Skip to content(if available)orjump to list(if available)

“It’s time for Apple to fix texting”

altairprime

Most businesses, consumers, and developers universally continue to ignore the primary reason that iMessage is a closed platform, rather than an app on every platform as iTunes is:

Apple is using device serial numbers for anti-spam, supported by a fully-authenticated hardware and software stack that does not allow user modification. This permits Apple to simply “console ban” any Apple device that spams on iMessage. This makes it prohibitively expensive to send spam over iMessage. They have been doing so since iMessage was launched.

Android offers no such attestation that I’m aware of. Windows, on Pluton, could offer this attestation securely — and that is a key deliverable of Pluton.

It’s easy, then, to predict what Apple’s first non-Apple platform will be: Microsoft Windows 12, only if secure-booted, with Pluton-signed attestation that the kernel is unmodified. And it’s easy to predict how Apple will implement anti-spam: by applying “console” bans to specific Pluton chips by their serial number.

If Android wants to join the party, then Android phone builders need to implement secure boot with hardware-signed attestation of non-rooted-ness, in the style of Apple T2 + macOS or Microsoft Pluton + Secure Boot. Until then, Apple iMessage will remain single platform.

(I recognize that this is extremely unpalatable to device hackers, but the same freedom to modify an OS kernel that hackers desire is also the freedom to spam all users, as we have seen repeatedly with all messaging software platforms operated without hardware-backed attestation for the past thirty years — including email, Jabber, and HN itself.)

(No, I do not work at Apple.)

kelnos

I'd rather live in a world with spam than a world where corporations get to decide what I run on my devices, and cripple a bunch of critical applications if I decide I want to, y'know, actually do whatever I want with the hardware I own.

I'm not unsympathetic to Apple's difficulties and goals here (assuming this spam problem is actually the reason, though I'm skeptical that there aren't also self-serving reasons that would be sufficient for Apple), but I'm so tired of society's slide toward "security at any cost, and to hell with freedom" since the 9/11 attacks over 20 years ago.

(It's possible and likely that slide has been going on much longer, but I was a teenager in the 90s and not really aware of such things. But I think it's undeniable that the aftermath of 9/11 was a big turning point for the surveillance state and for average citizens being so scared of everything that they'd be willing to give up essential freedoms just to quell that fright.)

gumby

> I'd rather live in a world with spam than a world where corporations get to decide what I run on my devices, and cripple a bunch of critical applications if I decide I want to, y'know, actually do whatever I want with the hardware I own.

It’s really oppressive that Apple doesn’t let you install WhatsApp, Secret, Telegram, FB Messenger or any other communications app beyond their own.

While it’s all sweetness and light that Google got into bed with the phone carriers to develop this new “standard” tied to a phone number subscription that brings along all the retrograde privacy nightmares of Big Telecom since the bell system broke up.

The points you want to raise are crucial, but this is far from the hill to die on.

kelnos

Defaults matter. I too have WhatsApp, Signal, Google Chat and a few others on my phone, but the fragmentation is annoying to deal with, and getting social groups (or even individuals) to move to a single consolidating messaging platform turns out to be much more difficult than I expected.

If the default chat app is featureful and universally supported, people tend not to stray toward non-default alternatives unless they offer meaningful benefits. Sure, this ship has in many ways already sailed, since those alternative apps have a lot of mindshare and network effects.

But if Apple added RCS to its default messaging app (or if Google were permitted to add iMessage support to its default messaging app), I would ditch everything else and just message everyone (including groups) using the default Android Messages app, relying on it to select the best non-SMS/non-MMS contact method for everyone, regardless of platform.

Sure, it would take a little more work to move messaging groups over, but the cool thing is that I could just do it myself, and not wait for my friends to download yet another messaging app. This is the problem I ran into when I wanted to get friends off of WhatsApp; I had to convince people to install something else, and not everyone felt like doing it. But everyone already has the default messaging app installed, so that problem just goes away.

> While it’s all sweetness and light that Google got into bed with the phone carriers to develop this new “standard” tied to a phone number subscription that brings along all the retrograde privacy nightmares of Big Telecom since the bell system broke up.

Just wanted to call this out as FUD. RCS existed as a standard long before Google was involved (nearly a decade?). I too don't love that it's tied to a phone number, but options for doing this well are limited, and building a second, parallel identity system has its own issues. RCS at least can be federated, and it'd be possible to allow phone users to choose their own provider. And in practice, phone number portability means you aren't stuck with the crappy choice of ditching your "identity", or sticking with a phone provider you hate.

Not sure how iMessage or WhatsApp or Google Chat or Signal is any better, though, as they're all controlled by a single company that requires you to use their identity system.

InitialLastName

> “standard” tied to a phone number subscription that brings along all the retrograde privacy nightmares of Big Telecom since the bell system broke up.

Is there a way to make an account with Apple that isn't tied to a mobile phone number? If so, I've never been able to find it.

smoldesu

> It’s really oppressive that Apple doesn’t let you install WhatsApp, Secret, Telegram, FB Messenger or any other communications app beyond their own.

