The great Android-to-iPhone texting divide crumbles as RCS support rolls out in iOS 18 beta

An iPhone on a blue and green background showing an RCS message conversation
(Image credit: Apple)

When Apple delivers iOS 18 in September or October this year, it'll finally add support for the RCS messaging standard to improve the way iPhones communicate with Android phones. And if you're brave you can try it today, because it's in the latest beta of iOS 18.

Before you download it, however, there are a few important caveats. The first is that this is a developer beta, not a public one, so you shouldn't install it on any device you depend on. The second is that it's currently US-only. 

And lastly, RSC support is currently only working with specific carriers. According to 9to5Mac, those carriers are AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. Still, the first early RCS pioneers are reporting on X (Twitter) that the new protocol is working on their iPhones, and that's a significant moment.

Apple dropped the bombshell that it'd be supporting RCS messaging on iPhones back in September 2023, and that means being able to send and receive higher-quality photos and audio outside of iMessage to non-Apple phones. It also delivers features like read receipts. The only downside is that it still doesn't end the debate about green and blue bubbles... 

Why RCS on iPhone is and isn't a big deal

Googlr RCS Apple iMessage campaign

(Image credit: Google)

RCS stands for Rich Communication Services, and it's designed to do a better job than the current SMS standard. It's the default communication method for Google Messages, and Apple has agreed to support it, too. 

RCS uses Wi-Fi or the mobile data network to communicate, and it enables you to do things you can't do via SMS such as send hi-res images and videos, or include GIFs and attach files. You can also request read receipts for your messages, and see when the person you're in conversation with is typing.

RCS does much the same thing as apps such as WhatsApp and iMessage (between iPhone and iPhone) do. But the difference here is that it's a standard, not an app – so it doesn't matter what RCS app you use, because the features are the same for everyone.

At least, that's the idea. But it's a bit more complicated than that, because as we reported when Apple announced its RCS plans it's not going to replace iMessage as Apple's preferred messaging system. And Apple is only supporting the core RCS features, not the bits Google has bolted on top of it – so for example, Apple says it won't support any proprietary extensions that add features such as end-to-end encryption as they're not part of the standard. 

As for the great bubble color question of whether Android phones will get the same blue color as iPhone messages, the beta appears to confirm what we previously reported: even when they're sent via RCS, Android messages are still green. Classic Apple. 

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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now and her next book, about pop music, is out in 2025. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind.