It was a detailed report and drew sharp response from head of Android. So much so that he said Apple was being “disingenuous”. “Apple’s iMessage lock-in is a documented strategy. Using peer pressure and bullying as a way to sell products is disingenuous for a company that has humanity and equity as a core part of its marketing. The standards exist today to fix this,” tweeted Hiroshi Lockheimer, head of Android.
Today, Lockheimer is singing a different tune. “Everybody should have secure and modern messaging without worrying what kind of phone they’re texting to. So glad to see Apple joining our ongoing work with the GSMA on RCS to make texting better for all!”, he said in a post on X after Apple’s announcement.
Yes, the unthinkable — in some ways — has happened. Apple has finally ‘got the message’ and has announced it will adopt RCS messaging. But wait, does that mean that green bubble vs blue bubble divide is over? No, the iMessage exclusivity will still reign supreme.
iPhone users can still flex the blue bubbles
Apple adopting RCS doesn’t mean that iPhone users lose their exclusivity. The message from Apple is clear: iMessage is the VIP section of the messaging nightclub, where the velvet rope is reserved for Apple devices only. RCS, on the other hand, ensures that others get to enjoy the party from the general admission area, mingling with Android devices but never scoring an exclusive pass. Android users can now rendezvous with iMessage but Apple users can rest assured that their blue-bubbled sanctuary is staying put.
RCS introduces a range of iMessage-esque features to facilitate cross-platform messaging between iPhones and Android devices. These enhancements encompass read receipts, typing indicators, high-resolution images and videos, among other functionalities. Apple’s integration of RCS not only enables the sharing of locations within text threads but also ensures that this advanced messaging system operates seamlessly over mobile data or Wi-Fi, in contrast to traditional SMS.
However, Apple is clear that it is iMessage “which will continue to be the best and most secure messaging experience for Apple users.”
Is it a win for Google?
It is not a win-win as such but commendable as it was a valiant attempt to get Apple to move. However, for years Apple ignored Google’s messages — like iPhone users often end up ignoring text messages from Android users — to adopt RCS. Apple CEO Tim Cook was once questioned about this at the event and had a cheeky reply about Android users feeling the great green vs blue divide. “Buy your mom an iPhone,” was Cook’s reply.
What turned the tide?
Two words: European Union. The European Union has been targeting big tech companies under the Digital Markets Act regulations. Under the DMA, Apple would have been compelled to open iMessage to some extent. Apple had argued that iMessage does not meet the criteria for classification as a gatekeeper service under the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) regulations. The basis for this argument was a bit fuzzy, considering that iMessage is a preinstalled application on every iPhone and stands as one of the platform’s most widely utilised apps. The overarching objective of the Digital Markets Act is to curb the monopolistic influence wielded by major online platforms. It is clear that Apple didn’t want any regulatory troubles with the EU and adopted the RCS standard and ‘opened’ messaging on iPhones.