How To: Get RCS Messaging in Your iPhone's Messages App for iMessage-Like Chats with Android Users

Get RCS Messaging in Your iPhone's Messages App for iMessage-Like Chats with Android Users

Things are about to get a lot better in your iPhone's Messages app, and the most significant change will let you text Android users with iMessage-like features such as typing indicators, read receipts, large file sharing, high-quality photos and videos, and even emoji reactions. If you can't wait for its official release, there's a way you can try RCS on your iPhone right now.

Introduced in 2012, RCS, or Rich Communication Services, is a communication protocol that will one day replace SMS and MMS text messaging. It's been available globally to Android users since 2020 in the Google Messages app. Wireless carriers first implemented RCS into their own Android apps, but Google Messages is now the standard across networks.

Apple announced in late 2023 that it would support RCS messaging, and it's coming to iPhones everywhere this fall when iOS 18 is released. Until then, you can join the iOS 18 beta to try out RCS messaging between you and all your Android friends.

Requirements

How to Enable RCS on Your iPhone

Only certain wireless carriers in the United States, including AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, currently support RCS on iOS 18. MVNOs, or mobile virtual network operators, such as Google Fi, are not yet compatible. Non-U.S. carriers that support RCS on the newest iOS 18 beta version include Videotron, Telus Mobility, and Bell in Canada, Telefonica in Spain, SFR in France, and O2 in Germany.

Step 1: Update Your Carrier Settings

Once your iPhone is on iOS 18 beta 2 or later, you must update your carrier settings. You may receive a prompt when the download becomes available, which you can install by following the onscreen instructions. If you miss it, you can force the update to appear by going to Settings » General » About.

You can also scroll down and tap your "Carrier" info to view the "IMS Status" — if RCS is working, it should say "Voice, SMS & RCS" instead of "Voice & SMS."

Step 2: Check That RCS Is Enabled

Some providers may automatically enable RCS with their updated carrier settings bundle, so you may not have to do anything to get RCS working. Still, you should visit Settings » Apps » Messages, find the "RCS Messaging" switch under Text Messaging, and ensure it's turned on.

Step 3: Check That RCS Is Working

Open the Messages app on your iPhone, then start or continue a conversation with an Android user. If RCS works on both ends, you should see "Text Message • RCS" in the empty text field. If you see "Text Message • SMS," it's not working. When you send an RCS message, you'll see "Text Message • RCS" in the thread, indicating it was sent via RCS and not SMS.

Whatever Android user you're messaging will also have to have RCS enabled on their phone. In Google Messages, they can tap their profile picture from the conversations list, choose "Message settings," tap "RCS chats," and ensure "Turn on RCS chats" is toggled on and that the carrier's status says it's working.

RCS Messaging Features on iPhone

There are many benefits to using RCS messaging over regular SMS and MMS texting. Here are some of the features and improvements you'll get when sending and receiving RCS messages:

  • Audio messages.
  • Real-time typing indicators. This works just like it does on iMessage.
  • Tapbacks and emoji reactions. It may not work 100% at first. For example, I keep getting "[emoji] to a photo" on both sides instead of an emoji overlayed on an image.
  • Delivered and read receipts. On iPhone, you can allow or prevent your recipients from seeing whether you've read their messages or not. You can enable or disable read receipts for all conversations in Messages via Settings » Apps » Messages » Send Read Receipts. Or you can do it per conversation by tapping the contact's name in the conversation and toggling "Send Read Receipts."
  • Some full-screen animated effects. But they only work when sent using keyword or phrase triggers, such as "happy birthday" or "congratulations."
  • High-res photos and videos. You and your recipient will finally be able to see the same full-resolution photos and videos, so you shouldn't see any super tiny, super grainy videos that are impossible to make out anymore.
  • Larger file sizes for photos, videos, documents, and other attachments. You could share documents like PDFs before, but file size limits would restrict you from sending large files. Now, that file size limit is much higher.
  • Cellular and Wi-Fi support. SMS and MMS messages only work over cellular, but RCS messages work across cellular and Wi-Fi. So, if you use a prepaid plan from your carrier, you might use less of your data or text message allotment when RCS messaging over Wi-Fi instead of mobile data.
  • Improved group chats. Where you can rename group chats, add or remove people, or leave the group.

The Downsides of RCS Messaging on iPhone

Some features may not always work correctly during the iOS 18 beta, but some things won't work because of Apple's design or a lack of full cross-platform support.

  • No end-to-end encryption. If you want E2E encryption on your iPhone, stick with iMessage and enable Advanced Data Protection. While Google Messages supports E2E encryption, it's not built into GSMA's RCS Universal Profile, the industry-standard RCS framework that Apple, Google, and carriers align with. So, messages you send will be encrypted in transit, allowing anyone with access to the RCS servers to eavesdrop on your messages. Apple has stated that it plans to work with GSMA members to implement E2E encryption on the Universal Profile so the entire framework is more secure.
  • Green bubbles. You'll still only see blue bubbles for iMessage and green bubbles for everything else. Apple could use a darker shade of green for RCS messages, but it'll likely stick to the same hue for all non-iMessage conversations.
  • Not all animated effects work. Apple's bubble effects won't work on Android devices, so recipients will only see "(sent with [Effect Name])" in the message. The same applies to all of Apple's screen effects when selected from the effects picker — Android users will see "(sent with [Effect Name])." Some keyword and phrase triggers will work from either end of the conversation, but many of Apple's over 300 triggers won't.
  • Stickers are only sent as images. If you enjoy Apple's Stickers feature, you can still access the sticker picker from the Apps menu but not by touching and holding a message. Regular and animated stickers may look OK on your side, but Android users will only see still images, and the animated ones won't look pretty.
  • No inline replies. The inline replies available on iMessage are not compatible with RCS messaging.

Just updated your iPhone? You'll find new features for Podcasts, News, Books, and TV, as well as important security improvements and fresh wallpapers. Find out what's new and changed on your iPhone with the iOS 17.5 update.

Cover photo and screenshots by Justin Meyers/Gadget Hacks

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