They fully control those app's access to their store; Apple has full say over which communication apps you install on your iPhone, full-stop.

rootusrootus

> I'd rather live in a world with spam than a world where corporations get to decide what I run on my devices, and cripple a bunch of critical applications if I decide I want to, y'know, actually do whatever I want with the hardware I own.

Egads, no. The abuse heaped on me by Apple pales in comparison to the spam phone calls and emails I get. If I start getting spam via iMessage, I'll be an extremely unhappy camper. It already happens with text messages and that's bad enough.

kelnos

Sounds like other people in this thread already get a lot of iMessage spam, so I guess you've just been lucky? And it shows that this attestation junk doesn't actually curb the spam problem, so it's just an analogue of security theater.

Anyhow, sure, if you want to give away your freedom to actually own your devices, just so you don't get spam... I guess that's your choice. I just don't want to be locked into a system where that's the only choice.

Regardless, iPhones also receive SMSes. If it's impossible to spam over iMessage, they'll just use SMS. If it becomes impossible to spam over SMS, then presumably Apple can implement similar measures for iMessage that don't require us all to have hermetically-sealed, locked-down devices.

BiteCode_dev

Apparently PRISM has not been a wake up call.

What do people need ? Apple coming and killing their cat ?

gravytron

> I'd rather live in a world with spam than a world where corporations get to decide what I run on my devices,

Why do you present this as a binary choice?

Why do I need to suffer at the whims of your wants and needs? Why are you so hellbent on advertising your opinion in this binary manner? Don’t like iMessage? Use something else. Nobody is stopping you. Why do you feel compelled to bring the conversation back to this weirdly obsessed and diluted dilemma where you see a first party solution and start kicking and screaming incessantly

JumpCrisscross

> rather live in a world with spam than a world where corporations get to decide what I run on my devices

So use Android! I have friends with Android. We use WhatsApp abroad and SMS at home. The messages are green and I can't tapback. That's it!

kelnos

This thread is about a hypothetical situation where Apple allows iMessage on other platforms (such as Android), but only on platforms that can securely attest that they have not been modified.

Yes, I use Android, but would like to also be able to interoperate with iMessage. But I don't want to be stuck in a (for now hypothetical) state where I have to choose between using iMessage and being able to do what I want with my phone.

> We use WhatsApp abroad and SMS at home. The messages are green and I can't tapback. That's it!

SMS has ordering, latency, and delivery issues. You also cannot send media over SMS, and MMS has size limits for media that were set decades ago. Any video you send over MMS will be recompressed to the point where it'll be unwatchable. SMS also does not support group chats. MMS does, but delivery and message ordering issues are even worse there, and group chats are inflexible; for example you can't add new people to an existing group chat, or remove existing people.

I do use WhatsApp, grudgingly, for some people who refuse to switch to something else, but I'd like to reduce my reliance on things owned by Meta/Facebook.

GekkePrutser

But group chats don't work over SMS. That's a big deal-breaker IMO.

inkyoto

> I'd rather live in a world with spam […]

That is a personal choice, and I choose to not have spam on my phone. Several months ago I was subjected to a floodgate of good ol' fashioned SMS spam that lasted several weeks. There was no way to stop the spam because the phone was receiving it through the legacy SMS channel coming specifically from Android devices infected with Flubot; the bulk of spam now comes from unpatched Android devices because hardware vendors stop releasing security updates after a short cycle, or due to loose default app permissions set on the device. I ended up creating a support ticket with my mobile telco and soon I received the following reply from a human being:

  What you have encountered is, as you may have guessed, not a legitimate SMS notification.
  This particular message is designed to entice you to click on a link, and doing so would potentially expose your device to malicious software.
  This malicious software is trying to target Android devices, so, if you are an Android user, you should take particular care with such messages.
  Note that you may receive this message even if you do not use Android devices - the website link is simply being sent to a number of random telephone numbers in the hopes that an Android user will receive it, and manually bypass the built-in security protections and install the malicious software presented by the website.
  In other words, if you use an iPhone, you can still receive these SMS messages (often claiming to be relating to a voicemail or parcel delivery), but there is no direct risk to your iPhone by simply receiving the SMS.  Nor is there currently any risk to your iPhone if you happen to click on the link that is in these SMS messages.
  If you use Android, you should avoid permitting your device to install any software that did not come from the official Google Play store.
> … where corporations get to decide what I run on my devices …

Corporations, such as Google, make decisions for users without getting their consent nor without informing the users. If you sign into a Google account in a web browser on your phone, for instance, the sign-in will also silently and non-consentually sign you into your Google account across all Google apps installed on the device without informing you.

The corporations, good or bad or anything in between, must be bound by the code of conduct they ought not to be allowed to get out from: must request the explicit user consent first.

kelnos

> That is a personal choice, and I choose to not have spam on my phone.

The problem here is that we are talking about a (possible, hypothetical) measure that blocks spam, but requires phones to be 100% locked down and unmodified from the factory. I categorically refuse to accept that sort of thing. If you will accept that, then you are a part of the problem.

In reality, though, there are plenty of ways to combat spam that do not require us to have locked-down phones and move closer and closer to a corporate nanny state. Your shitty telco is actually fully capable of blocking spam like what you've received, but they have chosen not to.

> Corporations, such as Google, make decisions for users without getting their consent nor without informing the users.

Sure, but at present I can wipe my phone and install GrapheneOS or CalyxOS or whatever, and Google will not be able to make any decisions as to what I do on my phone.

I get that they make other random decisions for us. Sure, that's inevitable. If I want to use Google Docs or whatever, they will make decisions about how my data is used, and what features are present in the product, etc. I accept that, and am ok with that. But if I'm sold a piece of general-purpose hardware, I expect to be able to do whatever I want with it.

> If you sign into a Google account in a web browser on your phone, for instance, the sign-in will also silently and non-consentually sign you into your Google account across all Google apps installed on the device without informing you.

Maybe if you use Chrome, but... I don't. So that doesn't happen to me.

tomxor

> I choose to not have spam on my phone. Several months ago I was subjected to a floodgate of good ol' fashioned SMS spam that lasted several weeks.

If Apple provides an anti-spam SMS filtering service it is completely orthogonal to how much they decide to handcuff their own users.

SMS is not a platform specific protocol and cell phone numbers have their own independent authority (however dysfunctional it may be). So unless you decide to block yourself from the entire world outside of Apple devices, it has nothing to do with being locked down. Locking down a platform from it's own users does not intrinsically benefit security or spam prevention, saying so is a false dichotomy, no matter how much Apple spins it.

raxxorraxor

I never had spam on my Android phone for that matter, but the reliance on manufacturers to supply security updates is a side effect that is primarily induced because the platforms are as locked down as they are.

sergiotapia

I hear you believe me.

But in the past five years, I have received so much call spam that I just don't answer my phone anymore. Imagine that, the primary use of a phone and it's all cocked up.

Imagine what happens to imessages if they leave it open.

Blame the cretins that spam people.

kelnos

Sounds like iMessage spam is already a problem (if another poster in this thread is to be believed).

Since I'm on Android, I'm stuck using SMS a lot, since most people I know have iPhones. I do get some SMS spam, but not a ton, and most of it is auto-flagged and I never see it.

> Blame the cretins that spam people.

SMS and voice call spam is actually a solved problem, but carriers have been dragging their feet implementing the solutions (and have lobbied the US government to give them more time). Killing spam does not require our devices to be locked down. Carriers deserve some blame here too.

But I don't really care about blame, I care about outcomes. Blaming spammers isn't going to fix anything. Forcing carriers to implement the required technical measures to stamp out spam... that could actually work.

yalogin

You don’t need the world to change for you. Simply use android and live in that ecosystem.

sunderw

And what if you care about your privacy ? Because there is ONE alternative doesn't really mean I have the freedom to choose...

tempsy

SMS spam is real.

deadbunny

I've not had a single SMS/messaging spam message in the last decade. In the UK if that makes a difference, maybe we have effective laws around it? Not looked into it.

bearmode

I've had maybe one or two spammy text messages in the last decade. My phone number's already in many spammer's databases based on the number of spam calls I get.

mikl

But costs real money to send and is severely limited in what it can do. RCS would open the door to lots of new ways to spam and troll people.

kelnos

Please tell me where I claimed it wasn't.

stusmall

It isn't about opening up iMessage. The article is about using RCS instead of SMS/MMS as the fallback. It's a pretty reasonable ask that will raise the quality of service when texting with the majority of the market. They can continue to lock down iMessage however they want.

aaaaaaaaata

It's not a "reasonable" ask if you're Apple, selfish, and therefore want iMessage to remain superior to SMS at all costs, because it's part of your luxury appeal.

rahkiin

It also not reasonable because a lot of countries, also in europe, do not have RCS support on their networks. Or the right version of RCS.

kalleboo

There are literally multiple internal Apple emails released through court testimony where Apple executives clearly explain how important iMessage is to lock-in to iPhone and how if parents can just buy an Android and install an iMessage app it would mean disaster.

In none of these emails is spam or privacy or security even mentioned.

The primary reason Apple is doing it for platform lock-in, plain and simple. They literally said so themselves internally. Any other explanation is fanboyism.

runeks

> There are literally multiple internal Apple emails released through court testimony where Apple executives clearly explain how important iMessage is to lock-in to iPhone and how if parents can just buy an Android and install an iMessage app it would mean disaster.

I’m genuinely interested. Do you have a link?

altairprime

You misunderstand. I don’t care about Apple’s desire for lock-in at all. I want Google RCS to implement, and make mandatory, secured device identifier attestation. I want to be able to block the actual hardware devices that spam me through carrier messaging. RCS could have offered that, and doesn’t. What a shame.

lern_too_spel

Why does RCS need to do that? RCS replaces SMS as the baseline interoperable protocol, not the iMessage protocol.

stetrain

That has nothing to do with allowing RCS alongside SMS and iMessage.

My iPhone gets plenty of spam SMS messages, alongside my iMessage chats. The sanctity of iMessage communications doesn't stop that.

