Blue bubble vs green bubble: Apple ends the conflict (reluctantly?)

If you’re an iPhone user, you probably already know the difference between the blue and green bubbles in the iOS Messages app. That’s because when you’re texting with someone else who’s also an iPhone user, the messages are displayed in blue bubbles. This also means that the conversation is happening via the iMessage protocol, which allows you to chat via a modern messaging service. On the other hand, when you’re chatting with an Android user, the texts are displayed in green bubbles, which indicates that you’re using SMS and MMS.

The successor to SMS arrives on iPhone

But the good news is that RCS, the technology that is supposed to replace SMS, is finally coming to iPhone. And you can try it out starting today. As a reminder, Apple announced support for the RCS protocol in 2023. Recently, at the WWDC conference, the company indicated that this support will arrive with iOS 18, which will be deployed in the fall. But in the meantime, The successors to SMS are already available for testing on the latest beta version of iOS 18. Recently, Apple released a second beta version of its new operating system. And as several Internet users have noted, it already allows you to exchange RCS text messages on the iPhone’s messaging system.

Never thought I’d see the day..

RCS on iPhone is now active with iOS 18 Beta 2! 🎉

— Brandon Butch (@BrandonButch) June 25, 2024

The main advantage of this protocol is that it is already supported by Android. As a result, it becomes possible to chat between an iPhone and a device of another brand, without using SMS. Compared to the old technology, the RCS protocol allows you to take advantage of several modern messaging features, such as sending images and videos as attachments (instead of sending MMS), typing notifications, etc. For the moment, the beta version of iOS 18 which includes this new feature is still a beta for developers. However, Apple is expected to release public beta versions later.

Was Apple Forced?

When Apple announced RCS on the iPhone, it was initially thought to be a move to bring iOS into compliance with the Digital Markets Act. That’s because the EU law requires messaging services that fall under its rules to be interoperable with other platforms. However, in February, the European Commission said it does not consider iMessage to be an “essential platform service.” That means the Digital Markets Act rules don’t apply to iMessage, and the law doesn’t require Apple to make its messaging app interoperable with Android devices.

However, according to a publication on the Daring Fireball website, it was China that forced Apple to adopt the RCS protocol. In an article published in February, it explains that Chinese operators are very favorable to this protocol. And Beijing is reportedly working on a law that would require smartphone brands to support RCS technology in order to obtain “5G” certification.

Regardless, Apple’s decision to support RCS will put an end to the hassle of iPhone users who want to text with Android users. The bubbles are still green, but the messages will be sent via a modern protocol, not SMS anymore. However, it is not certain at this point that RCS sent from an iPhone will be end-to-end encrypted.

  • In 2023, Apple announced that it will support RCS technology on the iPhone and this new feature is now available on a beta version of iOS 18
  • This is a modernized version of SMS, which offers modern messaging features and which is already used by Android smartphones
  • Apple is rumored to have adopted RCS to comply with China’s demands

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