Here in the United States, there’s no escaping the fact that iMessage is the most dominant messaging platform among smartphone users. While this is most definitely not the case everywhere else on the planet, Americans love their iPhones and the built-in utility of Apple’s messaging service is simple, accessible, and so baked-in that most people don’t even consider the need for anything else.
This has caused all sorts of rifts, obviously, and gives many iPhone users all the incentive they need to simply stay put in the Apple ecosystem of devices. That is the reason Apple hasn’t extended iMessage to other platforms like Android or Windows: it keeps users locked in. That is equal parts nefarious and brilliant depending on how you look at it, but Apple builds quite a bit of their empire around this concept and it isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
Messaging platforms have come and gone over the years in an attempt to supplant or simply compete with iMessage, but nothing has come close to swaying iPhone users to leave behind Apples messenger in favor of a more universal solution. As Google has tried and failed to deliver a similar unified solution for Android, they’ve finally landed on RCS Chat as the final way that a single messaging platform will be delivered to Android users. After waiting what felt like an eternity for carriers to adopt the universal standard, Google took matters into their own hands and began using their own servers to enable all the great RCS Chat features we see in Android Messages today.
While there’s no guarantee that Apple will ever play ball with RCS Chat in iMessage, the closer RCS Chat features get to lining up with what iMessage is capable of, the closer we may get to the possibility of Apple relenting and adding in the support for it. For that to ever happen, however, RCS Chat needs to do many of the things that iMessage already does: send high quality images/videos, allow for groups, visualize read receipts, visualize real-time typing responses, and allow for reactions to messages. RCS Chat can do all these things save one: message reactions.
It seems Google is hard at work to bring this feature over to Android Messages according to a report from 9to5 Google. In a teardown of the latest APK, it looks like Google is adding several message reactions, such as:
- Thumbs up
- Thumbs down
- Angry face
- Face with tears of joy
- Smiling face with heart eyes
- Crying face
- Face with open mouth
While this isn’t vastly different than many other messengers with options to react to certain messages, this is most definitely not a thing general SMS/MMS messaging can do. RCS Chat is being set up as the heir to supplant those older forms of communication eventually and will slowly become the messaging standard for anyone not on an iPhone in time. With users of other messaging platforms becoming very used to having this ability, RCS Chat needs to be able to allow for message reactions as well.
While there doesn’t need to be full-blown feature parity between RCS Chat and iMessage, having the core pieces in place should help Apple to eventually decide to stop making any non-iMessage correspondences into the dreaded green bubbles. Perhaps they adopt a new shade for this type of message: one that lets iPhone users still know that the person they are talking to isn’t an iMessage user (since this seems to be important for some reason), but that also conveys the user has the ability to take advantage of all the new, fun things messengers are capable of. If the rest of the world begin leveraging RCS Chat as the de facto messaging app on their phones, I imagine a scenario like this could play out in the future. But RCS Chat needs to keep getting the features users expect and start becoming the full replacement to texting that it was built to be. This is another great step in that direction.