Google is taking its beef with Apple over the company’s lack of RCS support to a slightly more public forum: a website highlighting how Apple makes texting Android phones suck on iOS.
Rich Communication Services (RCS), the messaging protocol designed to modernize texting on phones, has fast become the norm on Android thanks to Google’s help, but Apple has so far avoided supporting it in iMessage. RCS is designed to replace SMS and MMS, allowing for larger image and video files, read receipts, and end-to-end encryption. Those are all features Apple offers through iMessage as a perk for iPhone users, with the fallback for non-iOS devices being SMS and MMS.
Lock-in — Before RCS existed, Apple’s exclusionary move made sense. It saw a better way to do messaging on iPhones that could work over Wi-Fi and would actually be more private than what previously existed. Why not do that? But now that a better standard exists — well almost better, end-to-end encryption in RCS group chats is coming later this year — Apple’s refusal to adopt it just seems like a way to lock iPhone users in.
You’ve probably heard this story before: how anyone with green bubbles in an iMessage chat is looked down upon; how they ruin group chats, and so on. That’s a behavior and mentality entirely of Apple’s own creation. As Google notes on its site, Apple chooses to show SMS and MMS messages in that more illegible white-on-green bubble, and by defaulting to the older standards it deliberately forced non-iMessage chats to use lower quality photos and videos and offer less quality of life features.
It’s enough to make the uninformed iPhone owner never consider Android, and to anyone who knows better, too afraid to upset the careful social balance of their group chats to switch (myself included).
A website isn’t a solution — While good-natured, making a website complaining about things isn’t going to change Apple’s mind, and Google’s already tried this tact before with some half-hearted tweets. Nothing will make Apple budge of its own accord, it makes money off messaging lock-in.
But turning up the pressure now does make sense in the larger context of platform regulation brewing in Europe. The European Union plans to start enforcing the Digital Markets Act next year, and one of its many focuses is requiring some kind of interoperability between messaging services. That might not look like iMessage adopting RCS, but it sure seems like one of the simpler ways Apple could please the E.U. and maybe Google by proxy.