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Apple did something weird at WWDC 2024

The Apple logo on the back of an iPhone 14.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Apple’s WWDC 2024 keynote has come and gone. As we anticipated, it was a big one. From lots of UI changes in iOS 18 to Apple’s big bet on AI with Apple Intelligence, it’s safe to say that this year’s conference was one of the most memorable.

Of the 1 hour and 47 minute keynote, Apple spent 15 minutes talking about iOS 18. That doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but the company was going through new features rapidly and covered a lot of ground. iOS 18 includes some pretty major changes for the iPhone and one of the biggest — RCS — was barely mentioned.

Apple’s weird RCS announcement

WWDC 2024 — June 10 | Apple

Yes, it’s official. After announcing plans last November to add RCS to the iPhone, Apple confirmed today that RCS is coming to your iPhone as part of iOS 18. And it’s a big deal! RCS will bring many iMessage-like features to your conversations with people who have Android phones. That means higher-quality image/video sharing, better group chats, typing indicators, read receipts, and more. It’s not an understatement to say it’s one of the biggest new iPhone features in years — despite how long overdue it is.

But I wouldn’t blame you if you missed this piece of news. Why? Because Apple barely said anything about it.

Apple didn’t mention RCS until the very end of the iOS 18 segment, with Craig Federighi quickly mentioning “RCS messaging support” at the very end of it. And that was all Apple had to say — just those three words. Nothing more. It’s a similar affair in the iOS 18 press release. Apple writes, “When messaging contacts who do not have an Apple device, the Messages app now supports RCS for richer media and more reliable group messaging compared to SMS and MMS.” That’s more helpful, but there’s no further explanation about what RCS features are supported, what RCS messaging will look like, etc.

We know it’s coming, but that’s quite literally it.

We need better messaging than this

Close-up photo of the Messages app on an iPhone.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

On the one hand, I get it. Apple is only adding RCS to the iPhone because the European Union forced its hand to. If it were up to Apple, this probably never would have happened. But it is, and it’s an important new feature Apple needs to tell its users about in a proper manner.

Did RCS need a huge, long-winded segment during this keynote? No, but we absolutely should have gotten more than just three words. We should have seen what it looks like and been given a proper explanation about how it works and what this means for people’s text conversations with non-iPhone users.

I understand Apple not wanting to shine a giant spotlight on a feature it was likely pressured into adding. However, the reasoning for RCS being added to iOS 18 doesn’t matter. All that matters is that this is a major new feature for iPhone users everywhere, and they should be told about it in a clear, direct manner — not in a way that makes it look like Apple is trying to sweep the news under the rug.

When iOS 18 arrives on iPhones later this fall, RCS is going to be a big deal, whether Apple likes it or not. You and I may understand how important this is and already have an idea of how it will work, but people not obsessed with text messaging protocols may not have a clue about what RCS is, what it does, or why they should care about it. It’s up to Apple to make sure those people know how to use RCS and are aware of all the features it will add to their iPhone.

Google Messages app on a Pixel 8 Pro, showing an RCS Chat message thread.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

If WWDC 2024 wasn’t the time Apple wanted to provide that messaging, fine. But I certainly hope it does eventually provide a proper explanation and introduction to the world of RCS on the iPhone. Maybe it will be later this summer when the iOS 18 public betas become available. Maybe we’ll get one alongside the iPhone 16 announcement later this year. Maybe we won’t get one at all! I certainly hope that’s not the case, but considering how Apple skirted around RCS during its WWDC 2024 keynote, I wouldn’t be shocked if that happened.

Personally, I can’t wait to get RCS on my iPhone. For my parents and other family members who have Android phones, it’s going to make text conversations with them infinitely better than they are today. I just hope Apple embraces this change and accepts how big of a deal it is rather than brushing it off like it’s nothing at all.

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Joe Maring
Joe Maring is the Section Editor for Digital Trends' Mobile team, leading the site's coverage for all things smartphones…
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