Apple’s iMessage is getting a serious overhaul later this 12 months with iOS 16, however most of those new options, like unsending a message or modifying a textual content, will solely work if the individual you’re texting additionally has an iPhone. 

Since Apple has full management over its messaging platform, iPhone house owners get a constant expertise that works effectively whatever the provider or particular iPhone mannequin. Nevertheless it’s additionally inadvertently created a protracted historical past of separating folks into “blue” and “inexperienced” bubbles based mostly on whether or not they’re utilizing an iPhone or Android telephone. Apple additionally depends on the dated MMS customary for non-iMessage group chats, which leads to a scarcity of help for contemporary options like learn receipts and higher-quality photos.

Whereas social pressures amongst those who do and don’t present up as a blue bubble have been often documented, equivalent to in the Wall Road Journal amongst teenagers and younger folks, the a lot greater challenge revolves round common communication. There is no such thing as a single, trendy texting customary that works throughout all telephones. Wealthy Communication Providers, or RCS, is the closest various that probably would not require putting in yet one more chat app. 

Whereas RCS itself is an open customary, the most typical approach persons are utilizing it’s inside Google’s Messages app on Android telephones. Google reported at this 12 months’s I/O developer convention in Could that Google Messages has a half billion month-to-month energetic customers. The corporate’s funding in each the RCS customary and its Messages app comes after a protracted historical past of launching proprietary texting apps that didn’t acquire the notoriety of iMessage or Meta’s WhatsApp. Google is constant this proprietary texting technique alongside its RCS funding, most lately by shutting down its Hangouts app and migrating customers into the Google Chat app as an alternative.

RCS helps many iMessage-like options equivalent to typing indicators and learn receipts. However its rollout has been fragmented as US telephone carriers every individually introduced plans to make RCS the default choice on most Android telephones. Whereas RCS is not at the moment interoperable with iOS, Google has constructed cross-platform message reactions into its texting app to enhance how texts from an iPhone seem inside Android. Other options which might be already in iMessage, equivalent to group chat encryption, are nonetheless in improvement for RCS and Google’s Messages app. 

The RCS customary is a step ahead in making messaging extra uniform throughout the wide range of Android units that exist. However with out iOS adoption, its impression on the standard of messaging between Android and iPhones stays restricted. 

As one of many greatest gamers within the cell phone business, Apple might make an even bigger effort to set up a extra constant texting expertise throughout units. However the query is whether or not doing so is within the firm’s curiosity. Apple typically touts its management over iOS as a promoting level for shoppers, and shifting away from iMessage might jeopardize that. 

Apple didn’t reply to CNET’s request for remark. When this commentary was initially printed, Google pointed CNET to a sequence of tweets from Hiroshi Lockheimer, its senior vice chairman for Android. Lockheimer criticizes Apple for utilizing “stress and bullying” to lock in customers within the tweets. 

Nevertheless, there are just a few adjustments Apple might make to handle this challenge, related to the way in which it introduced a restricted FaceTime expertise to Android and Home windows customers in iOS 15.

Supporting RCS in Apple’s Messages app, even somewhat bit

Apple ought to take into account bringing RCS help to iOS 16. Apple has a historical past of adopting open codecs after they’ve spent just a few years creating, and RCS already contains many iMessage-like options equivalent to typing indicators, enhanced group chats and encryption.

As an example, Apple didn’t race into the wi-fi charging area and as an alternative waited for the Qi customary to attain widespread adoption earlier than integrating it into the iPhone 8 and iPhone X in 2017. It even supposed to construct its personal Qi-based AirPower wi-fi charger, however as an alternative held again till 2020 to promote its personal MagSafe wi-fi chargers.

Apple does not even have to give RCS a full endorsement to make a distinction. It might preserve non-iPhone messages inexperienced and lean on iPhone-exclusive options like Memoji, which makes use of the iPhone’s Face ID to create facial animations, to preserve Apple loyalists hooked. However supporting just a few key options would go a great distance in permitting for a smoother communication expertise whereas maintaining a level of Apple exclusivity.

Apple might additionally help encryption between messages whatever the platform, particularly because the firm positions itself as a shopper privateness advocate. One would motive that this alone needs to be sufficient for Apple to embrace RCS. 

Improve how Apple’s Messages app sends and receives SMS

confetti-imessage

Apple’s iMessage contains numerous enjoyable animations which might be invisible to anybody who is not utilizing an iPhone in your group chat.


Jason Cipriani/CNET

If supporting RCS is just not going to occur in iOS, Apple might as an alternative benefit from the restricted bandwidth accessible inside SMS and MMS. 

Apple is doing this for no less than one function within the iOS 16 public beta. Inside group chats which might be being dealt with over MMS, Apple’s Messages app will translate reactions so everybody receives an emoji as an alternative of a textual content about how somebody “Preferred” or “Cherished” a message. Google’s Messages app has related performance. 

Maybe when photographs and movies are despatched over MMS, which was by no means designed for the multi-lens cameras on trendy telephones, Apple’s Messages app might proactively recommend sending an iCloud hyperlink as an alternative of a grungy compressed image. This might work equally to a function at the moment accessible in Google Pictures that enables customers to choose a number of photographs and generate an internet hyperlink to share with your mates or members of the family. 

And, related to how Apple lately introduced a model of FaceTime to the net for Android and Home windows customers, perhaps it might create a model of iMessage that’s viewable on the internet. This might profit its current iPhone clients who would love to entry iMessage from a Home windows PC or Chromebook, whereas additionally permitting Android telephone house owners to view messages and different shared content material the identical approach an iPhone consumer would. This concept would nonetheless be annoying for Android customers, however it’s higher than receiving texts out of order throughout fast-flowing group chats. 

Construct iMessage for Android

One of the vital stunning revelations from final 12 months’s Apple v. Epic trial was that Apple had mentioned constructing an iMessage consumer for Android again in 2013. However Apple executives handed on the concept over considerations concerning the competitors. The opportunity of Google shopping for WhatsApp fearful Apple, and the corporate additionally feared that bringing iMessage to Android might make it simpler for iPhone house owners to swap to Google’s telephone platform, because the WSJ story identified. 

However a lot has modified within the years since, together with Fb’s buy of WhatsApp as an alternative of Google. Though Apple has opened up a few of its merchandise like FaceTime, it additionally depends on its providers to lock in iPhone clients.

Then again, bringing iMessage to Android might as an alternative draw extra clients to Apple’s iPhone ecosystem. It is a technique that labored approach again within the 2000s, when launching iTunes on Home windows significantly elevated the client base for Apple’s music retailer. Positive, it’d persuade some iPhone clients to bounce ship and swap to Android. Nevertheless it might additionally assist Apple attain a wider viewers by exposing Android customers to its merchandise and providers.

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