iOS 18 beta officially adds RCS messaging — here’s what you need to know

iMessage app on iPhone
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

We knew that RCS was on its way to iOS 18, but Apple hasn’t been forthcoming with details on when or how it might be available. The first iOS 18 developer beta contained hidden code for a broken version of RCS, while beta 2 launched with a non-functional RCS toggle in the settings. Except that toggle may not be non-functional anymore.

Some users have started noticing that RCS is now enabled on iPhones running the latest version of the iOS 18 developer beta. However it seems that the feature is tied to your specific carrier, so right now only those with AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon plans seem to be able to send RCS messages.

That means users on other carriers and MVNOs may have to wait a little longer for Apple to offer proper cross-messaging support for RCS.

According to Brandon Butch from The Apple Den, RCS definitely wasn’t working before yesterday, meaning someone probably flipped a switch at either Apple or the three carriers to activate RCS support in iOS 18 beta. Butch also points out that videos and photos are sent at “full quality,” putting an end to MMS’s ultra-compressed stranglehold on cross-platform file sharing.

Other screenshots on X show that RCS messaging is labeled as “Text Message - RCS”, with read receipts and operational tapbacks/reactions. Another user claimed that it works between iPhone and Android as well, since their Android-using mother was able to leave their message on read. That's kinda rude, but at least that shows the system is working. Presumably, the messages are now encrypted too, which isn’t possible on the positively-ancient SMS messaging system.

The bubbles are, of course, still green. But we already knew that was going to happen, even though it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to keep unsecured SMS and encrypted RCS messages the same color.

If you have an Apple developer account, you can install the iOS 18 developer beta right now and play with RCS — assuming you’re with one of the big three carriers. As for everyone else you’ll either have to wait for iOS 18’s first public beta to launch, and we don’t know when that is, or hold off until September when the final version of the software is expected to roll out.

We also don’t know how the rollout is going to work outside the U.S. But considering WhatsApp has supplanted iMessage and RCS as the go-to messaging service in the rest of the world, it’s probably not as big a deal.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.