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iMessage vs RCS: The two messaging services compared

While Apple currently uses iMessage as its default messaging app, Android smartphones typically use Google Messages which runs on RCS (Rich Communication Services).

Following on from the WWDC24 announcement that Apple will finally introduce RCS to its users, we’ve compared the features of iMessage to RCS and highlighted the key differences between the two below.

RCS allows you to customise your chat appearance

While you can customise the look of your chats on iMessage, this requires downloading a third-party app from the App Store. Google Messages however allows you to customise the background and message bubbles of your chats directly within the app.

It’s worth noting that customisation will only work for RCS conversations and the theme will revert back to default if you either delete the chat or start a new chat with the same contact.

RCS has a ‘Send images faster’ option

Google introduced a new feature with Android 13 that allows you to send images via RCS faster, which is especially useful if you need to send lots of images quickly or have a slow internet connection. 

This feature works by shrinking the resolution of the image to make the file smaller and therefore easier to send. With this in mind, this feature might not be particularly useful if you need to preserve the quality of your photos. 

iMessage does allow you to send images with a lower resolution, which is an option found in the Settings app but doesn’t specifically state that this will reduce the time it takes for the photos to send. However, as this works in a similar way, we can assume images should arrive faster when this is enabled.

Both use end-to-end encryption

Allegedly one of the main reasons why Apple was previously reluctant to introduce RCS into its OS is because it couldn’t guarantee the end-to-end encryption and security of the messages.

Apple promises messages sent using iMessage are end-to-end encrypted before they’re sent out, plus users can even activate a Contact Key Verification which helps to verify who you’re communicating with.

Even with this in mind, Google states that most RCS enabled conversations within the app will be end-to-end encrypted by default. There’s even a visual aid to show you whether your chats are secure, as you’ll see a lock either next to message timestamps, on the send button while composing a message or a banner on the conversation.

RCS excludes battery optimisation

Both iMessage and Google Messages require a constant network connection to send and receive messages in real time, which can in theory be affected by battery-saving modes on devices. However, Google Messages aims to prevent this.

When switching on battery optimisation on some Android devices, you may be prompted to exclude Google Messages from this mode. This means that even when your handset is trying to save and optimise its battery life, you’ll still be able to send and receive messages as normal.

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