Swapping SMS for RCS support messages doesn't increase the spam surface.

tadfisher

> If Android wants to join the party, then Android phone builders need to implement secure boot with hardware-signed attestation of non-rooted-ness, in the style of Apple T2 + macOS or Microsoft Pluton + Secure Boot. Until then, Apple iMessage will remain single platform.

This exists and has existed for years, via the SafetyNet Attestation API [1].

[1]: https://developer.android.com/training/safetynet/attestation

altairprime

As indicated elsethread, that API doc expressly declares near the top that it is not usable for device identifiers. Without device identifiers, there is no way to stop spammers.

dcow

1. No, you don't need device IDs to stop spammers.

2. I don't think you know what you're talking about. Android supports the device attestation: https://source.android.com/security/keystore/attestation

> ID attestation allows the device to provide proof of its hardware identifiers, such as serial number or IMEI.

https://datatracker.ietf.org/doc/draft-bweeks-acme-device-at...

It feels like you've concocted some narrative to support your incredibly speculative original comment about how Apple does this because spam. You're clearly wrong. You can do attested compute on Android as others have been trying to point out.

tadfisher

I was replying to this assertion:

> If Android wants to join the party, then Android phone builders need to implement secure boot with hardware-signed attestation of non-rooted-ness, in the style of Apple T2 + macOS or Microsoft Pluton + Secure Boot.

You didn't mention device IDs.

dzikimarian

There are literally emails leaked, that say iMessage is closed, because Apple wants monopoly in this area.

Yet in every thread recently someone spreads FUD how without uncle's Apple protection, bad world will hurt you, when reality shows that's nonexistent problem on other platforms.

altairprime

I’m celebrating the antispam properties of device attestation, not asking anyone to trust Apple. I’m quite upset that Google RCS doesn’t include device attestation. It would have helped us get rid of text spam in carrier messaging, and made a convincing case for adoption by telcos. Imagine being able to block text spam by the equipment sending it. Imagine being able to block phone spam by the equipment calling you. It’s a missed opportunity for Google and for all of us.

dzikimarian

You wrote:

> Most businesses, consumers, and developers universally continue to ignore the primary reason that iMessage is a closed platform, rather than an app on every platform as iTunes is: Apple is using device serial numbers for anti-spam.

That statement is false. Primary reason is, that Apple wanted to lock customers in their ecosystem. You can read about it here: https://www.theverge.com/2021/4/27/22406303/imessage-android...

Also attestation doesn't stop spam (see other responses in this thread) and is harmful mechanism that will lead to more walled gardens.

wilde

This doesn’t work though. I receive enough iMessage spam specifically through Apple ids that I wish I could disable the ability to message me unless you use a phone number.

bee_rider

That's weird -- my phone number is definitely in some spammer lists (I get so many calls) but I have never once received an SMS or iMessage spam. What kind of things do they send?

wilde

Pig butchering mostly. “I am going to play golf with my business partners tomorrow. Will you have time to join us Dave?”

https://www.rrstar.com/story/business/2022/04/30/new-pig-but...

Tagbert

I believe that is SMS spam originating from outside of iMessage

frumper

I definitely get iMessage spam

wilde

With blue bubbles?

shireboy

The gist of the article has been a soapbox of mine for years. We wouldn't stand for "you can only send Gmail email to other Gmail users" (Fidonet people know), and shouldn't settle for similar with messaging. That said, this spam angle is an aspect I hadn't fully considered.

altairprime

Google closed down their Jabber gateway because they couldn’t stop the endless flood of spam into their userbase. If they had instead required device identifier attestations to accompany all Jabber messages, they could have left that API open for everyone to use, and simply banned device identifiers used for spamming. I wish they’d done so, instead of just giving up and closing their doors to Jabber.

zaik

Do you have any good source on why Google decided to shut down their XMPP service? I'd really like to read about it.

Not sure about the spam thing, after all they also provide a federating email service.

int_19h

I used Google Talk pretty much since the day it was released, and I don't recall any "endless flood of spam".

account42

This idea that we need to rely on big Google to protect us is insane. Just make it so that messages from unknown contacts are not as annoying or even hidden entirely unless you go explicitly looking for them.

You don't need to stop federation. You don't need device attestation. These don't benefit the user. They are only there to give the platforms more control.

dzikimarian

I used Google Talk actively at the time. Don't recall any spam.

aembleton

How hard is it to generate new device identifiers?

kazinator

How easily can you mail a Google calendar item to Google user, using non-Google software?

deadbunny

Doesn't it fall back to a .ics file?

nl

Very easily. The ICS standard is supported by everything.

x0x0

Calendar sorta works -- the meetings yes, but things like suggesting a new time or co-viewing calendars to find a time don't.

bern4444

I can understand Google's frustration but they have no one to blame but themselves.

Everyone is familiar with their graveyard of failed messaging applications (along with their graveyard of products generally).

When I had an android phone, I tried RCS with someone else on Android. It never worked. I'm sure it's improved, but as the common theme of this story goes, Google blew their chance.

