Google really wants Apple to support RCS messaging
Google has failed to establish a messaging platform for Android devices comparable to Apple’s iMessage. Between the slow death of Google Hangouts, the short life of Google Allo, and the gradual rollout of RCS that is dependent on either specific applications (mainly Google Messages) or mobile network operators, Google hasn’t quite figured it out yet. That isn’t stopping the company from pushing Apple to implement RCS, though.
Rich Communication Services, or RCS for short, is a technology that aims to replace SMS. Most implementations of RCS support larger files, read indicators, and other features that are common on internet-based messaging services. Much like iMessage, WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, and some other applications, SMS uses phone numbers for identification and messaging — if you’re texting someone, and both people have a phone with RCS support, your messages should use the new technology automatically.
In response to a Wall Street Journal article with the headline “Why Apple’s iMessage Is Winning: Teens Dread the Green Text Bubble,” Hiroshi Lockheimer (SVP for Android, Chrome, Chrome OS, Google Play, and Google Photos) said on Twitter, “Apple’s iMessage lock-in is a documented strategy. Using peer pressure and bullying as a way to sell products is disingenuous for a company that has humanity and equity as a core part of its marketing. The standards exist today to fix this.” The official Twitter account for Android quoted Lockheimer’s message, and added, “iMessage should not benefit from bullying. Texting should bring us together, and the solution exists. Let’s fix this as one industry.”
Even though neither tweet mentioned it directly, RCS is the standard regarded by Google as the solution. Google originally relied on mobile network operators to add RCS support on their end, but when that was moving along too slowly, the company started enabling it for anyone with Google Messages installed as the default SMS application. However, RCS still requires Google or Samsung’s messaging applications (there’s still no API for third-party apps, like there is for SMS), and end-to-end encryption isn’t always supported. RCS also still relies on owning (and sharing) a mobile phone number, instead of a free email address or other identifier.
Google did support cross-platform messaging back in the Google Chat days, using the open XMPP protocol (e.g. people on AOL Instant Messenger and Google Chat could talk to each other), but the company discontinued that in 2013.