RCS and Apple iMessage: Why Google sees red in green bubbles

Google is once again urging Apple to integrate the Rich Communication Standard (RCS) into its iMessage app with a taunting video clip sent by the official Android account on Twitter. The RCS communication standard is intended as a replacement for classic short messages (SMS) in mobile communications and offers properties that are known from messenger apps. So far, Apple has been stubbornly silent on the subject.

In the video, which almost eleven million followers of the Android account saw, Google refers to a new video by the musician Drake. This alludes to the distinctive green speech bubbles in Apple iMessage, for example when iPhone users send a message to the owner of an Android smartphone. Instead of in Apple’s Messenger iMessage, the message is then sent in the traditional way as an SMS and marked in green instead of blue.

For example, RCS enables read receipts, group chats, file transfers, audio messages and, following further developments by Google, is end-to-end encrypted. RCS thus corresponds to what users are used to from messengers.

Apple shows little to no ambition to improve the SMS portion of its Messages app. In iOS 16, iMessage has been expanded to include the option of subsequently deleting or changing messages. With SMS, there are just small extensions for an interface to filter SMS messages and group them into subfolders.

The Android team describes Apple’s way of communicating with devices outside of the closed iMessage system as a “phenomenon” and problem. “If only a super talented engineering team at Apple would solve this problem. Because this is a problem only Apple can solve. They really just have to implement RCS. That would also make SMS more secure. Just saying. Great track”, says the clip accompanied by music.

Google regularly slams Apple’s persistent refusal to comment at all on RCS. For example, in October 2021, the Android boss offered to help Apple integrate RCS into iMessage. In early January, he spoke up again and criticized Apple for making messaging worse on all devices. The new message that only Apple can solve the problem, on the other hand, sounds downright resigned.

There is no indication that Apple is being impressed by Google’s public pressure. On the contrary, the actions of the competitor could tempt the Cupertino company to react defiantly in order not to lose face.

Several examples from the recent past show that Apple is willing and able to cooperate with Steve Jobs’ former archenemy. At the beginning of the corona pandemic, Google and Apple jointly developed the Exposure Notification Framework, which is known to be the basis for worldwide corona tracing, which reached users in Germany in the form of the Corona-Warn-App. Apple and Google, together with other companies, are currently pulling together to replace passwords using the Fido standard. At Apple, the function is called Passkey. And both companies also stand side by side in the Matter Alliance, which creates a common smart home standard to be able to control devices from the other manufacturer. By the end of the year, Apple wants to introduce Matter.

Apple rules out an extension of the iMessage system to other platforms. As became known in the course of the legal disputes between Apple and the game manufacturer Epic, “more harm than good” is seen in Cupertino to extend iMessage to Android. The introduction of RCS would be almost equivalent to such a step by Apple to publish its own app for Android. Specifically, Apple sees the risk that more similarities could increase the willingness of users to switch.

From a German point of view, this may seem strange, since Android devices are more common in many circles of acquaintances than iPhones – consequently, iPhone users tend to use WhatsApp and other messengers in order to have those advantages in messaging that iMessage only offers on Apple devices. In the US, Apple’s market share was over 51 percent in the first quarter of 2022. As a result, iMessage is much more popular there and Apple would have more to lose.

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