I also don't trust google to abide by the "standard" they've created. Their track record is abysmal. I don't want to use yet another messaging service that they've built. I don't trust it to exist in the future, receive support and updates, and for it to be maintained. If google abandons it that means the telecoms are stuck holding the bag and when we demand even more from the next iteration of messaging apps, RCS will go the way SMS has today.

This is nothing more than Google reaping the results of their own failures. It's a shame they squandered the opportunity over the last 15 years to develop a cohesive messaging app strategy across their products, but its their shame and now they have to pay the price.

In a last ditch effort they're trying to throw all the blame on Apple who was able to innovate and launch a successful messaging service years ago. Apple recognized that SMS could be improved, and they improved it. They didn't wait for anyone and they recognize the importance of continued support - a quality Google does not seem to foster.

Google had their chance over and over again but they blew it over and over again. I don't care about the little things RCS adds, message bubbles, delivery confirmation etc. These may be nice additions but they truly don't make a large difference. If an Android phone wants to send a high quality image, video etc they can share a link. That's good enough for me.

Google failed, miserably and publicly. This latest campaign is just embarrassing for them.

thomasahle

> I don't want to use yet another messaging service that they've built.

You literally wouldn't be. You would keep using iMessage. All that would be different is that you could now send images and videos to Android users. Right now you have to switch to another app to do that.

This is not a '"standard" they've created', this is a GSM Association standard, and it would be Apple, not Google, implementing it.

KaiserPro

Are you saying that Apple doesn't send MMS? because from my experience, it totally can.

I know because I've got the bill for it.

But to go back to the original point, I don't want google near my chat history. I don't really like Apple having it either.

rat9988

Apple turns texts between iPhones and Android phones into SMS and MMS, out-of-date technologies from the 90s and 00s. But Apple can adopt RCS—the modern industry standard—for these threads instead. Solving the problem without changing your iPhone to iPhone conversations and making messaging better for everyone.

At some point we should require people to tell us whether they have read the link or not so we can know if it's worth taking their opinions into account.

thomasahle

> Are you saying that Apple doesn't send MMS? because from my experience, it totally can.

I'm saying you should currently use another app if you want to send images or movies, because MMS compresses media beyond recognition.

I don't understand why Apple users are against a simple fix that would let them send these things from inside iMessesage instead?

Why do you think this would let Google have more of your chat history?

shellac

> Their track record is abysmal.

And just to reinforce this, a decade ago Google supported a cross platform messaging standard: XMPP. And then they stopped it https://www.zdnet.com/home-and-office/networking/google-move....

raverbashing

> Everyone is familiar with their graveyard of failed messaging applications (along with their graveyard of products generally).

I agree

And that's why Whatsapp and maybe Telegram/Signal/etc are the "standards" today

upbeat_general

If you don’t care about the additional RCS features, then aren’t you saying essentially SMS is fine? Do you prefer iMessage just since it is more secure (compared to sms that is)?

kelnos

I don't love RCS[0], but Apple implementing it (including the E2EE extensions) would strike a huge blow to messaging fragmentation immediately, at least in the US.

Hell, Apple doesn't have to ditch iMessage; they just have to support RCS for messaging with Android users, or group messaging with mixed Android/iOS devices.

I would also (grudgingly) accept an opening of the iMessage protocol so Google could implement it in the Android Messages app. Not ideal by any measure, and I figure Apple would never do this (and I suspect Google would hypocritically not want to do this anyway), but it would at least improve things.

The thing that's sad overall is that the current state of affairs is just a result of an anti-consumer corporate pissing match. The only losers here are the users, both on iOS and Android. And meanwhile both Apple and Google get to tout the benefits of their preferred solution as if they're both the good guys, fighting for their users. When in reality they're merely fighting for their own market dominance.

[0] Tying messaging to your carrier is just a continuation of the crappy SMS "portability" experience. Sure, most RCS backend implementations are currently provided by Google, but one thing I'd like to see would be the ability to select your RCS provider. Maybe others would crop up if this were an option, and if RCS were actually popular.

thomasahle

> the current state of affairs is just a result of an anti-consumer corporate pissing match.

This would be true if Google didn't want to implement the iMessage protocol as you predict; but in the current state of affairs it's just Apple being anticompetitive.

cabbagesauce

>This would be true if Google didn't want to implement the iMessage protocol as you predict; but in the current state of affairs it's just Apple being anticompetitive.

I do believe, everyone understands how Google is motivated to get hands-on access to iMessage. They have had so many messaging services over the years, that I stopped keeping track already. At the same time iMessage is 11 years old and in good standing.

If you look at the launch date of WhatsApp, you'll see that in fact Apple is competitive. They introduced iMessage two years after WA got it's run.

kelnos

Has Google said that they'd implement iMessage if Apple were to open up the protocol/service? Given Google's history with messaging, I'd be surprised if they'd be so interested in doing this.

More likely they'd prefer Apple just build a standalone iMessage app for Android. (And I feel like this option would be more palatable to Apple too, if the alternative is opening up the protocol to third parties.)

thomasahle

Even if Google didn't implement it, which I think they would, somebody else would do so and put it on the Play store. That's all it would take to make this issue go away for everyone.

eftychis

RCS is dead. The Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative (CCMI) has given up. Google is the one still pushing for it. iMessage is simply a big Apple moat. Why would Apple give it up to enhance Google's business position?

