This Modest Proposal Solves the Apple-Google ‘Green Bubble’ Debate
Apple just needs to make one simple change to its messaging app. But Google won’t like it.
By Sascha Segan
Apple and Google are locked in a battle over messaging. Google wants Apple to implement RCS (rich communication services) in its Messages app on iPhones to improve the experience of “green bubble” texting to Android users. Apple says, well, no.
RCS is the industry-standard replacement for SMS, the 25-year-old text messaging system. It adds better security, read receipts, better media handling, and various other features you expect from a messaging system not made in the 1990s.
I want to point out that I’m a primary Android user. I’ve never personally had an iPhone. But I also know Apple, and Apple doesn’t do something if it isn’t in Apple’s interest. Google has shown absolutely no reason this move would be in Apple’s interest.
Apple’s not going to buckle and add a new messaging protocol because Google wants it to, but Google is right! SMS is insecure, lousy with group messaging and media, and in general it should be retired.
“It’s the blurry videos, broken group chats, missing read receipts and typing indicators, no texting over Wi-Fi, and more,” Google says. That’s correct—texting in Apple’s Messages app to Android users is pretty bad. Security researchers and technologists generally agree: if possible, nobody should be using SMS anymore.
All Apple needs to do is make SMS read-only in the Messages app.
iOS users need to read SMS to receive configuration messages from their carriers and to get two-factor authentication messages from services they sign up for. But there’s no real reason any iOS user needs to send an SMS.
There are a lot of ways to get in touch with people; SMS doesn’t have to be one of them.
2 Answers, Neither From Google
Apple has two clear, consistent answers for people who complain about texting groups of mixed Android and iOS phones. It just needs to put its software where its mouth is, by disabling SMS and letting the chips fall where they may.
The first answer is great for competition and innovation: use a messaging app, such as WhatsApp, Viber, Line, Kakao, Signal, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, or Matrix. Many people outside the US already do this; the obsession with still sending SMS is largely an American thing, dating back to our carriers’ early adoption of unlimited texting buckets.
What about businesses that want to communicate over text messaging? Apple has a Business Chat product for them.
Yes, you’d lose the easy default of knowing that everyone you know is on the same messaging system. Apple has a simple answer for that: tell them to get an iPhone.
From Apple’s perspective, it doesn’t want to make the iMessage experience with Android users easier. As Apple exec Craig Federighi suggested in a 2016 email, iMessage is a “sticky” app that keeps people on the iOS platform and helps them convince their families to sign up for it, too.
Apple telling Android users to pick a third-party app also sticks it to Google; it’s a “we’ll pick any solution but yours” solution. And yes, Apple can be that petty.
Families Won’t Really Be Shattered
An SMS-free iMessage would be a huge boon to third-party messaging app developers. It would reduce the usage of an insecure protocol, and it would only be some temporary annoyance for families as everyone has a quick argue about what app to use.
Every family in Europe had this argument years ago. They’re all on WhatsApp now. Every family in Korea did, too. They’re all on Kakao. In Japan, they’re on Line.
In fact, Apple may see a big drop in iMessage usage as, over time, families just start chats on their third-party messenger because many families are cross-platform, they don’t want to have to negotiate, and they enjoy high-quality, family-wide messaging.
And then it may realize it wants to implement RCS in iMessage.
Originally published at https://www.pcmag.com.