In a surprising move, Apple announced today that it will adopt the RCS messaging standard. The company, which has been under pressure from government regulators around the world and competitors like Google and Samsung, told Chance Miller of 9to5Mac:
Later next year, we will be adding support for RCS Universal Profile, the standard as currently published by the GSM Association. We believe RCS Universal Profile will offer a better interoperability experience when compared to SMS or MMS. This will work alongside iMessage, which will continue to be the best and most secure messaging experience for Apple users.
RCS won’t replace iMessage, SMS, or MMS. Instead, RCS will run in parallel with iMessage on a user’s device for those situations where iMessage isn’t an option, and SMS and MMS will continue to serve as fallbacks in case iMessage and RCS aren’t available.
I don’t think many people saw this coming. I certainly didn’t. SMS and MMS are creaky, old technologies that don’t work over Wi-Fi, so it’s good to see them demoted to the options of last resort. RCS isn’t perfect, but it’s an improvement over those older technologies, and perhaps Apple’s support of the standard, along with the other companies that have already adopted it, will help it continue to improve.