Tue. May 17th, 2022

A photo of an Android phone focusing on the Messages app icon

Android’s Messaging app is still waiting for a holdout, and that’s Apple.
Photo: Sam Rutherford / Gizmodo

Google has done a ton to make RCS or Rich Communication Services the standard messaging protocol across all mobile platforms. It worked with all the US carriers, including AT&T and Verizon, to make Messages from Google the default app that supports RCS. It’s cropped his list foreign messaging apps and consolidated only to the most essential. And it now trolls cryptically to play well.

Yesterday, the company’s SVP for Android, Hiroshi Lockheimer, indirectly called Apple in one naughty tweet. It all started when Golf Digest reported about pro golfer Bryson DeChambeau’s difficult time as the only green bubble in a group chat. One of DeChambeau’s teammates called it a “pain in the butt” that he is the only player on the American Ryder Cup team without an iPhone.

Lockheimer tweeted in solidarity. “Group chats do not have to break this way,” he wrote, adding that there is a “really clear solution” to DeChambeau’s problem with his teammates – clearly an acrostic referring to RCS. Lockheimer ended the tweet, inviting anyone “who can do this right” to call Google for help adding compatibility.

Google has been working on migrating its Android user base to RCS for years. However, it has been a somewhat confusing process as carriers dipped in and out of supporting the standard before eventually settling on it. The SMS-based protocol is a feature-rich version of the standard text message that has been around for over a decade. Many US Android users should have access to its features now, including read receipts, key status, and location sharing – provided you communicate with a compatible Android device. RCS also enables end-to-end encryption– something iPhone users have been quietly enjoying in iMessage for a while now.

Apple is not interested in supporting RCS because it does not have to. The company’s proprietary iMessage protocol has worked well for its users in the manicured brick garden. Therefore, the term “green bubble” has become a common pejorative to refer to the one Android friend in the iMessage group chat.

Google will likely continue to try to entice one of its biggest competitors openly to join its messaging party, as Apple is the latest holdout to convert to RCS. At the moment, one of the biggest battles against the search giant is that it has already ruined its spread of messages, first by confusing everyone with a bunch of messaging apps and then by waiting too long to move over to RCS.

At the very least, Android users finally have a unified messaging platform that they can count on interacting with each other. But the only way we’re likely to see some parity between Android messages and Apple’s iMessage is through third-party hijinks like Bipper, which claims to send messages through the relevant servers to help bridge the massive platform gap.


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