Google wants us to pick theirs over Apple's. Also note that to my knowledge, RCS is not available in all countries.

The other funny thing is that Google complains about SMS being insecure -- all while RCS does not support end to end encryption. Google Messages added that feature recently relatively (last year? please correct me below) and I still can't understand if it's on by default or not.

Here is a random article about RCS state. Feel free to google for more: https://linustechtips.com/topic/1327240-in-the-us-rcs-text-m...

I would love a common solution, but rationally I can not blame Apple for keeping a (to me from experiencing both) superior experience that brings in customers. And Google has just managed to catch up. Google will need to make their messaging an order or two better, to the point that Apple will have to join.

P.S. Also, I am skeptical any time the phrases privacy, end-to-end encryption, and Google cohabitate the same statement.

(Edit)P.S.2. Just use https://apps.microsoft.com/store/detail/bluebubbles/9P3XF8KJ... in the meantime.

jvolkman

A lot has happened with RCS since that random article.

* All of the major US carriers announced that they'd ship Google Messages by default on android phones (including RCS). I believe Verizon was the last one [1].

* Google enabled end-to-end encryption by default for 1:1 chats [2]. They've said that e2e for group chats is coming later this year [3].

* Samsung replaced their own messaging client with a tweaked version of Google Messages on the S22 (edit: in the US) [4]. Samsung Messages already supported RCS, but I'm not sure if it supported Google's extensions like e2e.

And as others have mentioned: this isn't about Google wanting Apple to replace iMessage with RCS; it's about Google wanting Apple to support RCS as iMessage fallback in addition to the existing SMS support. Apple to Apple would certainly still be iMessage.

1: https://9to5google.com/2021/07/20/verizon-will-adopt-google-...

2: https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2021/06/google-enables-end-t...

3: https://9to5google.com/2022/05/11/google-messages-rcs-group-...

4: https://www.androidpolice.com/samsung-galaxy-s22-series-ship...

Ayesh

To add to this, Xiaomi and Oppo, which collectively dominate the South Asian markets and has big presence in Europe, also dropped their own messaging app a few years ago in favor of Google Messages app.

eftychis

And as you can see in my comment "what is Apple's motive for giving up their moat?"

Edit: I am not sure I understand why the downvote. Also disagreement should not be expressed with downvote. I was stressing that my point (and Apple's I guess) is it doesn't make business sense what Google is asking.

jvolkman

SMS isn't their moat, though. They wouldn't give up iMessage.

Supporting RCS (again, in addition to iMessage) would make their product better: it would allow higher quality media to be sent to and received from non-Apple users; it would allow for typing indicators and read receipts with non-Apple users; and (perhaps most importantly) it would allow - if Apple adopted Google's extensions - e2e encryption with non-Apple users. Apple loves privacy, after all.

dools

I run a phone business in Australia which is, as far as I'm aware, the only product that supports voice, txt and picture messaging on a virtual number outside of North America.

Ever since I built the product, people have been telling me SMS is obsolete and RCS is coming (4 years now). Google bought Jibe Mobile in 2015, if you go to the Jibe website and try to submit their "Get Started" form there is an error.

I have tried to get in touch with carriers to find out how to connect up RCS from my product (because hey, don't want to get behind the 8 ball) and haven't found any way to get it set up, even when asking my upstream providers.

I really don't think RCS is going anywhere, but if it is, it would be good to be able to build it into my product!

[0] http://www.benkophone.com/

pabs3

IIRC with RCS, carriers don't run the infrastructure, Google does.

MBCook

That’s not how it’s supposed to work. It’s a federated system with each carrier supposed to run things for their customers.

Why does it work today? After years of begging Google gave up and put all their users without carrier support (basically everyone) onto a Google RCS instance.

Despite how the article tries to portray things in many ways it’s iMessage but worse. With Google running everything it might as well be proprietary. And it lacks full E2E encryption.

Things probably would’ve been better off if Google had just stuck to their own private protocol and used that instead, perhaps opening it.

dools

Telstra kicked off RCS in Australia, but only on their network, then Google did one for everyone else, but it doesn't work with Telstra AFACT.

Vodafone has this business RCS page:

https://www.vodafone.com/business/carrier-services/messaging...

and they "launched" in 2018, but from what I can tell still no-one is using it.

There's a lot of confusion around it.

morsch

Maybe it's dead in the US, but German providers added support in 2021. Of course everyone here already uses cross platform messengers, so I guess it's dead, here, too.

ivoras

This is a US thing, right?

Haven't received an SMS from a real person (in other words, all SMSes I get are 2FA etc) for, at least 5 years, maybe 10.

Even people who use iPhones don't send SMSes, MMSes or anything as obsolete (including RCS). Everyone just seems to use WhatsApp and Telegram (or if they don't know any better, Viber). Locale: Central Europe.

So, why would anyone stick to the obsolete stuff? Are there regions of the US which have cell phone signals but no Internet access?

oneplane

This is indeed a US thing (culturally). Most countries seem to have chat culture revolve around Whatsapp, Telegram, Signal, WeChat or LINE.

