Google's been campaigning for Apple to "fix texting" and open iMessage up to the new RCS messaging standard for months now, with little success. Now, it's written to the European Commission asking for regulators to step in.
Google has gathered with some of Europe's largest telecoms operators and called on the EU's executive body to demand that Apple makes its messaging service fully compatible with rival standards, according to the Financial Times.
While you can message Android users with iMessage, these messages are sent as SMS texts – an aging technology that most of its rivals are leaving behind in favor of the newer RCS messaging standard. Apple keeps iMessage's more powerful features (like higher-quality photos and videos) reserved for iPhone users, but Google sees that as an anti-competitive lock-in.
Will this new iMessage campaign succeed? It all depends on whether the European Commission agrees with Google and its telco buddies that iMessage should be designated a so-called "core" platform service.
This label is largely dependent on how popular the service is and the EU's Digital Markets Act doesn't currently consider iMessage to be "core" enough to warrant that label. Apple has previously argued its case by stating that iMessage has only 45 million users in the European Union.
But the European Commission is currently investigating this situation and if it changes its mind – as Google clearly hopes it will – then iMessage could fall under stricter regulation that would push it towards being interoperable with other services, like RCS.
In turn, that could lessen the appeal of the 'blue bubble' iMessage marker that continues to be a surprisingly big driver in preventing iOS users from moving to Android.
Who will win?
The iMessage debate has been as polarized as the long-running Android vs iOS battle – and it isn't yet clear whether the European Commission will side with Google or Apple.
In theory, Google's arguments do chime with the whole purpose of the EU's Digital Markets Act, which is to make the "digital sector fairer and more contestable". Google says that Apple isn't playing fair and is creating iOS lock-in by downgrading texts between iPhones and Android phones to SMS and MMS, despite the emergence of the superior RCS standard.
This practice, Google has argued in its 'Get the message' campaign, means that messaging between the two platforms results in "blurry videos, broken group chats, lack of encryption and more".
Apple has argued that users are free to use other messaging apps. And it may also have a point that iMessage simply isn't popular enough in the EU, compared to the likes of WhatsApp, to warrant being labeled as a "core" service. If that's the case, we can expect the debate over blue and green bubbles to rumble on for some time yet.
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Mark is TechRadar's Senior news editor. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on Stuff.tv, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he's contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won The Daily Telegraph's Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London's Square Mile.