Saturday, June 3, 2023

Google trolled Apple over SMS feature yet again: Here’s why

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During the Google IO 2023 keynote, the company’s VP of product management, Sameer Samat threw shade at Apple for not adopting the RCS messaging standard. We will see what specifically he said and why he said so. We shall also brief you on the significance of RCS and why Apple isn’t ready to jump on the RCS bandwagon.

First of all, what is RCS?

RCS: Rich Communication Services

RCS or Universal RCS Profile from GSMA aims to upgrade SMS with the ability to send rich multimedia messages over the internet. Some other features of RCS messaging include no character limit, typing status indicator, read receipts, and the option to share the location.

These are features that you would find on iMessage (Apple) and WhatsApp (Meta). The latter is available on Android. But, RCS would come as part of the built-in Messages app on all modern Android smartphones. 

Why Google is spearheading RCS?

Google seems to want Messages as the de-facto messaging app on Android. So far it has managed to band together carrier operators and Android smartphone manufacturers to adopt RCS.

Apple is the missing piece of the puzzle, so to speak. On the IO stage, Sameer Samat said, “When you are texting in a group chat, you shouldn’t have to worry about whether everyone is using the same type of phone. Sending high-quality images and video, getting typing notifications and end-to-end encryption should all just work. That’s why we’ve worked with our partners on upgrading old SMS and MMS technology to a modern standard called RCS. That makes all of this possible, and there are now over 800 million people with RCS. On our way to over a billion by the end of the year. We hope every mobile operating System gets the message and adopts RCS. So we can all hang out in the group chat together, no matter what device we’re using.”

So, you probably get why Google is pushing for RCS. Let’s understand the other side of the coin now.

Why Apple isn’t ready to adopt RCS?


As alluded to above, iMessage, the default messaging app from Apple brings all of the above features to iPhones and iPads already. But iMessage works between iPhones and iPads only. When an Apple user sends a rich multimedia message to an Android user, they either lose out on some features and the Android user’s responses appear in a green bubble as opposed to the Apple user’s green bubble. 

This Blue Bubble vs Green Bubble is a real cultural thing in some markets like the US. Teens and singles get ostracised for being green bubble people. This, thus acts as a great lock-in tool for keeping people within Apple’s walled garden. 

It also trumpets “what happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone”. Even without RCS, you have alternatives like WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger with interoperability and being used by millions. So, for all these reasons, Apple, therefore, appears to have very less incentive to adopt RCS.

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