Starting next year, it should be less frustrating for iPhone and Android users to text each other.
Apple says photos and videos sent between those devices will be of higher quality. Group messaging will be more reliable, and users will also be able to activate read receipts and send their locations in text message threads.
The changes will come once Apple adds support for a technology called rich communication services, also known as RCS, next year, the company said. RCS is like the most modern cousin of the short message service, or SMS.
Green message bubbles indicate that they come from an Android user or a non-iPhone user. But they have been associated with an unpleasant texting experience for iPhone users, whose messages are blue to indicate they have been sent via iMessage. However, the green bubble is here to stay: it will indicate when RCS is in use.
The technology “will work alongside iMessage, which will continue to be the best and most secure messaging experience for Apple users,” Apple said in a statement.
Until now, Apple had not shown any desire to make changes.
When asked at last year’s Code Conference Regarding the texting technology of an attendee who expressed difficulty sending videos to the attendee’s mother, Apple CEO Tim Cook responded: “Buy your mom an iPhone.”
The radical change may have been prompted by pressure from competitors, such as Google and Nothing, a mobile technology company, and the European Union Digital Markets Law.
“Apple is really the only major company that, so far, has not adopted the RCS standards,” said Caitlin Seeley George, managing and campaign director at Fight for the Future, a nonprofit digital rights group. The group has pressured Apple to adopt the technology.
“We think it’s a good sign that Apple is making this change and a sign that maybe they’re listening to the public on this,” he said.
Seeley George said enabling texting technology would also allow users to see if someone is texting and if their messages were received.
Google RCS adopted years ago, and the company has been trying to pressure Apple to do so pretty much ever since.
Google started a campaign last year called Receive the messagewhich including a video mocked an Apple product launch video and included a pager with features like “outdated messaging technology,” “texting nightmares,” and “broken group chats.”
“By not incorporating RCS, Apple is holding back the industry and holding back the user experience not only for Android users but also for its own customers,” said Hiroshi Lockheimer, senior vice president at Google. wrote on social media last year.
In a statement, Google said it was “happy to see Apple take its first step today by coming together to adopt RCS.”
“Everyone deserves to communicate with each other in a modern and secure way, no matter what phone they have,” the statement said.
Apple also faces emerging competition from Nothing, the mobile technology company.
Nothing recently introduced Nothing Chats, which allows non-iPhone users to send iMessages as if they were iPhone users. Nothing Chats, which is in beta mode, replaces green bubbles with blue and allows group chats, voice memos, high-resolution media sharing, and more between those devices.
“If messaging services divide phone users, then we want to break down those barriers,” the company’s website reads.
Apple’s announcement also comes before Europe’s Digital Markets Act comes into effect in 2024, which could lead to greater scrutiny of its messaging system.
The law will apply to the so-called gatekeeper platforms, including Apple, and aims to force those companies to loosen their grip on the market. Apple, for example, may have to allow alternatives to its App Store.
Seeley George called Apple’s announcement a “pretty big shift in a new direction.” But there is still important work to be done, he said, specifically on end-to-end encryption.
Messages sent between iPhones they are encrypted, but messages between iPhone and Android users cannot be encrypted without RCS, he said. Fight for the future has also pushed Apple and other companies will adopt encryption.
“This is a major concern for a number of vulnerable communities that are often under surveillance or targeted by law enforcement,” said Ms. Seeley George. pointing to a teenager in Nebraska who was sentenced in July to 90 days in jail after police obtained her Facebook messages about plans to terminate her pregnancy.