A few times every year, people talk about iMessage for Android. Apple's wildly popular messaging platform has established itself as the defacto messaging service in the U.S. for the last few years, and unsurprisingly, it makes a lot of Android users quite jealous. Whether it be folks wanting an iMessage app to come to Android or for Google to create its own version of it, there's a constant clamoring for something to happen.
In the near future, it looks like we may finally get the latter of those two things.
A couple of weekends ago, a big development in the RCS world came to light. While we still wait for Google to officially flip the switch so all Google Messages users around the world can experience RCS goodness for themselves, a small hack was discovered that allows you to do this for yourself in just a few minutes. Once enabled, you can use the Google Messages app to send RCS messages to anyone else that has it enabled — with some of the highlights being read receipts, typing indicators, high-quality image sharing, and more.
For Android users, Google Messages has a lot of potential.
This is an exciting workaround for the Android space, and it means anyone who's that geeked out about RCS can experience it right now (though it's starting to break for some people). Android users deserve a standout messaging platform from Google that can go toe-to-toe with the best of them, especially one that has the potential to be as ubiquitous as this.
When it's made readily available for all Google Messages users around the world regardless of their phone and carrier choice, the idea is that the Google Messages app will "just work" as an iMessage-like competitor. Anyone using Google Messages for their texting needs will have those RCS features, and seeing as how Google Messages is the default messaging app on Pixels and phones from LG, Huawei, Nokia, and more, it'll be much easier to use than trying to convince your friends and family to download a third-party app like WhatsApp or Telegram.
All of that sounds fantastic, and if it works out the way Google hopes, it could really change the way we think about texting on Android. Unfortunately, while this is all good news for anyone with an Android phone, it doesn't do anything to solve the Green Bubble Problem.
Ever since iMessage and its iconic blue chat bubbles have existed, there's been a running joke of using an iPhone to message someone with an Android phone. All it does is revert you to normal SMS texting (something most Android users are quite familiar with), but the replacement of iMessage's blue bubble for a green one has created endless harassment and bullying. Earlier this year, we saw an article shining the spotlight on people that will refuse to date someone if they don't have an iPhone, and even Samsung created a (very bad) set of GIFs making fun of iMessage's blue bubbles.
We don't know if/when Apple will support RCS, and that's a big problem.
That all may sound juvenile and silly to complain about, but it's a legitimate issue that a lot of people have very strong feelings for. And, even when Google's RCS rollout is complete and everyone has access to it, it won't matter at all the second you message your friend that carries an iPhone.
Apple has yet to make any official comment about whether or not it'll support RCS. A January report indicated that the company was in talks with the GSMA about adopting the messaging standard, but in all honesty, it doesn't make much sense for Apple to actively be focused on this. There's bound to come a day when SMS is phased out entirely in favor of RCS, and at that point, Apple won't have much of a choice. But that's years and years down the road, and until then, Apple has no incentive to put any additional time or money into making the switch.
As a result of that, an RCS-powered Google Messages app will still feel like a half-baked service until Apple finally has a change of heart. If you're someone with friends, family, or a significant other that uses an iPhone, you'll be right back to old-fashioned SMS, and they'll still see that infamous green bubble.
Don't get me wrong — I'm ecstatic for Google to get its RCS-powered Google Messages experience out to everyone ASAP. I just think the expectations surrounding it are a bit skewed.
Yes, it's shaping up to be a solid messenger, but it's not going to be the iMessage for Android we've been hoping for. Instead, it'll be more of a WhatsApp alternative that your iPhone acquaintances can't use.
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