Will Android and iPhone users ever share a messaging platform? Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo
Again, people are talking about how Apple won’t play nice with Android devices. This time, Google Senior Vice President Hiroshi Lockheimer, who oversees Android, is putting Apple to the test on its battle with the green bubble and is urging the company to embrace a new standard for text messaging that will allow communication between will make platforms easier.
On Saturday, Lockheimer tweeted that Apple’s walled garden around iMessage is a “documented strategy”, adding that the company uses peer pressure and bullying to sell its products, despite its marketing focused on “humanity and fairness”.
Lockheimer specifically mentioned how Apple could support Rich Communication Services, or RCS, but choose not to. The messaging standard has effectively united all Android devices on one SMS platform after years of crusade. The three major US carriers all support RCS. It is available by default through the Google Messages app, which comes standard on all Android devices, just as Apple Messages comes standard on all Apple devices. In fact, the last endurance to get RCS standardized on mobile platforms is Apple.
Today Lockheimer refused that his tweets criticized Apple’s refusal to bring iMessage to Android. Instead, he wants Apple to support RCS in iMessage, just as the company supports older SMS/MMS standards. He even volunteered to help Apple implement RCS, doubling plead made late last year.
Lockheimer insists that by adopting RCS, Apple would also help more people connect.
“Phone number based messaging is the fallback,” Lockheimer tweeted. “If you want to reach someone and you don’t know if they’re using app xy or z, you have every confidence that texting (text) will work.” It’s a standard that has long been supported by mobile devices, which Lockheimer says is “probably why Apple supported SMS.”
Lockheimer is right. Support for RCS would improve the experience for both iOS and Android users. Speaking as an old android user means I could have encrypted conversations with my loved ones who use iPhones without having to use a third-party app, and I was finally able to receive video clips as intended from my Apple-using friends.
But Google is also responsible for its disorganized messaging strategy over the years, which it still hasn’t discovered and scaled down. Google currently has a handful of messaging services, including Google Messages, Google Chat/Hangouts (depending on whether you flipped the switch or not), and Google Voice. There is also messaging and chat functionality built into other Google apps, including Google Photos and Google Maps Business Messages, which let you chat with restaurant and store owners.
Lockheimer only had one thing: phone numbers are a universal way to find out if someone is on a messaging platform. Apps like Signal, Telegram, and WhatsApp serve as second- and third-rate messaging platforms for the same people I communicate with via text message. And when Google Messages can’t perform a task, such as a large video file or end-to-end encryption, due to platform differences, my loved ones and I use one of the backups listed above by default.
I have no hope that Apple will adopt RCS as the company has little incentive to – be customers don’t mind being locked up, as annoying as it is for their Android friends.
Google would do better to create a universal messaging solution that brings them all together – third party and first party – making it easier for users to move back and forth between conversations. We’ve already heard that some of this universal use is coming to Chrome OS’s phone app later this year. Google could make Android better by simplifying its own messaging apps and allowing one-click access to every option so that Apple’s decisions don’t matter.
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