On top of that, most people don't really care and read whatever comes in regardless of the format.

MMS was a failed concept, and so is RCS. Not because the technology is fundamentally bad, it's the implementation that is fundamentally flawed by keeping telcos in the loop. The only reason SMS didn't die is purely by accident: it was included as some sort of auxiliary technical channel, not really intended as a means of chatting with other people. Heck, it was almost not even included in the GSM standard and mostly thought of as a useless waste of protocol specification. This made it unattractive to market or monetise at first, and later on with the whole ringtone/bitmap mess around the 00's it only enjoyed a short bubble of commercial exploitation.

The cost, and the limited format then caused the likes of BBM and even MSN for mobile to be used as true chat replacements, except in the USA. That was around the same time as the flop that was MMS. Then WhatsApp (and others) came along and by then the whole telco legacy mindset finally caught up and it was way too late. Then Apple came around and a decade later finally RCS was invented at some sad endeavour to get back in the loop as a telco.

Similar things were tried to 'replace' email etc. in the AOL days, which also turned into a big flop.

selectodude

BBM was pretty big when I was in high school and college. It died the same death as Blackberry when the iPhone came out.

TheKarateKid

MMS wasn't a failed concept. It was successful at what it was designed for at the time - to share a photo or short video on 2G/3G phones. Not bidirectional conversational messaging.

MMS was never designed to be used for group chats. It was a clever implementation by Apple which made it become the standard for cellular group chats once every other platform copied it.

RussianCow

The US market standardized on mobile plans with unlimited texting a long, long time ago, so I think this caused people to mostly stick to SMS/MMS for communication since it was the path of least resistance. I don't know what the situation in Europe is like now, but in the past I remember it being difficult to find plans without very small SMS caps when traveling. That could be why Europeans naturally gravitated towards other messaging platforms.

angio

Unlimited SMS plans have been a thing in western europe for the past 15 years, at least. People switched to whatsapp because you can send pictures, not only text.

gwilly

The percentage of WhatsApp users across countries: https://imgur.com/0Jz527h

It clearly shows that people in Europe, South America and Africa are huge users of WhatsApp and only 18% use it in the US.

Spivak

MMS existed long before phones that had chat apps.

tedmiston

Do unlimited SMS plans in Europe in general include unlimited MMS too? That's how it's worked in the U.S. for a very long time.

hot_gril

When people in America want to send pictures without both ends having iMessage, they either use MMS (aka "text it to me") or share them some other way.

trevcanhuman

Also in Latin America. Even though we have nice 4G text messages do take a while to get through, even if my speed test is high!

TelCos just prefer to use the Internet. And I agree.

null

[deleted]

KaiserPro

I still don't understand how SMS took off in the US. for a long time you had to pay to receive texts, which is madness.

given that undercurrent of expense, I'm still not sure why the US hasn't moved to whatsapp/signal/other. The only thing I can think of is that mobile data is even more expensive.

hot_gril

When you had to pay to receive SMS, WhatsApp didn't exist. Your only other options were more cumbersome things like email and AIM, which still required paying for a phone internet plan and having a capable phone.

oneplane

If I'm not mistaken, a lot happens on Facebook in the US, including instant messaging.

elondaits

In Argentina WhatsApp became the de-facto standard definitely because it was “free” messaging compared to the expensive SMS. The carriers ruined it for all of us.

rootusrootus

Network effect. SMS works everywhere, all phones support it out-of-the-box. WhatsApp is opt-in. Almost nobody I communicate with regularly has a WhatsApp account.

komali2

How do you SMS people without a USA phone number?

mikebenfield

Most Americans have few or zero regular international contacts. The US is geographically huge and there are only two other nations within relatively reach.

Personally I have one person in my contacts who's not in the US. This is someone I communicate with about twice a year, and we do indeed use WhatsApp for that.

Rebelgecko

For non-North American recipients from a North American phone number, you have to prefix with the country code[0]. So unnecessary if you're in the US and want to call Canada or Jamaica or wherever. But say you want to call someone with a UK phone number, you just send the SMS to +44-<their phone number>.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_country_calling_codes

tedmiston

Social networks.

But as other comments mentioned, the number of people I "text" with regularly without a U.S. phone number / the ability to send and receive SMS is very small.

asdff

Because its better than chat apps. I can send a text all over the place. Cell coverage for nondata service is incredible, you'd have to be really remote at this point to not have it at which point you definitely don't have a data connection. Meanwhile there are places all over my city where I can't get a reliable enough LTE connection to open my chat apps let alone send a message, much less one with any attachments. Inside stores are especially bad with LTE. I can't even get an imessage out inside the grocery store. I have to defer to sms, but then it sends instantly.

leokennis

Want to reply on:

> Everyone just seems to use WhatsApp and Telegram (or if they don't know any better, Viber).

To remark that Telegram by default is not E2E encrypted, you need to explicitly start a "secret chat". And group chats are not encrypted as well. And when you start a secret chat it uses Telegrams "probably maybe secure, but possibly not because it's a non-standard in house built" encryption scheme with weird choices.

