dr Inderpal Singh Mumick, CEO of Dotgo, believes Rich Communication Services is the next generation of messaging and more advanced than SMS or MMS.
Rivalry is no stranger to the tech industry. Whether it’s Microsoft and Apple, Intel and AMD, or IBM and HP, most rivalries are the result of the tech giants’ monopolistic tendencies.
New to this list is the recent messaging war between Google and Apple. Apple CEO Tim Cook has made it clear that the world’s most popular smartphone brand is reluctant to adopt RCS – a move Google isn’t very happy with. In response, it launched a public campaign, #GetTheMessage, to convince Apple to come on board.
Rich Communication Services is the next generation of messaging, a global standard established by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association that is far more advanced than SMS or MMS.
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RCS is a massive improvement over SMS, and its numerous features make messaging an appealing option for Android users, as the service is currently only available for Android phones. Imagine sending high-resolution photos and videos or emoji reactions with end-to-end encryption — things you used to depend on WhatsApp but can now do in the built-in Messages app.
However, unlike WhatsApp, group chats in RCS are not end-to-end encrypted. That might raise some concerns, but the individual chats, which make up a large portion of RCS messaging, follow an end-to-end encryption policy.
The new messaging service already has more than 400 million active members worldwide. By 2027, more than 600 billion RCS business messages will be received worldwide, demonstrating the strong adoption potential of RCS. But that promise and potential has been dashed by Apple. With Apple not participating, messaging continues to be a poor experience for Android-to-iPhone calls and vice-versa.
Users complain about blurry videos, broken group chats, missing read receipts, missing typing indicators, an inability to send text over Wi-Fi, and more when sending messages between an iPhone and an Android device. While chatting is only smooth between a group of iPhone or Android users, the failure to use the same features across platforms frustrates customers.
Apple’s opposition to RCS stems in large part from its strategy of creating a caged ecosystem of iPhone users. Apple has long differentiated Android users with a green bubble in messages, also known as the bubble stigma, creating an obnoxious class divide.
This also explains Cook’s response to a journalist when asked about the problem of blurry photos from iPhones on Android. “Get your mom an iPhone,” interjected Cook, sounding like he was forcing iPhones.
As the user experience is a toss up, this class split may not help Apple in the long run and may only help cross-platform chat apps like WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal.
Due to the lack of cross-platform functionality between iMessages and Google Messages, WhatsApp has grown to over two billion users worldwide and is the most used app on iPhone and Android in several countries.
Consider Germany as an example, where almost 40% of users have iPhones, but where 95% of users choose WhatsApp simply because of the terrible cross-platform messaging experience. Rather than boost iPhone sales, as Cook might want, Apple’s non-commitment only hurts the company.
The interoperability issue is exacerbated as Apple holds more than 50% of the smartphone market share in countries like the US. For a company with such a razor-sharp focus on its customers, it’s surprising how Apple prioritizes its “walled garden” over user experience. Last but not least, the end-to-end encryption and security that RCS offers should be reason enough for Apple to give up its stubbornness.
In 2022, technology should enable communication, not constrain it, and that’s what non-collaboration on this front is leading to: A constraining ecosystem that impedes smooth communication.
It’s about time the world’s two biggest tech giants came together and solved this problem so frustration isn’t part of the way you communicate, no matter what phone you’re using. Until then, it’s a loss for their customers and a win for Meta’s WhatsApp.
dr Inderpal Singh Mumick is CEO of Dotgo, a business messaging solutions company based in Berkeley Heights, NJ.