Google is taking the fight over green bubbles directly to iPhone users. As part of a collection of new features the company is announcing for the Messages app on Android today, Google is also baking in specific annoyances for any iPhone user texting someone on Android in an attempt to get Apple to adopt modern messaging standards such as RCS (Rich Communication Services).
Provoking a reaction
Alongside additions like better integrations between Messages and Google Meet, reminders to reply to a message, a new option to star messages Google thinks you’ll return to later, and threaded replies, Google’s also offering exclusive features if you have RCS enabled in the app. With RCS on, you can now send text messages using in-flight Wi-Fi on United Airlines flights thanks to a partnership between Google and the airline.
The biggest change is one that’s been in Apple’s messaging app for a while: reactions. Now in the Messages app for Android, you can react with an emoji to a message. In text chats with iPhone users, those reactions will be sent as a separate SMS message every time — “X reacted with X emoji to X message” — just like iPhone users used to force on Android before Google offered a fix.
The hope is, since Google’s built the feature into RCS, if iPhone users are annoyed enough they’ll demand Apple adopt the standard to make it go away.
The long road to RCS
Rich Communication Services or RCS was designed to be the successor to SMS and MMS, two outdated messaging standards in 2022. Apple created iMessage as an iPhone alternative to normal texts, a solution that’s end-to-end encrypted, offers better support for large media files, and works across multiple devices.
Before RCS even existed, Apple chose to mark traditional SMS and MMS messages green on non-iPhones so that iPhone users knew they’d get a different experience when they were talking to someone with green bubbles. If you’ve owned a smartphone in the U.S. in the last decade, you might be aware that decision has caused a fair bit of text messaging angst.
But now that RCS is a valid alternative and Google’s chosen to aggressively back it, the need for green bubbles could be eliminated entirely by making Apple adopt the new standard. Google’s tried passive-aggressive tweets and ad campaigns directly calling out Apple to support RCS with no real response from the company other than what amounts to a “lol, no” from Apple CEO Tim Cook. So now Google is taking steps to force Apple’s hand.
It’s a good show of faith that the company is committed to making messaging better for everyone, but the real question now is what more can Google do to light a fire under users? And will any of it matter if European Union regulators decide on a course of action on their own?
The Messages update is rolling out via the Play Store “in the coming weeks” according to Google, but the fight over how messages should work is really just getting started.