Apple offers small entry to its walled garden with RCS adoption

17 Nov 2023

Image: © wachiwit/

Just a day after Carl Pei announced iMessage features for Nothing phones, Apple said it will adopt the RCS messaging standard for more interoperability.

Apple has said it will adopt the global RCS (rich communication services) standard in messaging via a software update next year to allow features of iMessage currently exclusive to iPhones on other platforms.

In a widely reported announcement, Apple confirmed that it will add support for RCS Universal Profile to offer better interoperability than SMS or MMS. The standard is currently published by the GSM Association.

The surprise move comes just a day after smartphone start-up Nothing announced it will bring iMessage for users of their Android phones to “bring on the blue bubbles”, a reference to the colour of messages when one iPhone user texts another. This feature is powered by messaging app Sunbird, which allows people to use any popular messaging service – including iMessage – even if they don’t have the device it comes with.

“We believe in windows, not walls. If messaging services are dividing phone users, then we want to break those barriers down,” Nothing posted on X. “Let’s end the green bubble stigma!” added founder Carl Pei, who also asked Apple CEO Tim Cook to consider adopting RCS.

Calling the lack of interoperability as one of the “biggest frustrations” between Android and iOS users, Nothing said it is the first phone company to allow users to message others using blue bubbles, giving them access to a host of features exclusive to Apple devices.

A spokesperson for Apple told 9to5Mac that the company will add the support for RCS later next year, a move that comes after more than a decade of developing what’s famously known as the Apple walled garden that prevents interoperability.

“This will work alongside iMessage, which will continue to be the best and most secure messaging experience for Apple users,” the spokesperson said.

Some of the features currently exclusive to iMessage that RCS will likely make available to conversations between iPhones and other devices include read receipts, high-quality images and video sharing, and typing indicators.

Calling the move a “great decision”, Pei said that “consumers, competition and innovation” will benefit from it. “Hats off to the EU, telcos, Google, and most of all to Apple,” he posted on X.

In a separate post, he quoted Apple co-founder Steve Jobs saying: “The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic