Early look at RCS on iPhones shows that Apple has some work to do

An iMessage chat showing blue and green bubbles
(Image credit: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • An early dive into Apple's coming RCS support for iPhones in iOS 18 shows green bubbles, single and group chat functionality alongside file transfers.
  • Unfortunately, early RCS support on iPhones lacks proper E2EE for group chats and emoji reactions only work for iPhones.
  • Proper message replies aren't working as iPhone users can't send them and replies they receive appear as regular texts.

Shortly after Apple's usual WWDC event, those enrolled in its iOS 18 beta were able to surface its upcoming RCS support.

X user Dhinak made the discovery and posted a lengthy thread breaking down its availability and present features in the iOS 18 beta (via Android Authority). Early evidence shows that green bubbles are still used to denote Android users despite the existence of RCS — but that was expected.

Users on Android can message those on iPhone through a single RCS chat and group chat. Additionally, the X user discovered that file transfer work, meaning higher-quality audio files, photos, and other forms of media can be shared.

However, there are a few areas in which Apple drops the ball early on, beginning with a lack of E2EE (end-to-end encryption) in group chats. Emoji reactions seem to operate as a one-way street as only the iPhone user will see a "proper" reaction.

If an iMessage user reacts to an Android user's message, the latter will receive a new message saying "Liked," followed by your text in quotes.

Dhinak responded to a comment asking about replies — which don't work properly either. According to the tipster, replies appear "as regular messages" on an iPhone, and Apple users can't send replies, either.

Some technical details in the thread show that the RCS standard is limited to iPhones on T-Mobile and AT&T networks. Android phones attempting to use RCS with an iPhone user need to be on a T-Mobile plan, at least for now. 

More digging revealed that RCS is disabled by default on iPhones, meaning users must navigate to the settings to turn it on.

We've been expecting RCS support on Apple's iPhone ever since the company confirmed it was coming last November. Google has been pushing for it through its #GetTheMessage campaign for quite a while. Apple said that through RCS, it would " offer a better interoperability experience when compared to SMS or MMS." However, this early look shows that there's still more that needs polishing.

Apple also left its coming RCS support for iPhones in iOS 18 as little more than a footnote during its WWDC presentation this year. Another unfortunate side effect is that Apple announced an array of new iMessage features for its users, which won't play well with the RCS standard.

Nickolas Diaz
News Writer

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  • Averix
    Early early look. This is the first dev beta release. None of the AI features and lots of other missing features in the build. Give it until the end of summer public betas and then you can start to pick it apart. Will Apple do a fantastic unbelievable job of implementing RCS? No. Will it end up better than what is described here? Of course.
  • SvenJ
    Note: End-to-end encryption is not a feature of RCS specified by GSMA, instead deferring to the individual messaging clients to establish encryption. So, Google added their own encryption to the RCS standard. If Apple were to add encryption, it is not, by the standard, required to be compatible with Google's implementation. Is Google willing to open source, and license free their implementation? Maybe Apple isn't playing ball, but it's Google's ball and their rules.