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What is RCS messaging? The Android Messages feature explained

Apple announced at WWDC24 that the upcoming iOS 18 will support RCS Messaging. 

While this type of messaging has been featured in Android smartphones since 2018, Apple has been reluctant to embrace the technology – until now. 

But what is RCS Messaging and how is it different from SMS? Here’s everything you need to know about RCS messaging, from the differences to regular SMS texts to when it’ll finally appear on iOS devices.

What is RCS messaging?

RCS (which stands for Rich Communication Services) was built as the successor to SMS and was designed to accommodate more types of multimedia messaging than SMS can.

How is RCS different from SMS?

Although SMS is universally used and is available on all mobile phones, it has limitations. SMS is limited to up to 160 characters per message and is purely a text-based way of messaging and doesn’t support images or any other multimedia. 

If you did want to send images or multimedia files then you’d need to use MMS. Similarly to SMS, MMS messages are sent over the cellular network which can incur high and unwanted carrier fees.  

In comparison, RCS chats can include images, videos, voice notes and maps all in one place, without extra charges involved.

RCS is already available on practically every Android phone, with features not dissimilar to Apple’s iMessage. Google has also added support for end-to-end encryption for chats using RCS in its own Google Messages app, so conversations are protected. This is especially noteworthy, as SMS systems don’t offer this level of security.

RCS also works over Wi-Fi or mobile data and requires all participants in the conversation to have access to RCS, whereas SMS messages are sent over the cellular network.

When will iPhone support RCS messaging?

At the time of writing, iOS does not currently support RCS. 

Instead, Apple has its own communication standard between Apple devices, iMessage. Although iMessage has all the features of RCS, including the ability to send multimedia and read receipts, it can only be used with other Apple OS devices. 

However, this will all change with the upcoming iOS 18 update. Apple says iMessage will support RCS to bring “richer media and delivery and read receipts for those who don’t use iMessage”.

broken iPhone android messaging

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