In a blend of a bit of tech activism, Samsung – the world’s #1 Android manufacturer – recently unveiled an interesting video that aligns the tech giant with Google’s #GetTheMessage campaign. If you’re new around here and don’t already know, #GetTheMessage is a call for Apple to embrace RCS (Rich Communication Services) in iMessage to replace the outdated SMS/MMS protocol, bridging the gap between basic Android and iPhone messaging.
The RCS Advantage
Rich Communication Services (RCS) is more than just an SMS/MMS successor, though. It delivers the abilities we’ve come to love and expect in modern messaging apps like high quality media sharing and read receipts. Ironically, these are features quite prominent in Apple’s very own iMessage, so the inclusion of RCS as a replacement for MMS/SMS would not only be simple: it would make a lot of sense for everyone who carries a smartphone.
A Tale of Two Bubbles
Samsung’s video – titled “Green bubbles and blue bubbles want to be together” – draws inspiration from Romeo and Juliet, showcasing two users – symbolized by chat bubbles – yearning to communicate seamlessly; but they’re torn apart due to platform differences.
This is an obvious jab at Apple’s iMessage interface that notoriously differentiates between its own users and those on other platforms through blue and green bubbles. Blue represents rich, full-featured chats between iMessage users, while green is relegated to SMS/MMS-level interactions that result in reduced functionality. It’s a forced dichotomy that doesn’t have to exist in 2023, yet Apple chooses to keep things as-is.
Given the smartphone market distribution, especially in countries like the US where the populace is almost evenly split between Apple’s iPhone and Android devices (primarily Samsung), this fracture in messaging protocols often creates a fragmented and less-than-optimal user experience. And in the worst version of the story, it is even a platform for bullying in school-age users. And frankly, it’s a bit ridiculous.
Apple’s Ecosystem and the European challenge
Apple has reaped immense benefits by creating a tightly-knit ecosystem, of which iMessage is a critical part. However, this exclusivity is clearly a deliberate ploy to keep users anchored to its platform. Any other explanation from Apple is marketing garbage and nothing more. Yet, the winds of change might be blowing.
In the EU (which basically forced Apple’s hand on USB Type-C in the latest iPhones – another decade-old technology that Apple held off on adopting to milk its oddly-loyal fan base – is currently running an ongoing investigation to determine if iMessage can be categorized as a “core platform service” under DMA guidelines. If deemed so, Apple would be legally obligated to ensure its messaging platform can interoperate with other services. And you can guess what that would mean.
But we’re a ways off from seeing this actually happen, and make no mistake: Apple will keep iMessage closed off as long as possible if it keeps them strapped with cash. While I can commend Apple for some of their tech breakthroughs, situations like these are so ridiculous that I can’t help but get aggravated by the way they wield their control over the US populace. My hope is the day comes where Apple is forced to take down this particular piece of their walled garden, and something as basic as messaging no longer divides those who choose Android over iPhone.