Android really wants to get Apple going on RCS iMessage integration

imessage editing patent
(Image credit: Apple Inc)

Google’s head of Android has presented Apple with an “open invitation” to work with it on integrating the RCS messaging system with iMessage.

iMessage was launched in 2011 with iOS 8 as a competitor to other over-the-top instant messaging services such as BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) and WhatsApp. However, it has so far been limited to Apple devices such as iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

This means iMessage users wanting to communicate with non-iOS users need to send SMS texts that lack the ability to include rich media such as images, videos, and gifs. The cross-platform abilities of WhatsApp have seen it become almost ubiquitous in many markets.

Apple RCS

This status was laid bare by the recent Facebook outage that saw WhatsApp inaccessible for several hours, leading to questions about whether such reliance on the application was risky.

Google, with support from the mobile industry body GSMA, device manufacturers, and mobile operators, has been spearheading Rich Communications Services (RCS) as a successor to SMS. RCS works across different vendors (other than Apple), supports rich media, and is installed in the Android Messages app in a bid to drive adoption.

Hiroshi Lockheimer, Senior Vice President for Android, Chrome, Play and Photos at Google, reiterated his hope that Apple would get on board in a tweet that referenced American golfer Bryson DeChambeau’s use of an Android handset. The former US Open champion was the only member of the victorious US Ryder Cup team not to have an iPhone.

This meant that in the players’ iMessage group chat, his messages were void of any rich media and were surrounded by a green bubble as opposed to the usual blue. DeChambeau was the subject of friendly mockery by his teammates for this, however the official Android Twitter account voiced its support for the golfer nicknamed ‘The Scientist’ due to his analytical approach to the sport.

Lockheimer quoted this tweet adding: “Group chats don't need to break this way. There exists a Really Clear Solution. Here's an open invitation to the folks who can make this right: we are here to help.”

The use of ‘Really Clear Solution’ can be interpreted as a nod to RCS, while the message also included green and blue heart emojis to symbolise iMessage’s two chat bubble colours.

The addition of Apple to the RCS ecosystem would be a major boost to mobile messaging, and would help offer a genuine, vendor-agnostic alternative to WhatsApp – something that may have become more desirable in recent days after the outage.

TechRadar Pro has approached Google and Apple for further comment.  

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.