Apple has unveiled a new generation of iPhones with better cameras, longer battery life, and a “Dynamic Island” instead of a notch. One thing the new phones won’t have is RCS messaging support. Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked at Vox Media’s Code 2022 event whether the company would heed Google’s calls to adopt the universal messaging standard. His reply was pretty snarky: “buy your mom an iPhone.”
The issue lies in how Apple connects iPhones through the default messaging app. When an iPhone user sends a message to another iPhone user, Apple intercepts it and routes it through a proprietary system you’ve probably heard of called iMessage. These messages can do more than your average SMS with higher quality media, read receipts, enhanced group chat, and so much more. When chatting with an Android user, messages revert back to the old SMS format with green text bubbles instead of blue.
Google has been running an awareness campaign in hopes of pressuring Apple to support the RCS standard that Android phones use for enhanced messaging. So far, no dice, and it sounds like it’s not even on Apple’s radar. At the Code conference, Vox Media’s LiQuan Hunt told Tim Cook that the lack of RCS is a real problem for him, explaining that he’s unable to send high-quality video to his mother. That’s when Cook spouted his “buy your mom an iPhone” line.
It’s no surprise this is the party line. Apple has no incentive to support RCS, and it would never allow Android devices to connect to iMessage. This helps reenforce the idea that Android phones take bad photos because they end up blurry when sent to iPhones as text messages. The way messaging works on iPhones is a major lock-in factor, too. People don’t want to lose their iMessage group chats they get when talking to their iPhone-using friends. Even though RCS has many of the same features, that only helps if you’re talking to other Android folks.
With Apple stonewalling, the only viable solution for those frustrated by the green bubble situation is to use a different messaging system. WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, and all the rest are simply connecting over the internet. They can implement whatever features they want, and they’ll work on all devices equally.