EU ruling lets iMessage live another day without RCS support

Google Pixel 7a next to iPhones
(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • In naming the first six gatekeepers, the EU has listed 22 core platform services that must adhere to the Digital Markets Act.
  • Notably not among them is Apple's iMessage, which means it won't be forced to adopt RCS.
  • This fact is temporary, as the EU is launching a five-month-long investigation into Apple's iMessage and several Microsoft services to determine its future.

For now, the European Commission's latest decision lets Apple off the hook from bringing RCS support to iMessage. According to a press release, the EU has labeled six companies: Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, ByteDance, Meta, and Microsoft as "gatekeepers" under the Digital Markets Act (via BGR). The DMA's intention is to protect consumers and businesses by encouraging healthier competition between companies — and now, the Gatekeepers.

In doing so, the EU named 22 core platform services that give these companies their gatekeeper status, and Apple's iMessage is notably not one of them after the company argued that iMessage adoption is too small. A ruling like this will not require Apple to adopt RCS messaging support.

This is a temporary respite. The EU added that it will launch a five-month investigation into Apple's iMessage and Microsoft services such as Bing, Edge, and Advertising. The goal of the investigation is to see whether or not such services qualify as being a "core platform service."

"iMessage is a great service that Apple users love because it provides an easy way to communicate with friends and family while offering industry-leading privacy and security protections," Apple told our sister site iMore in response to the pending investigation. "Consumers today have access to a wide variety of messaging apps, and often use many at once, which reflects how easy it is to switch between them."

"iMessage is designed and marketed for personal consumer communications, and we look forward to explaining to the commission why iMessage is outside the scope of the DMA." 

If the EU deems that iMessage qualifies to fall under the DMA, Apple will essentially have until August 2024 to incorporate RCS support into its service (and rid the world of blue and green bubbles).

Google has been pressuring Apple to weave RCS support into iMessage for a while, particularly with its rather heavy-handed "Get the Message" campaign. The company wanted its competitor to "fix texting" as Apple has continued to rely on SMS and MMS. This (outdated) texting standard has unsightly results whenever an Android user messages an iPhone owner, including low-quality images and videos.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, responded to Google's efforts to push RCS support by saying people should "get their mom an iPhone" if there's trouble with the messaging. The blue and green bubbles remained a year ago and will continue to remain until the EU gives its official ruling on the status of iMessage.

This also wouldn't be the first time Apple has had a run-in with the EU and the Digital Markets Act. The EU ruled that companies should let consumers download apps from third-party sources, opening the floodgates of sideloading on Apple's iPhone. Moreover, the company will soon have to ditch the Lightning charging port in favor of implanting a USB-C port on its devices after a European Commission ruling.

Nickolas Diaz
News Writer

Nickolas is always excited about tech and getting his hands on it. Writing for him can vary from delivering the latest tech story to scribbling in his journal. When Nickolas isn't hitting a story, he's often grinding away at a game or chilling with a book in his hand.

  • mustang7757
    Was hoping they could get this going:(
  • HeyRadar
    Because iMessage is the only way to send SMS on an iPhone I think they should be treated as a gatekeeper. It's not like there is another SMS app and iMessage it's a secondary app. Apple is trying to say they are like Whatsapp and others, but they're not. Whatsapp isn't tied to SMS.

    So if they are going to continue to control SMS access, they need to support RCS.

    Plus, I can't get any family iPhone users to install an alternate messaging app. They're not going to install it just for me. Some have FB Messenger.

    I've had arguments about the fact that because I'm in their group it lowers videos and pictures quality that gets sent to the group.
  • fuzzylumpkin
    The EU is better than the US but it seems that no one is immune to having a truck full of money driven up to their house.
  • Kashif Nawaz
    For some reason EU always has soft corner for Apple. Apple has one of the closed ecosystem amongst others, always against the Right to Repair. And their devices non upgradable non repairable at all nowadays. But some how EU didn't force them anything at all. Meanwhile MS and Google has open platforms from ages but somehow EU always fined them billions.
    I think some times maybe Apple bribe them legally like they gave millions of dollars to US law makers who protects Apple in return.