Thu. May 19th, 2022

Although we tend to think of text messages and SMS as synonyms, this is not entirely the case. SMS (short messaging service) is simply the original technical standard for text messages. In recent years, there has been a drive to switch to RCS (Rich Communication Services or Rich Communication Suite), a more sophisticated text messaging standard.

Unfortunately, that has not happened, mainly due to the rivalry between Apple and Google, and that is something Google wants to change …

Let’s start with a little background.

text message

Text messages were first introduced back in the days of feature phones. It used a standard known as SMS, which was a very basic one that was adapted to the limited capabilities of the phones at the time. It was limited to 160 characters and alphanumeric only. The closest you could get to emojis were “emoticons”: using regular punctuation to create things like smiles 🙂 and frown :-(.

Because SMS is an important standard of communication, every phone today can use it, whether it is iPhones or Android phones.

On the iPhone, you know when a message uses SMS because it will be a green bubble rather than the blue bubble of iMessages using a far more sophisticated Apple-specific messaging system.


With the advent of smartphones, there was a need for a more advanced form of text messaging. The GSM Association – the standard body for mobile phones – came up with RCS.

The plan was for all carriers and smartphone manufacturers to adopt the RCS. The older SMS standard could then be withdrawn.

Google was a fan of RCS, so this has now been adopted by all Android phones – as it was a way to enable iMessage-like features. Apple has so far not added support to RCS, so the upcoming universal standard is currently only Android. Therefore, we still need the older SMS standard to allow communication between iPhones and Android phones.

Switch to RCS with our help, says Google

Google SVP Hiroshi Lockheimer decided to tease Apple.

The reference to group chats breaks when there is an Android user in an otherwise only iPhone group message related to this:

Lockheimer’s tweet is, of course, one in the tongue: Apple would not need help adopting the RCS; it is simply that the company will not do it.

A popular theory is that in some social circles it can be seen as embarrassing to be “the green bubble person” in a group chat, and Apple sees it as a selling point for iPhones.

Personally, I hope that both bubble snobs and Apple get over themselves and that Apple adopts RCS along with iMessage. Unfortunately, however, this tweet is unlikely to help the cause.

Photo: Alexander Shatov / Unsplash

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