Google hasn’t become a competitor to iMessage because “None of Google’s internal divisions have clear responsibility for messaging”
Rather than complaining about Apple’s iMessage service and pushing the company to adopt RCS, Google could easily solve its problems by creating a unified messaging platform, but experts say the company has been “long plagued” by too many cooks in the kitchen, not prioritizing it at all at this point.
Last week, a Wall Street Journal article detailed how Apple is targeting American teens with its iMessage service. In response, Google SVP Hiroshi Lockheimer tweeted: “Apple’s iMessage lockout is a well-documented tactic. Using peer pressure and bullying as a way to sell a product is a great idea for a company that has humanity and fairness at its core. It’s dishonest. It’s marketing. The standards that exist today address that.
Apple’s iMessage lockout is a documented policy. For a company that makes humanity and fairness a core part of its marketing, it would be dishonest to use peer pressure and bullying as a way to sell a product. Standards that exist today can solve this problem. https://t.co/MiQqMUOrgn
— Hiroshi Lockheimer (@lockheimer) January 8, 2022
Lockheimer was referring to the solution that got Apple to adopt Rich Communication Services (RCS), a standard created by the GSMA in 2008 as an upgrade to SMS as we know it. RCS provides better messaging capabilities with end-to-end encryption and support for non-telephone devices.
Google has been pushing for the standard for years, and after much persuasion, major U.S. carriers backed Google’s efforts to make Google Messages the default on the best Android phones, making Apple a major pushback. Apple has not publicly denied that it will not adopt RCS, but it is clear from Epic’s trials with Apple that Apple is deliberately refusing to take a strong position in iMessage.
“I’m concerned that iMessage on Android will only remove barriers for iPhone families to provide their children with Android phones,” Apple executive Craig Federighi wrote in an April 2013 email that was revealed during the trial. “I think we need to get Android customers to use and rely on Apple products,” the email added.
Would letting Apple adopt RCS force the company to rethink its default green bubble bullying?
Ars Technica reviews editor and reporter Ron Amadeo said in an interview that Apple encourages bullying, but it does so through the iMessage user experience, which is “designed for ‘other’ Android users with green bubbles.”
He said it was Apple’s marketing strategy and the company “hopes that people look down on Android users.” But he added that getting Apple to adopt RCS doesn’t necessarily mean bullying will stop.
“However, I don’t think a change in the underlying protocol will solve the user experience issues with iMessage. If you swap SMS for RCS and your bubble is still green, I don’t think anything will change. Bullying is usually not based on logic. Because I think the bullying issue is mostly related to Apple’s marketing strategy, and it doesn’t make sense to me to suggest a protocol change as a solution,” – Ron Amadeo, Ars Technica’s commentary editor and reporter.
Anshel Sag, a senior analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, doesn’t necessarily think Apple is bullying, but that the company’s policies have contributed to the behavior.
“Apple ultimately cares about what’s best for its own ecosystem and its users, and their behavior with iMessage and RCS has made that very clear. I think Google’s launching its own version or a competitor to iMessage will not solve the problem.”
Why can’t Google create a unified messaging system? TLDR: Messaging service is not the main responsibility
In an article for Ars Technica, Amadeo wrote: “It’s a ludicrous idea for Google to advise other companies on messaging strategies, since Google is probably the least trusted of all tech companies when it comes to messaging services.”
Ron Amadeo says Google doesn’t have a clear department responsible for messaging
He tweeted that since Apple launched iMessage in 2011, Google has launched 13 different messaging apps.
“It’s so embarrassing to complain about this. We’ve been pleading with you for years to support a single messaging platform. We scream that messaging is important and you should leave resources behind. When Hangouts supports texting, you have A great platform, but you just… lose interest,” he tweeted.
Since launching iMessage in 2011, Google has launched 13 different messaging apps. Maybe take L on this one. you deserved. https://t.co/cYwMFzmGig https://t.co/INyk4C1YWH
– Ron Amadeo (@RonAmadeo) January 9, 2022
The crux of the problem, Amadeo told Android Central, is that Google has not yet become a competitor to iMessage because “no department within Google has a clear responsibility for messaging, and the Google CEO doesn’t ask any department to make messaging a primary responsibility. “
Rene Ritchie, a tech analyst and former editorial director at iMore, agreed, saying that Google “has long been plagued by too many chefs in the kitchen, a lot of internal politics, and many competing agendas.”
“Why did Hangouts get killed? Politics. Why is every Pixel so different? Politics. It’s a hard problem for them to solve,” he said.
Ritchie added that if Google had something like WhatsApp, Messenger or Instagram IM, this messaging problem wouldn’t be as big.
“Similarly [Google’s] Its share in North America is declining. If they develop Android here, I don’t think it will be there. It’s amazing that Google in all companies has not locked this in,” he said.
Technology analyst Carmi Levy said that since Google doesn’t care or prioritize unified messaging at all, customers don’t care either,
“Google has launched a number of attempts to compete directly with iMessage over the years, but due to the company’s unwillingness and/or inability to properly resource the service at launch and continue to market to users over time, they have degree of failure,” he said. “Similar to Google’s failed attempts to become a significant player in social media (remember Buzz, Orkut, and Google+?), its half-hearted attempts to lead the messaging space failed to engage users and get them to standardize on these new product workflow.”
The issue between Google and Apple is important, you should care about RCS
Android Central recently conducted a poll asking readers whether Apple should adopt RCS or bring iMessage to Android phones. Of the 2,741 respondents, 76% said iMessage should get RCS support, while 23.5% said Apple should bring iMessage to Android.
One reader, deltatux, noted that neither Apple’s or Google’s Messages apps are widely available outside the US, but bringing RCS to iMessage still fits with Apple’s desire to keep its apps platform-specific:
In many parts of the world, iMessage doesn’t control the messaging market, so the issue appears to be largely affecting the US. Outside the US, many people already use WhatsApp, Telegram, WeChat, Viber, LINE, Signal, etc., which are already multi-platform.
While RCS is not ideal, it is a drop-in replacement for SMS. Apple wants to lock down users with iMessage to keep iPhone sales going, so bringing RCS to iMessage wouldn’t go against their desire to lock down iPhone users.
Outside of the US, I’m not sure how attractive it would be for users if Apple launched iMessage on Android, as many iPhone users in these markets may already be using multi-platform messaging apps alongside iMessage, and Android users may got used to it.
In Canada, people generally expect you to have at least WhatsApp. Sure, iMessage is widely used here, but it doesn’t seem to be as much an expectation as it is in the US.
Whether you’re an iOS user with a blue bubble or an Android user with a green bubble popping up, Ritchie says RCS is still the new system that people should care about.
“While it’s immature and most people in the world use apps, it’s not private or secure to have iMessage failover to SMS. I’d rather it failover to RCS, which is now 1:1 encrypted, I’m considering 1:N encryption,” he said.
While Google has been urging Apple to adopt RCS and complaining about iMessage issues for a long time, Sag said it’s still a story people should care about.
“It’s always been a concern, in my opinion, because it reduces people’s ability to communicate with each other and communicate quickly and efficiently,” he said. “Having an Android user in a group chat really breaks the user experience for an iMessage user, and having an iOS user in a chat to notify an Android user of a message they’ve received is useless without an actual visual cue.”
On the other hand, Levy added, Google may care more about the RCS/iMessage narrative than its customers. He said that while some Android users may feel “a little embarrassed” when their information comes up as a green bubble for iOS users, “in the end, I think Google’s accusation is more than a sign that it’s against being beaten by competitors.”