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Apple Set to Introduce RCS Messaging in iOS 18, Enhancing iMessage Functionality

TLDR: Apple to introduce RCS messaging in iOS 18, enhancing iMessage functionality. RCS lacks end-to-end encryption on iPhone, raising security concerns. Millions of Japanese iPhone users already enjoy RCS through +Message app. Google enables texting 911 over RCS. RCS improves iMessage, but secure platforms like Line and WhatsApp remain preferred by users.

Apple is gearing up to unveil its biggest update to iMessage yet with the introduction of RCS in iOS 18. RCS, the advancement on SMS, is currently the default protocol on Google Messages, Android’s iMessage equivalent. However, RCS on iPhone will run in parallel with iMessage, meaning green bubbles will remain green but with improved functionality.

Security Concerns Loom as RCS Lacks End-to-End Encryption on iPhone

While RCS is end-to-end encrypted on Android, it won’t be on iPhone. Google’s encryption layer is a proprietary add-on, and there’s been no talk of Apple and Google collaborating to bridge iMessage to Google Messages encryption. Unless this changes, users are advised not to switch their secured apps to this new cross-platform fudge.

Millions of iPhone Users in Japan Already Enjoying RCS Messaging

Surprisingly, RCS has been on iPhone for years in Japan through the +Message app. Japanese operators KDDI, NTT DOCOMO, and SoftBank launched +Message using the GSMA’s RCS standards in May 2018, providing full interoperability and a common user experience for next-generation messaging.

Despite carrier backing, +Message has not significantly dented Line’s market lead in Japan, even with its reported 32 million users by the end of 2022. Line, with its fully end-to-end encrypted “Letter Sealing,” has retained its top spot with around three times the user base.

Carrier Support for +Message May Shift Towards Google Messages

The company behind +Message’s back-end has been bullish on its position in Japan, describing it as “a single app that’s downloadable for all three of the operators that we support there and we enjoy consumers utilizing the RCS service there both on Android and iOS operating systems.”

However, it seems that carrier support for +Message might now start to shift towards Google Messages, falling under the part-integration Apple is adding to iMessage, rather than a separate app that needs to be installed.

Line remains dominant.

From a user perspective, there’s no reason to think this will make any larger a dent in Line’s user base in Japan. The challenge for Apple and Google is that over-the-top messengers, such as Line and WhatsApp, are fully secured, seamless cross-platform, and thriving in terms of user numbers.

Apple and Google Set to Trade Messaging Innovation

With Apple about to join Google under the RCS umbrella, we could see an interesting dynamic as the two smartphone giants trade messaging innovation, with the potential that where one goes, the other might follow. Google has recently confirmed a raft of new features, and Apple looks likely to do the same at WWDC.

Google Enables Texting 911 Over RCS, Apple Already Offers Similar Feature

On the security front, Google has confirmed that it will enable users to text 911 over RCS, at least in locations where the service is available. This provides a reliable way to reach first responders when calling isn’t an option, send high-resolution photos and videos, share precise location, and more.

Apple already enables iMessage users to text 911, with users told “you can text emergency services only in locations where it’s supported.” If it doesn’t work, users receive a bounce-back message and need to place a call.

Conclusion: RCS Improves iMessage, but Secure Platforms Remain Preferred

The introduction of RCS in iOS 18 is a much-needed upgrade from SMS on iMessage, offering a better alternative. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that users will abandon their current, more secure go-to daily messaging platforms.


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