Why Apple Using RCS Isn’t What You Think It Is

Earlier this week, Apple announced that they are adding RCS which is Rich Communication Services to iPhone in a software update coming to the iPhone later in 2024. Now on the surface, this is a huge announcement. And to be clear it is. Apple has been resisting Google’s attempts to get them to support RCS for years. But Apple supporting RCS isn’t what you think it is. And to back that up, I want to dive into Apple’s statement via 9to5Mac, and I want you to pay attention to the section in bold text:

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.

Note the words RCS Universal Profile. This is a version of RCS that is supposed to play nice with devices on multiple platforms. You can get the TL:DR writeup about this here, or you can go deep into the weeds here. But here’s what you should care about. RCS Universal Profile gives phones that support it the following abilities:

The Universal Profile contains core features such as capability discovery (interoperable between regions), chat, group chat, file transfer, audio messaging, video share, multi-device, enriched calling, location share and live sketching. It also introduces the key enablers for Messaging as a Platform (MaaP). This includes support for RCS business messaging, Rich Cards, privacy control and spam protection.

There’s one thing that’s missing from that paragraph. Encryption. RCS Universal Profile unlike iMessage does not support encryption. That’s a major feature that’s missing which means that iMessage still wins because Apple can always play the security card. And Apple users tend to care about security. Thus on top of the fact that Apple isn’t going to do away with green bubbles, this really doesn’t change all that much. And I suspect that the fact that 87% of US teens get iPhones to not be a green bubble person will not change.

What’s the saying? The house always wins? That seems to be the case here.

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