In a major reversal, Apple Inc. plans to adopt the RCS standard next year, which will allow text messaging to operate more smoothly between iPhones and Android devices.
The company had pushed back on the standard for more than a year, even as Alphabet Inc.’s Google and others pressed Apple to adopt the technology. RCS — short for rich communication services — is an upgrade over standard SMS and MMS that’s backed by the GSM Association. It allows more texting features to be shared over phones on different platforms.
Apple has been protective of its iMessage system, which preserves many features for iPhone users.
“Later next year, we will be adding support for RCS Universal Profile, the standard as currently published by the GSM Association,” Apple said in a statement. “We believe RCS Universal Profile will offer a better interoperability experience when compared to SMS or MMS.”
Apple added that “this will work alongside iMessage, which will continue to be the best and most secure messaging experience for Apple users.” Last year, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook pushed back on RCS at a conference, suggesting that people who want better texting with family members buy them an iPhone.
The shift comes as Apple faces more scrutiny from regulators. The company is preparing to overhaul its iPhone and iPad software in the European Union to meet requirements from the region’s Digital Markets Act.