Apple iMessage will undergo a major overhaul later this yearbut most of these new features like it will only work if the person you’re texting also has an iPhone.
Since Apple has full control over its messaging platform, iPhone owners get a consistent experience that works well regardless of carrier or specific iPhone model. But it also inadvertently created a long history of dividing peopledepending on whether they use or phone. Apple also relies on the outdated MMS standard for group chats outside of iMessage, resulting in a lack of support for modern features like read receipts and higher-quality images.
While the social pressures between those who do and do not manifest as a blue bubble have often been documented, such as in the Wall Street Journal among teens and young adults, a much larger issue revolves around universal communication. There is no single modern standard for texting that works on all phones.is the closest alternative that would potentially not require you to install another chat app.
While RCS itself is an open standard, people use it most often in the Google Messages app on Android phones. Google announced this at this year’s I/O developer conference in May. The company’s investment in the RCS standard and its News application follows a long history text apps that haven’t gained the notoriety of iMessage or . Google continues this proprietary text messaging strategy along with its investment in RCS, most recently by exiting the business and migrating users to Google Chat instead.
RCS supports many iMessage-like features, such as typing indicators and read receipts. Its rollout has been fragmented, however, as US phone carriers have each separately announced plans to make RCS the default option on most Android phones. While RCS is not currently interoperable with iOS, Google has createdto your Text app to improve the display of iPhone texts on Android. Other features already in iMessage, such as group chat encryption, are still in development for RCS and the Google Messages app.
The RCS standard is a step forward in creating more unified messaging across the wide range of existing Android devices. However, without iOS adoption, its impact on the quality of messaging between Android and iPhones remains limited.
As one of the biggest players in the mobile phone industry, Apple could do more to create more consistent messaging across devices. But the question is whether it is in the interest of the company. Apple often touts its control over iOS as a selling point to consumers, and a move away from iMessage could threaten that.
Apple did not respond to CNET’s request for comment. When this comment was originally published, Google pointed CNET to a series of tweets from Hiroshi Lockheimer, its senior vice president of Android. Lockheimer criticizes Apple for using “coercion and bullying” to lock users into tweets.
However, there are a few changes that Apple could make to fix this problem, similar to what it brought to the limitedusers on iOS 15.
RCS support in Apple’s Messages app, even a little
Apple should consider bringing RCS support to iOS 16. Apple has a history of embracing open formats after spending several years in development, and RCS already includes many iMessage-like features such as typing indicators, improved group chats, and encryption.
For example,and instead waited for the Qi standard to achieve widespread adoption before integrating it into the iPhone 8 and iPhone X in 2017. It even intended to build its own Qi-based AirPower wireless charger, but instead held back until 2020 to sell its own .
Apple doesn’t even have to give RCS full support to make a difference. It could keep non-iPhone news green and lean on iPhone-exclusive features like, which uses the iPhone’s Face ID to create facial animations to keep the Apple faithful hooked. However, supporting a few key features would greatly allow for a smoother communication experience while maintaining a degree of Apple exclusivity.
Apple could also support encryption between messages regardless of platform, especially as the company positions itself as an advocate for consumer privacy. You’d think that alone should be enough to get Apple to adopt RCS.
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Improve how Apple’s Messages app sends and receives SMS
If RCS support simply doesn’t happen in iOS, Apple could instead make the most of the limited bandwidth available within SMS and MMS.
Apple does this for at least one feature in the public beta of iOS 16. Within group chats that are handled via MMS, Appleso everyone gets an emoticon instead of text about how someone “Liked” or “Liked” a message. The Google Messages app has a similar feature.
Perhaps when photos and videos are sent via MMS, which was never designed for multi-lens cameras on modern phones, Apple’s Messages app could proactively suggest sending a link to iCloud instead of a crappy compressed image. This could work similar to the feature currently available in Google Photos that allows users to select multiple photos and generate a web link that you can share with friends or family members.
And much like Apple recently brought a version of FaceTime to the web for Android and Windows users, perhaps it could create a web-viewable version of iMessage. This could benefit its existing iPhone customers who would like to access iMessage from a Windows PC or Chromebook, while allowing Android phone owners to view messages and other shared content in the same way as an iPhone user. The idea would still be annoying for Android users, but it’s better than receiving text messages out of order during fast-moving group chats.
Build iMessage for Android
One of the most surprising revelations of last yearwas that Apple discussed creating an iMessage client for Android as early as 2013. However, Apple executives pushed the idea further due to concerns about competition. The prospect of Google buying WhatsApp worried Apple, and the company also worried that bringing iMessage to Android could make it easier for iPhone owners to switch to Google’s phone platform, as a WSJ story pointed out.
But a lot has changed since then, including Facebook buying WhatsApp instead of Google. Although Apple has opened up some of its products, such as FaceTime, it is also relying on its services to attract iPhone customers.
On the other hand, bringing iMessage to Android could instead draw more customers to Apple’s iPhone ecosystem. It’s a strategy that worked back in 2000 when it was launchedgreatly increased the customer base for Apple’s music store. Sure, it might convince some iPhone customers to jump ship and . But it could also help Apple reach a wider audience by introducing its products and services to Android users.