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Why Google Wants Apple to Ditch iMessage for RCS


Google wants Apple to ditch iMessage in favor of Rich Communication Services, or RCS for short. RCS is already available on Android and you can access it via Google’s Messages app. A few other third-party messaging apps also support RCS.

But why does Google want Apple to give up on its messaging protocol? Read on to find out.

Google’s Android Head Criticizes Apple for Using iMessage

Google is not happy with Apple for using iMessage, the company’s in-house instant messaging service. The revelations came in a tweet from senior vice president of platforms and ecosystems, Hiroshi Lockheimer. He took a jab at Apple for “using peer pressure and bullying as a way to sell products.”

Lockheimer was responding to a report by The Wall Street Journal on US teens ostracizing their peers for switching to Android phones. This emanates from iMessage labeling messages from non-iPhones as green instead of the native blue bubbles.

The report reveals how, due to exclusivity, it’s hard to move away from Apple’s ecosystem—the so-called walled garden.

In his response, Lockheimer confirmed what we’d known all along. There’s no technical barrier preventing Apple from releasing iMessage on Android or at least supporting communication between iMessage and Android users. For the uninitiated, a court battle between Apple and Fortnite-maker Epic Games revealed the true reasons.


Related: Epic Games vs. Apple Lawsuit: What You Need to Know

This court case revealed internal emails dating back to 2013. In them, Apple’s executive Craig Federighi said launching iMessage on Android would “remove an obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones.” In another email three years later, then-marketing chief Phil Schiller reiterated this sentiment. He wrote that doing so “will hurt us more than help us.”

While iMessage doesn’t make Apple any money directly, it helps ensure users stay loyal to its ecosystem, and that translates to revenue.

Google’s official Android account also tweeted in support of Lockheimer, adding that a solution exists.

Of course, it’s clear Apple benefits from such exclusivity, and that is the reason you can’t use iMessage on Android, as revealed by court documents.

Why Does Google Want Apple to Ditch iMessage?

Google Android RCS Messaging illustration

Lockheimer argues that one reason Apple supports SMS/MMS is that phone number-based messaging always works. With these older protocols, you don’t have to worry whether someone is using a specific app. This comes in handy, especially in a world where there are many instant messaging apps, each with its fan base.

Google’s executive doesn’t just want Apple to support RCS for the sake of it. He argues that it’s an evolution of SMS/MMS standards already available on iMessage. Adopting RCS would ensure seamless communication between Android and iMessage.

Besides, supporting RCS will enable iOS and Android users to share other features provided by the new messaging protocol.

Related: The Best Instant Messaging Apps

Without RCS support, messages sent between iPhones to Android phones will continue to use the older SMS/MMS standards. That means cross-platform messages miss out on features of other modern protocols.

Lockheimer adds that “Apple is holding back the industry and holding back the user experience for not only Android users but also their own customers.”

What Is RCS?

Google Messages app icon on app drawer

RCS is a messaging protocol developed by a group of mobile industry players to replace the popular but old and outdated SMS and MMS protocols. RCS offers features already available on iMessage, like read receipts, typing indicators, and sending via cellular data or Wi-Fi.

Google’s history with messaging hasn’t been impressive, but the company has been at the forefront of spreading the RCS gospel. And luckily for them, three major US carriers (Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile) are boarding the train.

Related: What Is RCS Messaging on Android and How Do I Use It?

RCS is available globally, although not every Android user can access the feature due to different barriers to entry. Here’s how to check if your Android phone has RCS support.

What Happens Next?

At the time of writing, Apple is yet to issue a comment on Google’s criticism, at least not publicly. But Google is ready to help the tech giant ensure seamless communication between Android devices and iPhones by supporting RCS messaging, according to Google’s executive.

Apple is reluctant to make such a move for obvious reasons. But, if they ever will, the company will likely find ways to perpetuate exclusivity. Hence, they continue to entice new users to its ecosystem and make it hard for existing ones to look elsewhere. As has been in the past, Apple is tough to crack when it comes to its “walled garden.”

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You can do a lot more than simply send text, voice, picture, and video messages with iMessage.

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