Green bubble vs blue bubble: why Apple should adopt RCS
Originally, if you wanted to send someone a text message, all you would need was their phone number and to send them an SMS. It came with a 160 byte per message max later on when people wanted to start sending things like pictures once in a while. MMS was later introduced, built on the same technology as SMS, and you could send anything over 160 bytes. It came out in 2002. The two services helped with the adoption of the smartphone.
Every phone came with its messaging app, even the iPhone, and as text messaging became so popular, people reached limitations of text messaging. Apple decided to announce iMessage, which is an instant messaging service that works over the internet within the Messages app. It comes with a lot of features, like read receipt, typing indicator, inline replies, sharing of location, a 100-megabyte file size limit, and more importantly, it is end-to-end encrypted, which is more secure than SMS. It works over the internet, so it is connected to all your Apple devices.
Since it was developed by Apple and is not multiplatform, meaning that it can’t work if you are using another operating system. So when an iPhone user decides to message another iPhone user, it is automatically converted to an iMessage, but when the person on the other end isn’t using an iPhone, it converts to SMS and the iPhone indicates it by turning the chat bubble green. With the lack of features that iMessage provides for iPhone users, the “green bubble” experience isn’t pleasant, and Apple is fine with it.
In the U.S, there are over 113 million iPhone users, which covers about 47 percent of all smartphone users in the U.S. In the younger generation of Apple users, the iPhone is the most popular smartphone among teens. If messaging is the core level of activity amongst teens, then it’s no surprise that teens use iMessage more than any other app. A survey done shows that over 83 percent of U.S. teens own an iPhone. Apple iMessage tends to lock its users into the ecosystem of Apple products, and for those who do not use an iPhone, it tends to create peer pressure and bullying. Apple does not have any incentive to change it because they want as many people to use iPhones as possible to enjoy the feature.
There has already been a solution for the “green bubble” and “blue bubble” situations called RCS, which stands for Rich Communication Services. RCS has been promoted as a replacement protocol for SMS, but it got off to a slow start. Formed by a group of industry promoters in 2007, it was brought into the GSM Association, a trade group, the next year, where it languished for a decade. In 2018, Google announced it had been working with major cell phone carriers worldwide to adopt RCS. The result is Chat, a protocol based on the RCS Universal Profile—a global standard for implementing RCS that lets subscribers from different carriers and countries communicate with each other.
Chat has evolved to visually resemble iMessage and other commercial messaging apps, but there are also some extra features. Google teamed up with businesses to add helpful features to Chat, like branded informational messaging; sharing content like images, video clips, and GIFs; sending live updates about upcoming trips and boarding passes; and even eventually allowing customers to select airline seats from within Android Messages.
Chat is not a messaging app per se; it’s the friendly name for the RCS protocol or RCS Universal Profile. Chat is available only on two apps: Google’s Messages and Samsung Messages. While this may seem restrictive, most Android-based smartphone manufacturers ship with this default messaging app. There are a few requirements for Chat to work as designed. First, carriers must support the protocol. You also need to have a device and a messaging app that supports Chat. Recipients need to support Chat too; otherwise, Chat messages revert to plain old SMS.
In addition to bringing Android messaging into the 21st century with reading receipts, typing indicators, and the ability to send and receive high-resolution photos and videos, RCS lets people chat over Wi-Fi or mobile data, name group chats, and add and remove participants from group chats. You can enable RCS by launching the Android Messages app and switching on the chat features in the settings. Text messages will automatically flow through the new protocol if both parties have RCS enabled.
All the new phones that are coming out today support RCS and if Apple iMessage could support it Android users could enjoy what iPhones have already and there won’t be so much pressure to join the Apple ecosystem but Apple would not want to support RCS.
In recent times, Google, the developer of Android, has been increasing the pressure on Apple to adopt RCS and has also started a campaign.
On Tuesday, Google kicked off its “Get The Message” RCS campaign online and will be continuing with digital billboards in NYC going after Apple. Starting August 25, the pressure campaign will appear on over 500 digital billboards in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
“It’s time for Apple to fix texting,” the website reads. “It’s not about the color of the bubbles. It’s the blurry videos, broken group chats, missing read receipts, typing indicators, no texting over Wi-Fi, and more. These problems exist because Apple refuses to adopt modern texting standards when people with iPhones and Android phones text each other.”
“Messaging should bring people together — not pull them apart,” Google said in a statement. “The Android team’s goal is to make texting a more secure, modern, and enjoyable experience for everyone, regardless of the phone, they’re using. Because it shouldn’t matter what phone they have — things should just work.”
Google blames Apple for creating a substandard experience when iPhones text Android phones or vice versa.
“We’re hoping that Android users stop being blamed for ruining chats,” Google global vice president for integrated marketing for platforms, Adrienne Lofton, said. “This is Apple that is responsible, and it’s time to own the responsibility.”
“If Apple adopted the platform, it would allow consumers to enjoy things like high-res photos and video sharing, read receipts, and rich reactions,” Lofton said. “And this is an important one—better security and privacy with encryption.”
Google executives have suggested that Apple won’t support RCS because its system, iMessage helps the company retain iPhone users by locking them into the Apple ecosystem.
Apple, on the other hand, doesn’t stand to benefit much from the adoption of RCS because iMessage is one of its main sources of ecosystem lock-in. Additionally, according to court documents made public last year, Apple does not want to develop iMessage for Android since doing so would harm the firm more than benefit it. Given everything, it doesn’t seem probable that Google’s latest marketing initiative will be what ultimately convinces Apple to adopt RCS.
Google says that it doesn’t want Apple to bring iMessage to Android, but that it wants Apple to support RCS.
Apple has remained silent on RCS and continues to add features to iMessage.