Google pushes to force Apple to change iMessage protocol


Google is back at war with iMessage. The Web giant has set up a site that details point by point why Apple’s messaging application is outdated and harmful to the competition, with a focus on the protocol on which it is based.

RCS illustration

The war of messaging applications is starting again. While WhatsApp has lost its luster and services like Signal and Telegram are on the rise, it is to another Internet giant that we owe the latest attack. Using a recently posted site, Google is trying to publicly put pressure on Apple to drop the standard for its iMessage service.

Public pressure as a weapon

With a lot of technical arguments, screenshots of frustrated Internet users and hashtags, Google wants to push Apple to adopt the RCS discussion standard instead of the proprietary protocol on which iMessage is based. Apple’s chat platform is only fully compatible with iPhones, iPads and Macs. As a result, if an iPhone owner starts a group chat with people on Android, messages from those phones will appear green (rather than blue) in the iMessage app. The phenomenon is sufficiently rooted in popular culture that rapper Drake dedicated a song to this terrible difference in treatment.

The incompatibility of iMessage with Android mobiles causes many other problems. Abusive compression of photos, reduced readability of white text on a green background, sending of sometimes aborted messages… In short, according to Google, “the bad experience you have when texting Android users is Apple’s fault. But the company can remedy this by switching to the RCS standard.“Google has been trying for months, even years, to put pressure on the Apple firm to adopt a messaging standard that puts interoperability first. And this standard is none other than the RCS.

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RCS illustration

The RCS passes by the Web and not by the telephone network.


Acronym of Rich Communication Services, the RCS is supposed to replace the good old SMS. By allowing text messages to be sent via the Web, and no longer only via the telephone network of the operators, the RCS offers advanced functionalities such as the sending of photos and videos in original quality, the indicator of seizure in time real and adding reactions to posts. The switch from SMS to RCS is also almost invisible, since the application which allows the sending of SMS on Android also supports the RCS protocol, even passing by default on this channel when possible.

The RCS is not flawless

In sum, most features of iMessage have their RCS counterparts. It is for this reason that Google is pushing Internet users to demand that Apple adopt this standard. This battle has been going on for years and frequent twists and turns fuel this standards war. Google had started promoting RCS in earnest around 2019; in 2021, we learned that Apple did not want to offer iMessage on Android, because the company had too much to lose; and in 2022, a survey of the Wall Street Journal took stock of these technical incompatibilities.

If Google is probably right to promote a truly interoperable discussion standard, the company is still showing some bad faith. First, RCS isn’t that “modern” because it was developed in 2018. Second, Google’s specific RCS implementation contains proprietary code (especially for message encryption) and the company jealously guards its API (the programming interface that allows RCS to be used on Android). Only Samsung phones are fully compatible with Google’s service. Finally, one of the largest RCS message management operators was acquired by Google in 2015. This means that if Apple were to adopt RCS, messages from all iPhones would pass (encrypted) on Google’s servers. .

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