What Apple’s support for RCS means for business messaging

What Apple’s support for RCS means for business messaging
June 14, 2024
Written by
Dave Esber

What Apple's suport for RCS means for business messaging

During Apple’s preview of iOS 18 at WWDC, they confirmed support for Rich Communication Services (RCS), the next-generation messaging standard and upgrade to SMS that brings branding, rich media, and more to messaging. 

If you’ve ever texted with an Android user on an iOS device, you’ve likely noticed the green and blue bubbles, the inability to “react” to messages, lower-resolution images, lack of read receipts, and more. That’s because Android and iOS devices support different data-based messaging services. To navigate that lack of interoperability, the unsupported message type is delivered over SMS or MMS.  

This change means a greater level of interoperability between devices and will likely make texting friends a little more engaging. While it’s not going to change the green and blue bubble dynamic, it does open up exciting possibilities in the world of business messaging. 

Twilio is actively investing to bring RCS to our APIs so that as support expands globally, every business can benefit, automatically. In fact, thousands of Twilio customers already sent more than one million RCS messages in the past 30 days using the Verify API. The best part – using Twilio’s APIs, they benefit from branded messaging, verified sender ID, greater deliverability, and improved customer engagement without changing a single line of code. 

Why the differences between consumer and business messaging matter

Late last year, Apple shared that they plan to support “the RCS Universal Profile, the standard as currently published by the GSM Association.” This means support for both person-to-person (P2P) and application-to-person (A2P) RCS is likely with the release of iOS18, though it remains to be seen exactly how A2P RCS will appear on Apple devices.  

While Apple’s presentation focused only on P2P, businesses and consumers engage over A2P channels. While it can seem like alphabet soup, RCS is the P2P messaging option supported on Android devices, and iMessage is the P2P protocol for iOS devices. Both Android and Apple also offer business messaging or A2P options – RCS Business Messaging and Apple Business Messages, respectively.

Much like the world of A2P SMS, these A2P and P2P versions of these channels represent different technologies with different requirements and feature support. Like other over-the-top (OTT) messaging channels, both Apple and Android support branded profiles, read receipts, and other rich messaging features, but they still don’t have the reach of channels like SMS, MMS, or even other OTT channels like WhatsApp (in part because they only serve a portion of the device market).

Over-The-Top (OTT): A messaging service that runs over the internet rather than traditional phone networks.

Even with this announcement and move toward interoperability, the world of business messaging remains complex. And that’s before we take into account the unique preferences of consumers all around the world. The inconsistent feature functionality, opt-in requirements, use of phone numbers as identities on some and user IDs on others, and reliance on developers to incorporate these new technologies into applications, has made it hard for businesses to fully embrace a multichannel rich messaging experience across use cases. Doing so is developmentally challenging, and committing resources to a truly multichannel experience is a leap of faith. That’s why Twilio offers APIs that are multichannel – to reduce the burden for businesses. 

Preparing for increased adoption of over-the-top (OTT) channels

That’s not to say this isn’t a big deal – it is. The level of attention this announcement is getting is a recognition of the desire for richer messaging experiences. Since business messaging innovation tends to follow consumer messaging innovation, there’s huge potential for greater adoption of rich messaging in the A2P world. GSMA estimates we’ll see 6.3 billion mobile subscribers by 2030 – and since many of us are attached to our phones, that’s billions of opportunities for businesses and organizations to engage consumers wherever they are. As channels mature into entire digital ecosystems with ads, shopping, and more, businesses can create engaging, one-click experiences that don’t require consumers to switch apps. 

Consumers are excited about that future, too. Our Conversational Messaging Trend Report found 77% of consumers want to use conversational messaging to get help with selecting a product or service and 58% would use messaging channels to purchase a product or service if they had the option. The rapid innovation and adoption of AI and large-language models gives businesses even more ways to engage in personal ways, at global scale.  

With this news, it’s clear that things are only getting more exciting in the world of business messaging! 

Want to learn more about the advanced features of RCS and how your business can benefit from it? Read our blog: What is RCS Messaging?