Apple attempts to be embarrassed by Google into accepting RCS

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The cross-platform communications system RCS, which is intended to replace the dated SMS and MMS standards, is getting a new advertising campaign from Google today in an effort to persuade Apple into doing the same.

The new “Get The Message” website from the search engine giant presents the usual set of justifications for Apple’s endorsement of the standard, focusing on improved messaging between iPhone and Android devices. Naturally, the hashtag #GetTheMessage is also there in order to really spark viral activity.

The green bubbles that Android users see in the Messages app on Apple devices serve as a common representation of the issues Google describes. While the iPhone app switches to the outdated SMS and MMS when texting an Android user, it uses Apple’s own iMessage service to transmit messages between iPhones, which has contemporary features like encryption, support for group chats, and high-quality image and video transfers. These messages are not only displayed in a green bubble with clashing colors, but many of the current messaging functions that consumers have grown accustomed to are also broken.

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For Apple to support RCS, which gives the majority (though not all) of the features of iMessage in a protocol that is compatible with both iOS and Android, a series of not-so-subtle clues have been dropped by Google in recent months to remedy this. Throughout the year, both on stage at its annual developer conference and in a number of tweets, the firm expressed the goal that “every mobile operating system… upgrades to RCS.”

Due to the lock-in effect it has on users, the creator of the iPhone stands to benefit greatly from the current circumstance. It enables frictionless communication (but only among iMessage users) and transforms Android’s green bubbles into undetectable class indicators. IMessage for Android would “harm [Apple] more than benefit us,” according to Apple executives who acknowledged this in internal emails.

The standard’s slow and piecemeal implementation, which first relied on carriers to provide support, hasn’t helped Google’s case for RCS. However, since Google effectively took over in 2019, things have changed for the better and RCS is now widely accessible practically everywhere in the world. Even the biggest Android manufacturer in the world, Samsung, changed its top Galaxy S22 line to use Google’s own RCS-compatible Messages software by default this year.

Along with iMessage’s encryption, RCS has been steadily gaining feature parity. In-person chats now enable end-to-end encryption (E2EE), and group chats will follow later this year.

Will Google’s new marketing initiative eventually persuade Apple to see the light and implement RCS support on its phones? I have to admit that the odds don’t seem good for the search giant given the significant incentives Apple has for not cooperating. RCS adoption by Apple now seems about as plausible as the US as a whole abandoning iMessage in favor of a cross-platform encrypted messaging service like WhatsApp or Signal.

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