Google confirms what we already suspected — RCS is likely coming to the iPhone with iOS 18 this fall

Messages app displayed on an iPhone
(Image credit: Joe Keller / iMore)

The news that Apple is going to add support for RCS to the Messages app on the iPhone was a surprise when it was confirmed in November of last year, but the company didn't say exactly when that would happen. Instead, Apple's press release simply said that we should expect RCs to come to the iPhone in 2024. Many immediately made the assumption that we should expect that to happen alongside the release of the iOS 18 software update this fall, and now it appears that we might have been right on the money with that.

Google has long made no bones about the fact that it believed Apple should add RCS support to the iPhone, thanks in no small part to what that would mean for users of Android phones. The lack of iMessage support on Android means that people have to resort to using third-party apps like WhatsApp to send rich messages to iPhone owners without falling back to MMS like it's the turn of the century. But RCS fixes that issue, allowing people to send and receive rich messages using the built-in messaging apps that come pre-installed on iPhones and Android phones.  And it seems that Google is so excited that it's semi-leaked the launch date for Apple's RCS support.

Google recently updated an RCS messaging webpage to mention that "Apple has announced it will be adopting RCS in the fall of 2024," adding that "Once that happens, it will mean a better messaging experience for everyone." But Apple had announced no such thing. Perhaps tellingly, that message is no longer available on the Android RCS webpage.

Coming this fall

The text was first reported by 9to5Google, but while the fall 2024 launch window does suggest that iOS 18 is the update that will bring RCS to the iPhone, there's still a little wiggle room for Apple if it needs it.

Apple has a history of announcing features that will be part of big iOS updates only for them to actually ship as part of a point release a little later. Apple is expected to ship iOS 18 to the public this September, but we may see an 18.1 release come in October and if so, that may be the update that brings the RCS functionality/

We might learn more soon enough, though. Apple is expected to announce and preview the iOS 18 update as part of the WWDC 2024 event on June 10. Apple is then expected to make the update available to developers on the same day before a months-long beta process. If RCS support isn't there on June 10, it's a safe bet that it could be part of an iOS 18.1 update instead.

The addition of the RCS feature is only part of the iOS 18 update expectation, however. Apple is roundly expected to add some new AI features to the mix and is now thought to be in talks with both Google and OpenAI about the possibility of using their respective generative AI technologies. It's still unclear what Apple has in mind, but improvements to the ailing Siri digital assistant seem like a no-brainer at this point. Similar Apple AI features are also expected to be part of the macOS 15 update, too.

The WWDC event is also expected to see the debut of new software updates for the Apple Watch, iPad, Apple TV, and Apple Vision Pro.

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Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.