The Reason Google Just Publicly Called Out Apple

Google has publicly called out Apple for causing one of the biggest issues with text messaging. The most obvious visual difference is the color of the text bubbles, as messages sent between iPhones and through Apple's iMessage system are blue, while standard text messages appear green, but this isn't the issue Google has.

Apple's iMessage system was introduced in 2011, and allows iOS users to message each other via the internet. The messages are sent and received through the same app Apple's customers use for regular texts, and regular texts are sent if iMessages are disabled or the person sending or receiving the message lacks an internet connection. It also includes other features, like the ability to tag individual contacts in group chats, react to specific messages, and share your location.

However, when sending a message between an iPhone and a device that uses a different OS like Android, texts don't have any of these features. That's because they're sent over an archaic system, and after years of debate, it seems Google has finally had enough.

Apple previously killed an Android version of iMessage

Android users could have been using an app that worked with Apple's iMessage ecosystem as far back as 2013 — but Apple decided to kill the idea. The whole thing was revealed last year when Apple's SVP of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue, gave a deposition during the silicon valley giant's lawsuit with Epic Games. Apparently, when both smartphone operating systems were in their early days, Apple was capable of and considering making an app that would allow users of non-Apple devices to send iMessages. However, several leading figures at Apple, including SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi and SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller, shut the idea down quickly.

The opposition was based on the idea that expanding the iMessage system would cost Apple sales. There was a belief that a large number of people, children especially, chose iPhones because of the messaging system. Apple's higher-ups also identified iMessage as "a serious lock-in factor of the Apple ecosystem."

But it isn't access to the iMessage ecosystem Google is asking for. The rival tech company is demanding Apple stop holding everyone else's go-to messaging system back.

Google tells Apple to fix texting

If you're texting an iPhone user from an Android phone, you may notice the images that you send and receive are of very low quality and videos are even worse. Sometimes they have no sound, and can often have low visual fidelity to boot. Google says this problem exists because messages sent between Android and iOS go through the SMS and MMS systems — something it describes as "out-of-date technologies from the 90s and 00s."

Other issues Google has flagged include an inability to send messages over WiFi, a lack of end-to-end encryption, the color contrast between the white and green of messages on iPhones, and the absence of read receipts. To back its claims, Google cites a selection of social media posts where members of the public call out Apple for not bothering with the new standard of texting. The company also links to a variety of stories from a number of news sources backing its claims.

Finally, if it wasn't obvious enough, Google directly calls out Tim Cook's company. The website says: "The bad experience you get when texting Android users is created by Apple. But they can fix it by switching from SMS/MMS to RCS, the modern industry standard. And everyone's experience would be better," before pushing the hashtag #GetTheMessage.

The company also points to other messaging apps as a potential workaround. Apps like WhatsApp and Signal don't use the SMS or MMS systems, so they lack the issues present with texting. They're also available on Android and iOS. However, they aren't perfect. While text messages can be sent over a standard phone network, communications on messaging apps can't. They require an internet connection of some sort. So if you're without WiFi, 5G, or LTE, you're stuck.

What is the new standard?

There is a new global standard for messaging, and it's called Rich Communication Services (RCS). The system works on Android over Google's Messages app, with cell providers and other phone manufacturers also welcome to adopt the new open system. As of 2022, RCS is available in almost all countries, with the only notable exceptions being Russia, China, and Iran.

So, what is the RCS standard? It is essentially a more modern, updated, messaging system capable of matching the demands of modern texting. It's faster, allows encryption, and most importantly can send pictures and videos that haven't been compressed beyond all recognition.

Google enabled the service in the United States back in 2019, then RCS via Messages went global in 2020. Now, two years later, Apple still hasn't jumped on board. This means messages that go between Android and iOS devices are stuck using the old system, which was designed long before the first smartphones hit the market. As somewhere around half of all cellphone users in the US have an iPhone (via Counterpoint Research), the chances are we'll be stuck with both SMS and MMS until Apple decides otherwise. And pressure from outside the company's ecosystem may not be likely to change that.