Eroding the iMessage Moat

RCS has long been the battle cry for Google and Android in the "messaging wars". The better way to text has had an uphill battle, but Google has stuck with it and continues to push to make it a standard. Unsatisfied with carriers' dragging its feet, Google made RCS the default way to message on Android and now has turned on end-to-end encryption by default. That is a big deal. Abner Li at 9to5Google has more on why.

Google is making this big move to “ensure more people benefit from this added security.” E2E encryption for 1:1 conversations fully launched in June of 2021, while it started testing group E2EE this January. Google notes that, when it is enabled, there are lock signs throughout the conversation. All participants must have RCS enabled, but there’s otherwise nothing you have to do, and it cannot be disabled.

It comes as Google last month added prominent badges to label RCS conversations on the Messages homescreen, with SMS/MMS chats going unmarked. Before that, it started showing read receipts in the conversation list, and explicitly calling it “RCS” over “chat.”

9to5 Google

Encryption has been the main reason why Apple has said it would not adopt RCS. iMessage has had it since the beginning. Google is a victim of its own mistakes and, to its credit, has not let detractors stop it from pushing SMS out in order for RCS to take its place. Apple will never succumb to bullying and strong-arm tactics. iMessage is a simple form of lock-in for iOS. Apple knows it. Google knows it. That moat around the iPhone is one of the few remaining services Apple has that can't be fully replicated.

I would never bet Apple adopts RCS. They won't. The only way is if SMS becomes deprecated and no longer supported by carriers in a few years from now. Even then, I could see Apple adding RCS in the most barebones and basic way possible in order to hobble the experience. Encryption is no longer the flag Apple can wave to say why iMessage is better. I applaud Google for doing this and hope it continues to chip away at the advantages iMessage has over RCS. This was THE biggie.

In time I believe it'll be like every other "standard" in the tech world: two competing ideas that both flourish on its own even if they won't work together.