Starting next year, it should be less frustrating for iPhone and Android users to text each other.
Apple says photos and videos sent between these devices will be of higher quality. Group messaging will be more reliable, and users will also be able to enable read receipts and send their location in text message threads.
The changes will come after Apple adds support for a technology called rich communications services, also known as RCS, next year, the company said. RCS is like the more modern cousin of the short message service, or SMS.
Green message bubbles indicate that they are from an Android or other non-iPhone user. But they’re now associated with an unpleasant texting experience for iPhone users, whose messages turn blue to indicate they were sent via iMessage. The green bubble is here to stay, however: it will signal 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 shown no desire to make these changes.
When asked at last year’s Code Conference about texting technology by an attendee who expressed difficulty sending videos to the attendee’s mother, Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, responded: “Buy your mother an iPhone.”
The turnaround may have been triggered by pressure from competitors, such as Google and Nothing, a mobile technology company, and the European Union’s Digital Markets Act.
“Apple is really the only major company that has not, so far, adopted the RCS standards,” said Caitlin Seeley George, campaigns director and executive director of Fight for the Future, a digital rights group. non-profit. The group pushed Apple to adopt this 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,” she said.
Ms Seeley George said enabling text messaging technology would also allow users to see whether someone is typing and whether their messages have been received.
Google adopted RCS years ago, and the company has been trying to pressure Apple to do so virtually ever since.
Google launched a campaign last year called Get the Message, which featured a video mocking an Apple product release video and included a pager with features such as “outdated messaging technology,” text nightmares” and “interrupted group chats.”
“By not integrating RCS, Apple is holding back the industry and holding back the user experience not only for Android users but also for their own customers,” wrote Hiroshi Lockheimer, senior vice president of Google, on the networks social services last year.
In a statement, Google said it was “pleased to see Apple take the first step today by joining the 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 burgeoning competition from Nothing, the mobile technology company.
Nothing recently introduced Nothing Chats, an app that allows non-iPhone users to send iMessages as if they were using iPhones. The app, which is in beta mode, replaces green bubbles with blue ones and allows group chats, voice notes, high-resolution media sharing and more between these devices.
“If messaging services are dividing phone users, then we want to break down those barriers,” reads the company’s website.
Apple’s announcement also comes before the EU’s digital markets law comes into force in 2024, which could lead to greater scrutiny of its messaging system.
The law will apply to so-called gatekeeping platforms, including Apple, and aims to force these companies to loosen their grip on the market. Apple, for example, may need to allow alternatives to its App Store.
Ms. Seeley George called Apple’s announcement “a big enough step in a new direction.” But there is still important work to be done, she added, particularly on end-to-end encryption.
Messages sent between iPhones are encrypted, but messages between iPhone and Android users cannot be encrypted without RCS, she said. Fight for the Future also pushed Apple and other companies to adopt encryption.
“This is a big concern for a number of vulnerable communities who are often under surveillance or targeted by law enforcement,” Ms. Seeley George said, pointing to a Nebraska teenager who was sentenced in July to 90 days from prison after police obtained her Facebook messages about her plans to terminate her pregnancy.
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