During Apple’s very public battle with Epic over the App Store and Fortnite, we learned a lot about the history of iMessage and how Apple’s executives were at one point split over whether or not to bring it to Android. The side that wanted to keep the messaging service as an Apple exclusive won the battle, leading us to a place where iMessage very much has a tight grip on iPhone users who have a fear of switching to an Android phone and becoming a “green bubble” in conversations with friends.
In a piece written by the Wall Street Journal over the weekend, several stories of iMessage being used to create tension between friends or in dating situations were shared. The stories, which focused mostly on teens and the shaming that can happen if one of their friends owns an Android phone and brings a green bubble to their conversation, aren’t new. We’ve heard all of this before. It has been well documented that the younger population isn’t fond of an Android user in their messaging space.
For those not familiar, all you really need to know is that when an iPhone user messages another iPhone user through iMessage (or “Messages”), they are basically sending an advanced chat, with the option to react to messages or send special emoji, have a more robust group experience with typing indicators, etc. If an Android user enters, they are entering through the ancient SMS or MMS protocols, where all of those advanced features don’t exist. So not only is their experience lessened by not being able to see the fun stuff their friends are incorporating into a group chat, information could also be missed. And of course, their bubble turns to green instead of the standard blue, highlighting their lesser experience.
Where this story took a turn this time around was when Google’s Hiroshi Lockheimer was quoted and then followed-up by commenting publicly on Twitter. The Android Twitter account also shared some thoughts.
In the article, Lockheimer, the SVP of Android and several other divisions at Google, talked about how this green bubble non-sense doesn’t really have to exist. He mentioned that there are industry-wide solutions available to let everyone connect “without artificial limits.” He took that a step further on Twitter by calling out Apple’s “lock-in” of users with iMessage and that “a company that has humanity and equity as a core part of its marketing” shouldn’t be “using peer pressure and bullying as a way to sell products.”
Apple’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
— Hiroshi Lockheimer (@lockheimer) January 8, 2022
The Android account quote-Tweeted Lockheimer with a similar message that straight-up said, “iMessage should not benefit from bullying” and that everyone can “fix this as one industry.”
The fix they are referring to is likely RCS or Rich Communication Services, the messaging standard adopted by the entire mobile industry, who has spent years implementing the tech in messaging apps to give everyone a more robust experience. Google introduced RCS into its Messages app and have since brought on all of the major US carriers in support.
Apple, at least as of today, hasn’t shown any interest in adding RCS to iMessage. They are very aware of what they have going and how a messaging app like iMessage could keep users around for years because of a fear of missing out. Should they come around, I’d imagine Google would be more than open to helping them implement the global standard. It also wouldn’t be terrible to see Apple finally bring iMessage to Android to rid the world of bubbles and the stories described above.
- UPDATE: Yep, Hiroshi Lockheimer is simply asking that Apple implement RCS and has offered once again to help make it happen.
We’re not asking Apple to make iMessage available on Android. We’re asking Apple to support the industry standard for modern messaging (RCS) in iMessage, just as they support the older SMS / MMS standards.
— Hiroshi Lockheimer (@lockheimer) January 10, 2022