Three letters Apple refuses to embrace
Maybe Google will help change the iPhone maker's mind about the SMS replacement.
I have a Pixel 6 Pro coming later today that I’ll be using for the next few weeks to do a review. I’ll be taking my SIM card out of my iPhone 13 Pro which I’ve been using since the day it came out. That means I’ll be leaving the Apple ecosystem for my smartphone needs, and that also means my texts to other iPhone users will once again be green.
After years of using Android on my primary phone, I eventually switched to iOS last year, and immediately I started getting comments from my friends about how my texts were *finally* blue bubbles. I was reluctant to turn iMessage on for this reason, but I ultimately submitted to Apple’s temptations of a cross-platform messaging solution so I could text my contacts from my iPad and, later, my Mac.
I won’t deny it, iMessage is a delightful product. It’s very fluid in its experience and implements its vast array of features pretty well, although I still can’t get over the way you access your photo gallery to share pictures and videos with your friends (why is Photos an “app” on the keyboard?). However, ever since its inception, it’s been a bit problematic.
Apple decided long ago to decipher between texts sent via iMessage and standard SMS using different colors, making iMessages more appealing to the eye. A culture quickly sprouted from this choice in UI that celebrates those who send messages with blue bubbles and essentially demonizes those who send green bubbles.
That sounds exaggerated, but it’s really not. Sending blue or green bubbles to iOS users can decide everything from your social status to your romantic relationships; various studies have proven that people are less likely to date you if you send them texts coated in green opposed to blue. What’s more, reports of younger users getting bullied due to their lack of an ability to send blue texts have skyrocketed, getting the attention of Apple’s biggest competitor in the messaging landscape: Google.
The Wall Street Journal @WSJHow Apple’s iMessage sealed its dominance with an army of texting teens. https://t.co/VW9ZA8LU3w
The official Android account followed up with this comment:
Hiroshi Lockheimer @lockheimerApple’s iMessage lock-in is a documented 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. https://t.co/MiQqMUOrgn
The solution both tweets reference isn’t to make all text messages blue (although that might be a quick and easy way to mask the problem). Instead, it’s to upgrade the SMS experience on the iPhone to something more modern and robust, something that Android phones have had for years: RCS.
In case you’re unfamiliar, RCS (or Rich Communication Services) is designed to replace SMS and MMS messaging and bring phone number-based texting into the modern era. It replicates a good amount of the features associated with iMessage like read receipts, emoji reactions, typing indicators, HD photos and videos, and more. It’s not a one-to-one replacement, but it’s certainly a major upgrade from SMS.
These three simple letters, for whatever reason, are letters Apple wants nowhere near its products. Despite the standard rolling out to all Android users in late 2020, the Cupertino giant has yet to mention RCS in any official capacity, let alone bring it to its products. The company likely fears it’ll take attention away from iMessage and make it easier for people to be swayed the Android route when it comes to buying a new phone. After all, you’ll get things like tying indicators and read receipts from your iPhone friends, so why bother remaining locked in Apple’s ecosystem?
Apple actually admitted its reluctancy to bring iMessage to Android due to the fact it would remove a barrier of entry into the Android world. In emails uncovered in the Epic v. Apple trial, Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi (Apple’s SVP of software engineering) spoke about possibly getting started with developing an iMessage app for Android, but Federighi casted doubts by saying “iMessage on Android would simply serve to remove an obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones.”
That’s clearly not something Apple wants to do, but it’s also clear it’ll eventually have to move away from SMS. As time progresses, RCS adoption will continue to rise and overtake the dominance SMS has had for the past 15+ years. When it becomes irrelevant, Apple’s practices to actively deteriorate the experience of texting between its phones and Android-powered alternatives will be all too obvious.
Before that happens, we might as well start campaigning for RCS to come to the iPhone, and it looks like we’ll have Google on our side the entire way.