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Google wants an alternative to iMessage. Will Apple support it?

Google wants an alternative to iMessage. Will Apple support it?
[Photo: rawpixel]

Here’s an interesting story from The Verge on the future of Android text messaging. For the past couple years, Google has advocated a next-gen texting standard called Rich Communication Services, whose features (full-resolution images, read receipts, expanded group texts, and more) are already standard in modern chat apps like iMessage and WhatsApp. If you have an Android phone, the idea is that RCS would replace SMS texts by default.

Now, Google is making headway in getting wireless carriers like Verizon and AT&T on board with RCS–which it’s now just calling “Chat.” Anil Sabharwal, the Google executive spearheading the effort, says he expects a “large percentage” of Android users to have access to Chat messaging by the middle of next year. Microsoft is also backing the effort, even though it’s not really in the smartphone operating system business right now.

Still, The Verge‘s report leaves one major question unanswered: Will Apple bother to support the new Chat standard?

The company could conceivably go either way. Texting an Android user from an iPhone is a subpar experience, with low-quality photos and videos and limits on how many people can partake in a group chat. By supporting RCS-based Chat, Apple could provide its users with iMessage-like features no matter who they’re talking to.

On the other hand, iMessage is one of the main ways Apple locks people into its own platform. Supporting RCS would mean discarding a strategic advantage. Also, RCS isn’t end-to-end encrypted like iMessage, and Apple might not want to throw its weight behind any new texting standard that doesn’t offer the same anti-snooping protections as its own service.

In any case, at least Google now has a clear messaging strategy instead of multiple apps that compete with each other.