RCS Support on iPhones Was Barely Mentioned During Apple's WWDC Keynote. I'm Disappointed

Commentary: Apple didn't offer many details about the new messaging standard with Android phones during its nearly two-hour-long keynote. I'd had high hopes.

Abrar Al-Heeti Technology Reporter
Abrar Al-Heeti is a technology reporter for CNET, with an interest in phones, streaming, internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. She's also worked for CNET's video, culture and news teams. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
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Abrar Al-Heeti
2 min read
Blue and green text bubbles

We're eagerly awaiting more details about what RCS messages will look like between iPhones and Android phones.

Viva Tung/Getty Images

As Apple's WWDC keynote kicked off on Monday, I waited with baited breath for the "Messages" category to be introduced. Would the company finally talk about its pledge to support RCS, or Rich Communication Services, in a move that will make texting between iPhone and Android phones feel less archaic?  

First came announcements about new features like the option to schedule messages or add special text formatting, like bold lettering or a ripple effect. Apple also shared the ability to send messages via satellite, including via SMS. "OK," I thought, "let's see if it continues this theme of being inclusive of other devices."

I was disappointed.

RCS messaging was mentioned merely in passing, at the end of the Messages presentation and among a list of other updates. It was essentially a bullet point, referenced among many other bullet points: "RCS messaging support." That was it. 

I'm surprised, and I'm not. I was torn over whether Apple would mention this major -- and long overdue -- update to SMS texts with Android users. It's something that'll benefit iPhone users, by potentially making iMessage-like features such as read receipts and typing indicators available when texting Android users, as well as their friends on Android, who will surely be thrilled about no longer "ruining texts," as folks with iPhones love to declare.

But it's also something Apple has essentially been forced to support, after years of pressure from iPhone and Android users, competitors and lawmakers alike. It almost felt like Apple's acknowledgement of RCS was a duty, rather than a desire. RCS got a mention, but just to make people happy. It's reminiscent of a child being told to say sorry -- the company's other statements don't tend to follow the bare minimum.  

Apple first pledged it would support RCS late last year. But many questions still remain. Which RCS capabilities will Apple actually support? When exactly will this roll out? And, perhaps most importantly, will texts with Android users still be green? (Alas, according to Apple's iOS 18 preview page, the answer is yes.)

With the US Department of Justice's sweeping antitrust suit alleging Apple "undermines cross-platform messaging" by not extending its iMessage service to Android, it's possible the iPhone maker wanted to subtly acknowledge its efforts to bridge that divide. And while subtlety is what Apple does best, I would have liked a more thorough explanation -- or any explanation, really -- of RCS's debut on iPhones.

But, I suppose, we'll continue this long wait.

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