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Google Wants Apple To Adopt RCS, Not iMessage On Android

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In recent years, Google SVP Hiroshi Lockheimer has been very vocal in criticizing Apple for not supporting the new RCS (Rich Communication Services) messaging standard. But his latest comments were possibly the harshest yet when he labeled Apple’s iMessage lock-in policy as a “documented strategy“. Now, he has come up with some follow-up “thoughts and clarifications” on those comments.

Firstly, Lockheimer said Google isn’t asking Apple to make iMessage available on Android (via). What the company wants is for the iPhone maker to support RCS in iMessage like it does SMS/MMS. After all, RCS is an evolution from the traditional messaging standards. This will make the text messaging experience between Android and iOS devices more seamless and complete.

“Phone number-based messaging is the fallback that we all know will work,” the Google executive said. “If you want to reach someone and you don’t know whether they use app x y or z, you have high confidence that sending them a text (SMS) will work. That’s because it’s a standard and supported by essentially all mobile devices. That’s probably why Apple supported SMS, to begin with.”

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RCS builds on this phone number-based messaging and adds modern features like typing indicators, read receipts, end-to-end encryption, and more. Apple does offer all these features in iMessage but only on iPhones. It distinguishes Android users in a messaging group, making them feel excluded. As Lockheimer indicated, this is a “documented strategy” to build peer pressure on Android users to switch to iOS.

By adding support for RCS on iMessage, Apple could easily make its messaging app more interoperable with Android. But it doesn’t want to do so for its selfish benefits. That’s what Lockheimer is not happy about. “By not incorporating RCS, Apple is holding back the industry and holding back the user experience for not only Android users but also their own customers,” the Google executive added.

Google is ready to help Apple on bringing RCS to iMessage

Google is gaining support from wireless carriers in its RCS support. Most major operators have pledged to roll out RCS on their networks this year, or in the coming years. But without Apple’s support, it will be limited to Android smartphones. Messaging between Android and iOS will remain as it is. Google wants to make RCS ubiquitous on mobile devices and it needs Apple to get on board for this. And if the latter needs a helping hand for bringing RCS to iMessage, the company is up for it.

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“We’re happy to work with Apple to make RCS interop a reality,” Lockheimer said. Time will tell whether Apple ever gives up on iMessage’s lock-in effect and finally makes the app more interoperable with Android.