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Green bubble, blue bubble? How will “common messaging” work between iPhone and Android

Apple has announced the future compatibility of iPhones with the RCS protocol, which should replace the current SMS. But Android users will always be quickly spotted.

It’s an announcement that took many by surprise. This November 16, Apple finally announced compatibility of its iPhones with the RCS standard during the year 2024. This protocol, often defined as “SMS 2.0”, was imagined by the global consortium of operators, then deployed by Google on all Android smartphones. But anxious to keep its customers captive and preserve the exclusive nature of its iPhone, Apple had never agreed to comply with the RCS.

Enriched exchanges

This total change of course is in fact linked to regulatory pressure from the European Union, which plans to force Apple to make iMessage compatible with all other instant messaging applications, such as Whatsapp or Messenger. By giving in on the integration of the RCS, Apple hopes to calm the enthusiasm of the Europeans.

Like SMS, the main advantage of RCS is its interoperability. In 2024, when Apple has integrated RCS support into iOS, each user will be able to use this tool to send a message to another, regardless of their operator, and regardless of their smartphone.

Concretely, RCS obviously takes over the most basic functions of SMS, namely sending texts. But it goes much further: it allows you to use a Wi-Fi connection, create group discussions, see that your interlocutor is writing a message, see that they have read it, share your location, but also exchange high quality files (photo or video). In a word: it allows almost everything that current instant messaging allows.

In its announcement, Apple explained that RCS Messages will work “parallel to iMessage.” In other words, Apple intends to favor the use of iMessage as soon as possible, that is to say for a discussion between two iPhone owners. RCS messages will therefore be used as a second intention, particularly during an exchange with an Android user.

The green bubble will stay green

Between iPhone users, exchanges on iMessage – represented by blue bubbles – will therefore remain identical to those of today. With some iOS-specific features (like the ability to cancel sending a message), and end-to-end encryption.

In the event of an exchange with an Android user, which is currently done through simple SMS, represented by green bubbles, the two interlocutors will however benefit from all of the functions mentioned above, to benefit from messaging more in line with what we can expect in 2023.

On the other hand, and as expected, Apple has confirmed that it will continue to display interlocutors on Android differently than those with an iPhone, placing RCS messages in a green bubble. The blue bubble, a real sign of social recognition for some, will remain reserved for those who can afford the brand’s devices.

Another question also concerns the encryption of conversations. Currently, SMS messages are not encrypted, leaving for example the telephone operator the possibility of accessing their content. RCS technically allows end-to-end encryption to be enabled, as Google recently did on Android.

But to continue to benefit iMessage on iPhone, Apple could be tempted to deactivate it for its part, so that its customers continue to associate the blue bubble with the idea of ​​better security of their exchanges. In any case, the company has not yet communicated on this point.

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