Have you experienced that pictures you sent become blurry on the recipient's mobile phone? It could be because the message was sent from an iPhone to an Android or vice versa. This is because Apple and Google do not support each other's message formats. Why is it like that? Google wants RCS to be the new standard for next-generation SMS, while Apple wants iMessage to be the standard. The question all mobile users want to be answered now is whether the tech giants will agree on a standard messaging format or continue to go their separate ways.
Send richer messages with RCS
In recent years, mobile users have sent increasingly rich content in the form of images, videos, emojis and files via rich channels instead of simpler SMS. Mobile users have a lot to thank Apple and Google for this development. The two technology giants have long been at the forefront of mobile communication. Without channels such as iMessage and Messages, we would probably still send shorter SMS without emojis and images.
The rich format started with MMS, but flaws in, among other things, security meant that Apple and Google began developing their own messaging channels with features such as encrypted messages, read receipts and high-resolution images and videos. Due to the limitations of SMS and MMS, the Mobile Communications Association (GSMA), the founders of SMS, also started developing Rich SMS and Rich Communication Services (RCS) with the aim of creating a more modern and richer standard protocol for mobile messaging.
Google was early on with RCS
Google was involved early in the development of RCS through the purchase of Jibe Mobile, which until 2015 had been a driving force in the development of RCS. In 2018, Google rebranded the default Messages app on all Android mobile phones. The new Chat feature gave users, initially in a few countries, the ability to use RCS technology to send messages. It has since taken some time before countries worldwide have gained access to the technology. Today, there are still only a few countries that can use RCS; some of them are the USA, England, France, Brazil and India. Smaller countries such as Sweden have recently begun to access the service. Tele2 was first out in Sweden to offer its customers the ability to send RCS messages via Android.
For a long time, there has been talk about RCS and when the service will become available worldwide. Until today, companies and customers have instead used Rich SMS or OTT channels to be able to send rich messages, but now it seems the time for RCS has finally come.
Google challenges Apple
Although RCS is ready to use, a major obstacle still prevents the technology from reaching its full potential. Apple. RCS is currently only available for Android users. Therefore, Google has taken matters into its own hands and, through the #GetTheMessage campaign, publicly challenged Apple to start using RCS. But it's not the first time Google has challenged Apple. Google has previously criticised Apple's methods of keeping users within the ecosystem of products that Apple has built.
In the new campaign, Google goes even harder against Apple and, with the help of well-known influencers, challenges its users and followers to spread the message aimed at Apple.
The campaign starts with the words, "it's not about the color of the bubbles". Google believes that it is the quality of videos, non-functioning group chats and lack of read receipts, among many other things, that users miss out on when Apple and Google cannot cooperate on a standard protocol for messages. Google even goes so far as to recommend other competitors' messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, to prevent users from having a "broken" user experience.
Both RCS and iMessage rely on Wi-Fi connectivity for users to send rich messages. When there is no Wi-Fi connection, sent messages are converted to SMS (green bubbles). This ensures that messages always reach the recipient, which is why many companies still choose to send SMS. When messages are sent between Android and IOS, messages are also converted to SMS, although not due to a lack of Wi-Fi connection. Instead, it is the message format that causes it, which Google now wants to change.
Google has had enough and is now asking consumers to help solve the problem by spreading the word "#GetTheMessage" to Apple.
What will Apple respond?
So far, RCS has been rolled out to Android devices under Google's name. In contrast, Apple has focused on building its much-talked-about ecosystem, which in addition to products like the iPhone and Macbook, includes soft features like iMessage and Apple Messages for Business. The equivalent of RCS for companies in Apple's ecosystem is called Messages for Business and, like RCS, it will offer companies functions such as encrypted and branded messages. Just like RCS, Messages for Business is now being launched worldwide, and it will therefore take a lot for Apple to cancel the launch and switch to a message format that Google has helped develop.
In an excerpt from internal Apple email conversations uncovered last year when Epic Games challenged Apple's App Store, Apple employee Phil Schiller said, "moving iMessage to Android will hurt us more than help us." And when Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked about implementing RCS in iMessage during the Vox Media’s Code 2022 event in September he said: “I don’t hear our users asking that we put a lot of energy in on that at this point”. In other words, it doesn't sound very likely that we'll see Apple use RCS in the future. But the fact is, Apple has opened up to cross-platform use before – and it wasn't that long ago. FaceTime calls initially only worked between iOS users, but when the iOS 15 operating system was released in the fall of 2021, Android and Windows users could connect to FaceTime calls via web browsers for the first time. Therefore it cannot be ruled out that Apple will also build bridges to Android in the future.
Whether Apple will start using the RCS technology or continue to develop iMessage and Messages for Business thus remains to be seen. For now, we offer businesses the ability to send RCS messages to Android and Messages for Business messages to IOS. Customers want to receive messages in the messaging app they use the most. If this is not SMS, RCS or iMessage, companies can instead send messages via OTT channels such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. The OTT channels are available on all mobile phones, as long as the user has the chosen application downloaded.
LEKAB provides mobile messaging services, messaging APIs and software for advanced messaging and process automation. We offer digital tools and solutions to companies that want to optimise how they communicate and interact with customers and employees on the mobile to improve productivity, availability and the customer experience through mobile channels. Do you want to know more or ask us for advice? Contact Us!