Apple will likely adopt RCS messaging standard to comply with Chinese law

Tim Hardwick

Apple's surprise decision to provide RCS support in its Messages app for iPhone later this year was not the result of impending EU legislation, but a change of course prompted by political pressure from China, a report published over the weekend said.

In November 2023, Apple announced that it plans to provide support for RCS (Rich Communication Services). to Messages with iMessage, a move that seemed to come out of the blue given Apple's staunch resistance to pressure from Google and Samsung to adopt the communications protocol.

In the weeks that followed, one popular theory about Apple's failure emerged . was that its hand was forced by the EU Digital Markets Act, which would have required Apple to make changes to iMessage to make it compatible with other platforms.

This theory has since been debunked for two reasons. First, the DMA does not specifically mention RCS as a requirement for interoperability between messaging platforms. Second, earlier this month the EU concluded that iMessage was not dominant enough to be subject to strict DMA rules for services provided by the so-called digital gatekeepers of big tech companies.

A more plausible theory has since been proposed by John Gruber, who says that the “little birds” (Gruber's code for Apple sources) are telling him that “iOS support for RCS is entirely related to China.”

In his Daring Fireball blog, Gruber points to China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which in July 2023 asked for feedback on future regulations that would require new 5G devices to support RCS (English translation of the law). can be found on Reddit).

“I can’t say for sure,” Gruber admits, “but after spending the last few months periodically poking around in trees inhabited by small birds, I have good news for fans of forced government regulation. Apple was effectively forced, but by China, not the EU.”

As Gruber notes, reports that Apple's decision was influenced by incoming EU rules subsequently make “zero sense.” Apple would have preferred says Gruber, “just continue to ignore RCS on the grounds that they don't want to support any new protocols other than E2EE, nor any new carrier-controlled protocols (encrypted or not). Party] says that Device makers urgently need to sell their products in China, Apple asks: “How high?”

Gruber's full article is worth reading on Daring Fireball As for the arrival of RCS in the Messages app, support for the protocol should lead to several improvements to standard messaging between iPhone and Android devices, such as higher-resolution photos, audio messages, read receipts, improved group chats, and typing indicators.

Apple has said that RCS support in Messages will arrive “later” in 2024, which is in line with the expected release date of iOS 18, suggesting it could be a feature in Apple's next major software update.

Tags: Daring Fireball, RCS Guide[ 81 comments ]

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