iOS 18 beta now allows you to send RCS messages to Android users

Adam Breeden/ZDNET

iPhone users looking for a way to send rich text messages to their Android counterparts can now finally do so, at least with the beta version and the right carrier. With the release of the second developer beta for iOS 18 on Monday, the long-awaited RCS messaging option is now a reality.

With RCS enabled on iPhone, your texts to Android users can include larger file attachments, higher-quality photos and videos, audio messages, read receipts, more emoji types, and smoother group chats. But before you dive in, there are a few requirements.

Also: 6 reasons why iOS 18 makes the iPhone 16 a must-have upgrade

First, you’ll need to install the latest iOS 18 developer beta if you don’t already have it. If you installed the beta before Monday, you’ll need to grab the second one by updating the operating system on your phone.

But, and this is a big one, don’t install this beta on your primary phone or the one you need for day-to-day work and other important tasks. I’m running the beta on a spare iPhone that I use strictly for testing. If you want to install the beta version, consider waiting for the more polished and less cluttered public version that will be released in July. Even then, make sure to back up your phone before installing any beta versions.

Second, you need to be on the right carrier. Although Apple has enabled RCS on its end, carriers must also enable it on their networks. At this early stage, only Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile appear to have the RCS switch turned on, according to 9to5Mac and users on X. And even then, you might not see the option yet because it’s just starting to appear.

If you use one of the three major US carriers and have the latest developer beta, an option for RCS Messaging appears on the Messaging settings screen. If not, just wait until the option appears or your carrier enables it.

Also: Here’s every iPhone model that will get Apple’s iOS 18 update

Promised by Apple last year and the first of the desired new features in iOS 18, RCS (Rich Communications Service) is a messaging standard released by Google a few years ago. Designed to replace SMS messages, RCS is a more modern standard that can handle richer content.

Apple had long resisted calls to enable RCS, but finally gave in amid demand for greater interoperability between iPhone and Android. Until now, Apple users could only send rich text messages through iMessage. Any text exchanged with Android users would be limited to SMS, removing rich content, or relying on MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service), allowing several types of media in a message.

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If RCS is available on your iPhone, the message field will read: Text Message + RCS. You can compose a message that includes content you couldn’t send before RCS support — a high-resolution photo or video, an audio, or an unusual emoji. The same photos or videos, audio clips, emojis and other rich content should then appear on the receiving Android device.

A public beta of iOS 18 is expected to be released in July, while the final release for all iPhone users is expected in September. By then, most carriers planning to support RCS should have enabled it.

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