Google has been doing a ton to make RCS, or Rich Communication Services, the standard messaging protocol across all mobile platforms. It worked with all the U.S. carriers, including AT&T and Verizon, to make Messages by Google the default app, where RCS is supported. It’s pruned its list of extraneous messaging apps and consolidated to only the most essential ones. And it’s now cryptically trolling Apple into playing nice.
Yesterday, the company’s SVP of Android, Hiroshi Lockheimer, called out to Apple indirectly in a cheeky tweet. It all started when Golf Digest reported on pro-golfer Bryson DeChambeau’s difficult time as the sole green bubble in a group chat. One of DeChambeau’s teammates called it a “pain in the butt” that he’s the only player on the U.S. Ryder Cup team without an iPhone.
Lockheimer tweeted in solidarity. “Group chats don’t need to break this way,” he wrote, adding that there is a “Really Clear Solution” to DeChambeau’s issue with his teammates—clearly an acrostic referring to RCS. Lockheimer ended the tweet inviting anyone “who can make this right” to call on Google for help in adding compatibility.
Google’s been working on migrating its Android userbase over to RCS for years. However, it’s been a slightly confusing process as carriers dipped in and out of supporting the standard before ultimately settling on it. The SMS-based protocol is a feature-rich version of the standard text message that’s been around for over a decade. Many U.S. Android users should have access to its features now, including read receipts, typing status, and location sharing—provided you’re communicating with a compatible Android device. RCS also enables end-to-end encryption—something iPhone users have quietly enjoyed in iMessage for a while now.
Apple isn’t interested in supporting RCS, however, because it doesn’t have to. The company’s proprietary iMessage protocol has worked fine for its users within its well-groomed walled garden. It’s why the term “green bubble” has become a common pejorative to refer to the one Android friend in the iMessage group chat.
Google will likely continue to attempt to lure one of its biggest competitors openly into joining its messaging party, as Apple is the last holdout to convert to RCS. At present, one of the biggest punchlines against the search giant is that it’s already botched its messaging rollout, first by confusing everyone with a mass of messaging apps and then by waiting too long to move over to RCS.
At the very least, Android users finally have a unified messaging platform they can collectively count on to interoperate with one another. But the only way we’re likely to see some parity between Android Messages and Apple’s iMessage is through third-party hijinks like Beeper, which purport to funnel messages through the appropriate servers to help bridge the massive platform gap.