and Apple confirmed it’ll be based on the RCS Universal Profile standard published by the GSM Association. However, Apple didn’t confirm which version of the RCS Universal Profile it would implement, but thanks to Google, we now know.

For a bit of context, RCS stands for Rich Communication Services, and it’s basically the successor to SMS/MMS. RCS is an advanced messaging protocol that improves upon SMS/MMS by extending character limits, supporting higher-quality media sharing, enabling group messaging, and allowing for read receipts to be shown, among other features. The GSM Association publishes a specification called the RCS Universal Profile that outlines how clients and networks implement these features, and it’s currently up to version 2.6 (warning: PDF file).

In its statement to the press, Apple said it would be “adding support for RCS Universal Profile, the standard as currently published by the GSM Association.” The reason it’s important to note that Apple specifically mentioned supporting the RCS Universal Profile is because the RCS that many Android users are familiar with — the one that’s built into the Google Messages app — has some features that aren’t part of the Universal Profile, namely end-to-end encryption.

While Apple’s statement suggests its RCS implementation won’t support end-to-end encrypted messaging with Android users using Google Messages, it also leaves doubt about whether it will support other RCS features, such as RCS Business Messaging (RBM). Here’s Apple’s statement to 9to5Mac and other outlets, for your reference:

“Later next year, we will be adding support for RCS Universal Profile, the standard as currently published by the GSM Association. We believe RCS Universal Profile will offer a better interoperability experience when compared to SMS or MMS. This will work alongside iMessage, which will continue to be the best and most secure messaging experience for Apple users.”

RBM presents a great opportunity for businesses looking to engage with their customers. It not only allows businesses to send customers higher-quality photos and videos but also lets them offer suggested replies and other chatbot-like features.

RBM SMS img 00
GSM Association

Apple, as usual, has been rather tight-lipped about what RCS support in the iOS Messages app will actually look like, so we have no idea which RBM features (if any) it will support. However, we do know that it will at least support a version of the RCS Universal Profile that supports RBM. During the Mobile Ecosystem Forum Connects meeting in December 2023, Tim Atkinson, the EMEA Business Development Manager at Google, was asked whether Apple will enable RBM. He, of course, couldn’t comment on Apple’s plans, but he did reveal that Apple will support Universal Profile 2.4, which supports RBM.

During my research, I came across a document from the GSM Association that also lends credence to Apple supporting RCS Universal Profile 2.4. In a document titled “Messaging in the 5G era,” the GSM Association said that new regulatory requirements in China would require all new 5G user devices to support the Universal Profile 2.4 RCS standard. As John Gruber noted earlier this year, China — not the EU or Google — was likely behind Apple’s decision to support RCS. Thus, we can say it’s likely that Apple will implement RCS Universal Profile 2.4 in the iOS Messages app, thanks to new regulatory requirements in China, but we don’t know if the company will enable RBM.

Some industry observers are skeptical that Apple will actually allow RBM in the iOS Messages app, namely because Apple already offers something similar through iMessage (Apple Business Chat). While the exact implementation details are uncertain, what’s clear is that Apple implementing support for RBM could signal the beginning of the end of SMS/MMS. Hopefully, Apple will confirm more details about its plans to bring RCS to its Messages app at WWDC 2024 later today.

Thanks to Discord user LaNonymous for the tip!

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