Ever wonder why that amazing video you tried to send to friends or relatives showed up minuscule and pixelated? It’s just one of several texting issues that Google blamed Apple for in a blunt message posted on its website Tuesday.
“It’s time for Apple to fix texting,” Google wrote, calling out the Cupertino, California-based company for a variety of user headaches it says are related to Apple’s “outdated” choice of messaging service resulting in a “broken experience.”
Texts among Apple device owners using iMessage are encrypted and show up in blue bubbles; they can be sent via cellular data networks or over Wi-Fi. When an Android device, for instance, that can’t use iMessage enters the conversation, texts are sent via SMS/MMS and show up in green bubbles, without many of the features offered by iMessage.
SMS, which stands for Short Message Service, refers to basic texts, while messages with photos or video are sent via MMS, or Multimedia Messaging Service.
Google uses Rich Communication Services (RCS) for messaging on its Android devices, and is calling on Apple to adopt the same communication protocol to improve the texting experience between Apple and Android devices.
The SMS concept dates back to the 1980s and is the most widely used type of mobile message around the world. On Tuesday, Google called it “out-of-date” and to blame for a number of issues when it comes to Android-iPhone text snafus: Blurry, tiny photos and videos; lack of encryption, no typing indicators, no read receipts and an inability to leave group texts.
While personal frustrations are one thing, some young Android users have reported being ostracized and left out of group texts because their messages “turned the thread green,” leaving white text on a light-colored green background and eliminating some iMessage features.
Analyst Ben Bajarin told Fast Company that his teenage son explained, “we would start a new group chat, and the group would realize I was the reason it was green, and they would start another group chat without me.”
Distaste for green text messages has become fodder for memes and tweets about the social and even romantic stigma some attach to green text bubbles.
“If I give you my number and a green bubble pops up when you text me, I’m (at minimum) already questioning your taste level,” one person quipped.
“can’t believe I kissed a boy w green texts I am so nice that was my act of charity for the year,” another tweeted.
“The bad experience you get when texting Android users is created by Apple,” Google claims.
Judging from evidence that surfaced in last year’s court battle with “Fortnite” maker Epic Games Inc., it may prove difficult to shame the Silicon Valley giant into ditching SMS/MMS.
Among the thousands of pages of internal documents revealed during the trial were emails among Apple executives discussing iMessage and Android, according to a January report in the Wall Street Journal.
“In the absence of a strategy to become the primary messaging service for [the] bulk of cell phone users, I am concerned the iMessage on Android would simply serve to remove [an] obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s chief software executive, wrote in an email in 2013.
In a 2016 email, Phil Schiller, then-head of marketing, told CEO Tim Cook that “moving iMessage to Android will hurt us,” with another executive equating iMessage to “serious lock-in.”
It’s not clear what role the blue-green bubble divide may have played in Apple’s success in the U.S. market, but when it comes to young consumers, the iPhone is the clear sales winner.
In 2021, a study by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners found that over 70 percent of people between 18-24 bought an iPhone, according to the Journal.
Nexstar reached out to Apple for comment on Google’s campaign but did not receive a response.