Why It's Important For Apple To Finally Add RCS Support

The iOS vs Android war has become a staple occurrence in the tech space, but the bone of contention isn't always constant. Sometimes it's the security, other times it's the integration, or just overall performance. But recently Google vs Apple has been in the news over another specific conflict: RCS support.

If this is the first you're hearing of it, here's the problem: cross-platform texting is broken, Google says, and users miss out on many of the features that make modern texting seamless and interactive. There are no read receipts, message reactions, typing indicators, and no support for end-to-end encryption, all of which are present on Apple's proprietary messaging service, iMessage. Google has been pressing Apple to adopt RCS messaging on its devices, claiming that the addition will make for interoperability and improve the texting experience between iOS and Android users.

To paint a clearer picture, here are all the functionalities that would be added to the iOS-Android texting experience if Apple added RCS support.

Why Apple should add RCS support

Apple uses plain old SMS protocol as a fallback for iMessage, and it's an unpleasant experience for everyone, including iOS users. If Apple adds RCS support, users would get the following features:

  • Read receipts: Currently, when an iPhone user sends a message to an Android user or vice versa, there's no way for the sender to know if the recipient has seen the message, which is a feature that's available on iMessage and other contemporary messaging platforms. With RCS, at least as is obtainable in Google's proprietary RCS-enabled messaging service, Chat, message senders will be able to see when the recipient has received and read the message.

  • Typing indicators: The typing bubble is a nifty feature that appears when someone you're texting with is in the process of replying to your message. Without it, users are stuck in a weird limbo, unsure when or whether they'll receive a response from the other party.

  • High-quality media: Apple falls back to the MMS protocol for sharing media files between iOS and Android, but MMS has a strict file size limit (as small as 3.5MB) so it ends up compressing media files thereby rendering them blurry or pixelated. RCS supports media sharing up to 10MB per message, so it makes for higher quality media sharing between platforms.

  • End-to-end encryption: SMS texting does not support end-to-end encryption, which leaves cross-platform texts susceptible to hackers or other shady interceptors. Google has added end-to-end encryption to RCS chats, but it will only work if both parties are using RCS. Since Apple often claims to prioritize user privacy, this alone seems like enough reason for the company to finally adopt RCS. But Apple has bigger reasons for refusing to.

Will Apple get the message?

For the most part, Apple has been silent about the RCS conflict, despite Google's recent public campaign. But when directly asked, Apple's Tim Cook said users who are so bothered about the poor cross-platform texting experience should just get an iPhone.

Now, Google's claims are all valid, but the company is missing one vital factor: Apple has nothing to gain from adding RCS support. RCS doesn't fix anything for iPhone owners that can't already be solved; there are other messaging platforms like WhatsApp or Signal that provide the interoperability that RCS proposes.

Also, as Cook mentioned, most iMessage users aren't exactly demanding for RCS compatibility, so Apple has no incentive for "putting a lot of energy" into the initiative (via The Verge). At the end of the day, RCS support sounds like it would be a hole in Apple's walled garden large enough for some customers to crawl out from. And Apple did not become the sixth-largest company in the world by servicing the complaints of their competitors' user base.