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Google Calls Out Apple for Its iMessage “Lock-In” System: Here’s All You Need to Know

After the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report earlier this month, Hiroshi Lockheimer — the Senior Vice President of Android at Google, put out a series of tweets criticising Apple for its iMessage lock-in. As Lockheimer outlined, iMessage being the only non-cross-platform messaging service is Apple’s “documented strategy” of persuading more people into buying iPhones. 

Android’s SVP went even further by stating that Apple is “using peer pressure and bullying as a way to sell products”. That being said, judging people by the colour of their text bubble is no secret, especially among teens in the US, where iPhone users are dominant. 

Namely, regular text messages (SMS) sent from an Android phone appear in a green text bubble on iMessage, differing from the blue sea of text bubbles sent from iMessage users. Along with some iMessage features that are off-limits for Android users, that increases the pressure of being a part of the blue text group.

All of this was pointed out in the WSJ report calling attention to the fact that iOS users who decide to switch to Android can even be shamed and rejected by their peers who dread the green bubble.

Moreover, the report addresses letters from Apple executives that were revealed in the Apple vs Epic Games lawsuit, including Craig Federighi’s email from 2013, where he wrote that opening iMessage to Android would “simply serve to remove [an] obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones”. According to Federighi — Apple’s chief software executive, that would only harm Apple’s prosperity. 

Although it’s apparent that Apple realises the value of the iMessage lock-in and won’t change its plans any time soon, a few days after the initial iMessage-related tweet, Hiroshi Lockheimer started another thread on Twitter, making it clear that they’re “not asking Apple to make iMessage available on Android”. 

Instead, Lockheimer clarified that Android only asks Apple not to hold back the industry and support “the industry standard for modern messaging (RCS) in iMessage, just as they support the older SMS / MMS standards”.

 

What is RCS?

RCS Standard | CyberCrew

The new industry standard, which Android’s SVP hopes Apple will agree to support, was first implemented in 2018. RCS means Rich Communication Service, and it’s an advancement of messaging features, including chat over Wi-Fi or mobile data, read receipts, typing indicators, reactions to messages, 100 MB maximum file size, encryption, and more features also available on iMessage.

RCS support is now part of the Android Messages app, which Google tries to make the default messaging app on each Android phone coming out. Since the RCS standard is developed by GSMA, it would make sense that Apple agrees to support it, and as Lockheimer stated, supporting RCS would “improve the experience for both iOS and Android users alike”.

However, the RCS can work in a decentralised manner, and there are several RCS implementations. That being said, Google Chat is Google’s implementation of the RCS Universal Profile, and it runs on Google’s own servers. So, that brings up a question — Is Google’s version of RCS yet another Google messaging service? 

From Apple’s perspective, that might be just another attempt for Google to make a messaging app, although this time, the RCS proved to be more successful than its previous tries (Google Voice, Google Hangouts, Google Allo). Nevertheless, if Apple decides to implement RCS after all, it would unquestionably benefit both Android and iOS smartphone users.