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I tried out RCS messages between iPhone and Android: Here's how it works

It's actually pretty simple!

Published onJune 27, 2024

After countless ads and several years of Google’s pleading, RCS has finally come to Apple’s Messages app. Right now, it’s only available as part of the second iOS 18 beta, ahead of a full rollout later this fall, but for the brave beta testers, it’s really, truly here. So, I did what any good journalist (specifically one using Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile because they’re the only supported carriers) would do — I fired up an iPhone and texted the most tech-savvy guy I know: my dad. After all, what could go wrong with explaining what I needed him to do while testing RCS on Messages for myself for the first time? Surprisingly, almost nothing.

Two thumbs up

RCS on iMessage top of chat
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Before using my Android-using dad as an RCS guinea pig, I had to do a few things. The first was to let him know that I’d be moving my phone number around — a courtesy since he gets emails from Verizon every time I do so (sorry, Dad).

The second was to opt into Apple’s Developer Program, bring an iPhone 14 Plus test unit out of retirement and set it up with the latest iOS 18 beta. Those two steps took about three times as long as the rest of the process (including running my dad through the different ways I needed him to react to messages).

Then, it was time to jump into an RCS-powered future, and by that, I mean flipping a toggle in the Settings app. Seriously, that’s all there is to it right now for beta testers on the most recent build.

From there, it was time to send my first RCS text message on an iPhone, so I figured I’d start with an easy one — a dig about Apple finally getting the message. Then, it was time to test a few RCS basics: the ability to react to messages and send read receipts from Android to iOS. I asked my dad to respond to my first message, and he sent back a thumbs up — both to my original message and my request for a reaction. Both reactions popped up smoothly and immediately, a massive improvement over the generic SMS alert on iOS 17 and older, and far closer to what we see from Apple’s iMessage service between Apple devices.

I also noticed I didn’t have to test read receipts through RCS — they’re turned on by default. There also doesn’t seem to be a way to turn them off since there’s only one toggle for all the RCS settings, so you’re either in or out. Personally, I hope Apple adds the ability to toggle read receipts later on, as I don’t usually use them, but this is beta software, after all.

I can see clearly now

RCS on iMessage sending image
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

The other main draw of bringing RCS to Messages is the ability to send full-resolution videos and images from Android to iOS, just like you can with iMessage between iPhones. After all, there’s nothing worse than having a friend take a great photo of you only for them to send it to you in a low resolution. So, I asked my dad to send a picture and a video clip, and he did so in a way that only a dad could — with a comic about making beer and a video of himself checking the gutters at the house I grew up in.

Once I finished shaking my head, I realized that both had come through just the same as if they’d been sent from another iPhone. The comic was crystal clear, and the video came out much better than the Patterson-Gimlin resolution I often get when he sends me a clip. It’s a vast improvement over the SMS and MMS struggles both sides have been used to and a sign that Google was probably right all along.

Images and videos finally go from Android to iOS in the resolution they were intended.

RCS on iPhones also allows you to send stickers from your existing set and GIFs from Apple’s #images library, so I sent my dad one of each. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t seem to have ironed out reactions to them just yet, as I got the dreaded “Thumbs up to a GIF” and “Thumbs up to a photo” in response. Interestingly, when I reacted to the video my dad sent, it was a thumbs up on my end but a basic text response on his.

So, the experience isn’t perfect just yet. Yes, iOS 18 is still in development, but I ran into another surprising hiccup while receiving video clips from my dad. Although I had no issues opening and starting clips, there was no way to control them once they started playing. The play button disappears almost immediately, and Apple’s usual slider across the bottom edge is nowhere to be found. If I wanted to go back and pause at an earlier spot in the clip, I’d have to swipe out of it and start all over again — not a massive problem in a 10-second clip, but plenty annoying for anything much longer.

Yes, green bubbles still exist

RCS on iMessage text box
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

So, there you go — Apple has completely changed the messaging game by bringing RCS to Messages. We can finally have peace and harmony between Android and iOS, especially as the two mobile platforms inch closer together and share more features than ever before. You can put apps anywhere on your iPhone’s Home Screen, change the color of your icons, and react to messages across other platforms. What else is there?

Oh, right, green bubbles still exist, so Android users will probably still face stigma for choosing a Pixel or a Galaxy device over an iPhone. That’s alright, though. Now, when you capture a great photo of your friends using a Pixel 8 Pro or capture a video at 50x zoom on a Galaxy S24 Ultra, you can send it to your friends in its original quality!

Now we'll find out if the stigma is really about the green bubble or just poor SMS performance...

Cynicism and snark aside, bringing RCS to Messages feels great. As much as I don’t love the automatic read receipts, I enjoyed having my dad respond to my messages without his reaction sending an extra text, and the typing indicator means I know he’s actually responding rather than being off doing “dad things.” Maybe one day, Android users (as I usually am) will finally stop being judged for having green text bubbles. Until then, this certainly feels like a good start.

But what do you think? Will RCS on iPhone end the bullying against green bubble Android users when it rolls out later this fall? Let us know in the poll below.

Will RCS on iMessage improve Android-iOS relations?

3613 votes
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