RCS is still half-baked, and Apple has no reason to adopt it

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A few days ago, Google released a video on how RCS can bridge the gap between iOS and Android. But Apple does not need RCS, or at least the half-baked version it is today.

Google’s “unofficial lyric explainer” video explains that “Texts Go Green” refers to the phenomenon when an iPhone user gets blocked or tries to send text messages to an Android user. A sarcastic message at the end of the video says that this is a problem that Apple can solve by using Rich Communication Services) RCS.

Green bubbles have long been part of the Apple community. Inside the standard messaging app, blue chat bubbles mean an iPhone-to-iPhone conversation. When an iPhone user sends text messages to an Android user, the chat bubbles are green.

It has become a meme over the years, and Google claimed in January 2022 that Apple uses these different colors to bully Android users.

These green chats are SMS messages and there is a real social effect as SMS does not support rich iMessages features. Some, like message responses, get corrupted if an Android user is in a group chat with an iPhone user.

An iPhone user can long press on a chat to give it a heart, thumbs up, or other reaction. The Android user sees a text version of the emoji instead of a graphical representation: “[User] loved [text message]. “

Google launched support for these features in 2021, but still claims that green bubbles can be solved with RCS.

Rich communication services

RCS is a messaging protocol designed as the successor to the older SMS and MMS protocols. It supports iMessage-like features in all text messages.

Green bubble

Green bubble

Formed in 2007, it was brought into the GSM Association, where it was slowly refined. Features were added over the years, such as group chat, file transfer, visual voicemail and even chatbots in 2017.

In 2018, Google announced that it was working with major companies to introduce RCS. Verizon launched support from 2022, while the other providers supported it earlier.

Read receipts, group messages, encryption, stickers and more are all features that iPhone users enjoy. RCS would bring these features to Android phones and is just waiting for Apple.

But the rollout of RCS has been messy. Not all carriers and devices support the protocol, and it can be implemented in various ways, such as encryption.

Unlike iMessage, end-to-end encryption is not built into RCS. Carriers and companies can add such encryption if they wish. Google added support for this encryption in 2020, but only for one-on-one conversations.

Messaging apps

Messaging apps

Like SMS, RCS relies on an active phone number. SMS messages are tied to a mobile bill and may disappear if a payment is missed or due to another mobile network.

In iMessage, chats can be sent from a phone number or email address associated with an Apple ID. A SIM card is not required for conversations with other Apple users.

Google offers RCS communication in its Android Messages app by default. No matter how many messaging apps Google goes through, Android users can have these rich features as long as Google supports RCS.

The technology giant is notorious for abandoning products. Dozens of hardware, software and services have fallen by the wayside over the years. RCS cannot trust Google if the goal is to replace SMS.

Apple does not need RCS

People with iPhones will not stop texting their Android friends just because a green bubble appears. And the iMessage stigma is only in the US. Internationally, alternatives have a much higher adoption rate.

If a shared experience with features that everyone can enjoy is desired, third-party apps like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp are there to fill the gap.

These apps support comprehensive features that both ecosystems can enjoy because they use the same app. These apps use neither iMessage nor SMS, which makes them universal. Only one internet connection is required.

SMS on a smartphone

SMS on a smartphone

Apple probably did not create iMessage as a way to lock people to iOS in the beginning, but the platform has certainly grown that way. It’s actually a social network that Apple can upgrade without waiting for industry associations and providers.

Apple has also not shown interest in releasing an iMessage app for Android. Earlier, it was revealed that Apple executives said an Android version is possible, but that it would “hurt us more than help us.”

Encryption and other enhanced features are advantages that RCS has over SMS, but so far it seems that the only way Apple will support it is if SMS disappeared completely.

RCS does not fix anything for iPhone owners that cannot already be fixed. The protocol had a better chance of replacing SMS if implementation started in 2007 around the iPhone’s release.

So far, RCS is just an alternative and not yet a standard. Despite the adoption of some carriers and some companies, it’s too little, too late, unless Google makes significant changes and improvements.


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