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Google tries publicly shaming Apple into adopting RCS

Google tries publicly shaming Apple into adopting RCS

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Good luck with that

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The infamous green messaging bubbles.
The infamous green messaging bubbles.
Image: Google

Google is kicking off a new publicity campaign today to pressure Apple into adopting RCS, the cross-platform messaging protocol that’s meant to be a successor to the aging SMS and MMS standards.

The search giant has a new “Get The Message” website that lays out a familiar set of arguments for why Apple should support the standard, revolving around smoother messaging between iPhone and Android devices. Naturally, there’s also a #GetTheMessage hashtag to really get those viral juices flowing. 

For most people, the problems Google describes are most familiar in the form of the green bubbles that signify messages to Android users in Apple’s Messages app. While the iPhone app uses Apple’s own iMessage service to send texts between iPhones (complete with modern features like encryption, support for group chats, and high-quality image and video transfers), they revert to old-fashioned SMS and MMS when texting an Android user. Not only are these messages shown in a color-clashing green bubble but also they break many of the modern messaging features people have come to rely on. 

To fix this, Google has been dropping a series of not-so-subtle hints in recent months for Apple to support RCS, which offers most (though not all) of the features of iMessage in a protocol that’s usable across both iOS and Android. The company said it hoped “every mobile operating system… upgrades to RCS” onstage at its annual developer conference this year as well as in various tweets over the months.

The iPhone maker has everything to gain from the current situation, which has a lock-in effect for customers. It provides seamless communication (but only between iMessage users) and turns Android’s green bubbles into subtle class markers. It’s why Apple execs admitted in internal emails that bringing iMessage to Android would “hurt [Apple] more than help us.

Google’s arguments for RCS haven’t been helped by the standard’s sluggish and piecemeal rollout, which was initially reliant on carriers to add support. But the situation has improved since Google effectively took charge in 2019, meaning that RCS is now easily available almost everywhere worldwide. This year even saw the world’s largest Android manufacturer, Samsung, switch to using Google’s own RCS-compatible Messages app by default in its flagship Galaxy S22 range. 

RCS has also slowly been gaining feature parity with iMessage’s encryption. It now supports end-to-end encryption (E2EE) in one-on-one chats, and E2EE in group chats is due later this year.

So, will Google’s new publicity campaign finally be the thing that pushes Apple to see the light and roll out RCS support on its phones? Given the huge incentives Apple has for not playing ball, I have to say the search giant’s chances don’t look good. At this point, Apple adopting RCS feels about as likely as the US collectively ditching iMessage and moving to an encrypted cross-platform messaging service like WhatsApp or Signal. 

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