When Apple announced iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 at WWDC 2020, there were some exciting new features coming in Messages, which would also be on macOS Big Sur. These new features are pinned messages and a lot of refinements to group messaging, including inline replies and mentions.
Now, that's all fine and dandy, as long as you only talk to people who are also iPhone users. But unfortunately, it isn't a perfect world, and some of us still have green bubbles — it's just another way of highlighting the pains of using Messages.
So what's new in Messages with iOS 14 anyway?
Let's take a moment to discuss how impressive the new Messages features are in iOS 14 first. We're getting pinned conversations, new Memoji (if you're into that), and inline replies and mentions for group messages.
The new pinning feature lets you "pin" up to nine conversations at the top of the Messages app so you can quickly refer to them at any time, without having to dig through all of your old conversations. The pinned messages can be with individuals or group chats. To be honest, I've wanted a pinned feature for Messages for years, and I'm glad that it's finally coming in iOS 14. I often had essential bits of info, such as monthly housing expenses in a group message with my husband and roommates or doctor office info for my parents with my siblings, so having conversations like that pinned to the top is very convenient.
The more significant changes involve group messaging, and that includes inline replies, mentions, and even the ability to name a group chat and assign it an image or emoji. The inline replies allow users to address specific messages in a group chat, so everyone knows who the response is directed towards. The mentions let you target specific people in a group chat, and if the recipient has notifications on for mentions, they'll always know when someone mentions them in chat. And if you have several group chats going, it can be hard to identify which one is which — that's why the naming feature is nice, so you can give a label for each group chat you're in, along with assigning it an image or emoji for easier identification.
A quick note about mentions: for this functionality to work, the mention should be typed out as it appears in Messages. For example, just type "@Christine" if you were in a group chat with me.
If you're continually participating in group chats, then these new features are going to be fantastic — unless those group chats include people who don't use Apple devices, and that's where the problem lies.
Apple should look into RCS to replace SMS in Messages
For those of you who communicate with someone that doesn't use Apple devices in Messages, you'll notice that their speech bubble is green instead of blue. This indicates that you're communicating via standard SMS (text message) or MMS (multimedia message) instead of Apple's own iMessage protocol. However, there is a new message protocol out there called Rich Communication Services (RCS), which is currently implemented in the Google Messages app, and it's also available on the web.
With RCS, you can text over WiFi (just like iMessage), see typing indicators, share high-resolution photos and video, and more. While Google Messages is the most popular way to use RCS right now, it's only compatible with Android devices at the moment. But that's why Apple should look into implementing it in the future.
If Apple added RCS functionality into Messages, then it would bridge the gap between iPhone and Android users, and possibly make the "green bubble" hate go away. As much as I love the new group messaging features coming in iOS 14, I feel like I won't get much use out of them, as I mostly just have group messages with family members and friends who are Android users. And it's not only the new iOS 14 features either — group SMS in Messages have been lacking for what seems like forever. I can't even leave a group chat if there are non-iPhone users, so I'm forced just to mute the conversation if I don't want to be bothered.
I haven't used RCS myself as I don't use Google Messages to communicate, but on the surface, it appears that RCS offers basic functionality that is similar to Messages. Even if Apple did integrate RCS into Messages, it might not have all of the cool new features that are coming in iOS 14 for group chats, though at least it would be one step closer.
At the end of the day, this is something that we could all hope for, because it's the missing bridge between Messages and non-Apple users.
I honestly don't see why it wouldn't be possible for Apple to implement RCS one day, but of course, that day may be much farther down the road than we'd like. I just wish it was possible for more Messages features to also work with SMS and non-iPhone users as well, but until that day, I guess I can only continue to dream.
What are your thoughts on Messages features and its lack of compatibility with non-iPhones? Do you want Apple to implement RCS into Messages at some point too? Let us know what you think in the comments.
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Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.
When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.