Google Speaks Out Against Apple’s Refusal to Adopt RCS Messaging Protocol to iMessage

Google went public this week with its frustration over one of Apple’s strongest ecosystem lock-in strategies: the blue and green bubbles in its iMessage service.

To be clear, this isn’t about getting iMessages on Android. It’s about making iMessages work with open standards and interoperate fully with the rest of the world, notes a new report from The Verge.

iMessage’s exclusivity has become a status symbol among teens in the US and other countries, notes the report. In addition, messages from users of Android devices in iMessage have a green color; and from owners of gadgets based on iOS – blue. However, if it appears in a green bubble, it uses the less reliable SMS protocol and probably comes from an Android smartphone.

The problem is, young Americans often frown on these green bubbles, and some even pester their friends to buy an iPhone. It is noted that in some cases this is the reason for the pressure on teenagers who are forced to buy an iPhone in order not to look worse than others.

“iMessage should not benefit from bullying,” the Android team tweeted a few days ago, kicking off Google’s public awareness campaign against Apple. “Texting should bring us together, and the solution exists. Let’s fix this as one industry.”

“Apple’s iMessage lock-in is a documented strategy,” Google senior vice president Hiroshi Lockheimer wrote in a follow-up tweet that links to a recent Wall Street Journal article about Apple’s iMessage lock-in 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.”

The solution and standard that Google refers to is the Rich Communication Services (RCS), a communications protocol that can replace SMS while providing the unique features of Apple iMessage to everyone. All Apple needs to do, Google argues, is make its in-house Messages apps compatible with not just iMessage, but with RCS as well.

From Apple’s standpoint, there’s little incentive to adopt a standard when its own in-house technology works exactly as it wants, labeling non-Apple users as inferior. And iMessage lock-in actually came up recently in the Epic v. Apple legal battle, where documentation showed that Apple was dividing the world purposefully and saw no incentive in bringing iMessage to Android.

“We’re not asking Apple to make iMessage available on Android,” Google’s Lockheimer also tweeted. “We’re asking Apple to support the industry standard for modern messaging (RCS) in iMessage, just as they support the older SMS/MMS standards.”

Yes, Google has done a terrible job with messaging in Android, with a long list of clients coming and going over the years. But now, RCS works, it’s available now, and it should be the standard on both Android and iOS.