I absolutely love Telegram, but I will also definitely not use it for anything more confidential than mindless chatter and cat pictures".

hot_gril

And they rolled their own crypto.

chizhik-pyzhik

For some reason whatsapp/telegram/etc haven't taken off nearly as well in the US as they have in the rest of the world.

NYT had an article about this recently- https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/02/technology/sms-whatsapp.h...

bagacrap

basically it's the lowest common denominator. There are so many chat apps out there (signal, sms, fb, ig are popular in my circles) and the default app is the only one everyone has installed.

For people close to me, I insist on the use of signal, but I don't have that kind of social capital with every single acquaintance.

Bayart

France here. I use SMS every single day, moreso than any specific given messaging app. I also routinely use Whatsapp with North Africans and Live Messenger with old FB contacts.

These things are highly localized.

MBCook

RCS itself does not support E2E encryption. That’s an extension Google developed. It only works if BOTH people are using Google’s Messages app.

Group chats? Totally plain text in the clear. No encryption at all.

RCS is not good enough. Fix the issues, develop something better, I don’t care.

Only E2E is good enough.

jvolkman

SMS/MMS, which is the only iMessage fallback today, is not E2E.

atonse

Not that I'm a proponent of keeping SMS around, but then what's the incentive to move to RCS?

The actual "open" parts of RCS don't seem any better.

jvolkman

Apart from better media, typing indicators, etc., RCS allows richer metadata (like content types) and various side channels (AFAIK) that allow extensions like E2E to be added. SMS is just 160 characters.

I believe Google will share their E2E spec with others. They published an overview a while ago [1], but presumably they'd offer more to someone wanting to actually implement it.

1: https://www.gstatic.com/messages/papers/messages_e2ee.pdf

infotogivenm

I agree 100% tbh, but the site does list a few incentives - no more blurry images/videos, possibility for tapback and animations etc.

xnx

I'm all for standards, but this is mainly sour grapes by Google. If they hadn't shot themselves in the foot dozens of times with messaging they could've dominated using the head start they had with Google Talk. Google should put all messages from iPhone users in comic sans.

hbn

They had a surefire strategy starting in 2013 when they added SMS integration to Hangouts and made it a default-installed app on all Androids. It was tied to your Google account so most people (and basically all Android users) already had an account. It was pre-installed, meaning you didn't need to pitch people to install another app, which is usually a big ask. Instead you say "hey open this app you already have installed, we can chat here and it's better, and you can text all your other contacts who don't have it too." It had video calling too, basically all you needed.

But then Allo and Duo came along. Remember Allo? Me neither! It was Hangouts' death sentence anyway! And now Duo is being rebranded/merged into Meet for some reason.

Get out of the Google ecosystem wherever you can. They're only getting worse.

xmonkee

I still remember the glory that was Google Talk back in 2005-ish. And you could connect to it from other xmpp networks. It's insane to me that the current google chat app (a neglected box within gmail) is WAYYY worse than it was almost 20 years ago.

ElijahLynn

This is sour grapes for users. Google doesn't own the RCS standard, fwiw. I still use SMS/MMS and it is really, really nice when another user is using RCS because modern messaging features actually work. I can send long voice memos/song ideas to others, high resolution photos, see if a message was read etc. RCS is a huge upgrade, and really has nothing to do with Google.

worthless-trash

This is genius.

__derek__

First, Apple shaming Microsoft. Then, Microsoft shaming Google. Now, Google shaming Apple.

> missing read receipts and typing indicators

Life is better without both of these.

> no texting over Wi-Fi

This claim was odd. I visited Europe a few months ago and definitely sent/received SMS over wifi using my iPhone.

> When people with iPhones and Android phones text each other, Apple relies on SMS and MMS, outdated systems which do not always support texting over wi-fi. That means if you don’t have a cellular network connection, depending on your carrier and situation, you may not be able to send and receive texts.

Oh, so the claim was deliberately misleading. That's not a good way to build trust.

egwynn

> definitely sent/received SMS over wifi using my iPhone

Are you certain? From what I understand about how SMS works, I don’t see how that’s possible. Apple’s own docs also appear to suggest that SMS-over-WiFi won’t work: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT207006

frizlab

Most operators do cellular over wifi now (because 4G/5G sucks indoor). Not all of them though.

egwynn

I’m curious about how this works, can you link me someplace where I can read more about it? I tried searching for “cellular over wifi” but wasn’t about to find anything promising.

EDIT: I searched harder and found “VoWiFi”. It looks like this can support SMS and is supported by iOS. TIL.

GekkePrutser

4G is not so bad here because of the 700 / 800 MHz band which has really good penetration.

But 5G is mainly done on 3.5Ghz and that's tough yes. Of course they can use the same frequencies for 5G. Though the bandwidth at such low frequencies is limited, and thus the maximum speeds.

radiojasper

I still don't get why people use SMS/MMS anyway? I've been using WhatsApp for ages now and so does everybody else in my country - and every country I've been in, apart from China and Japan. My friend who's from the US once said "I've paid for those text messages, so I'm going to use them!" But if I send him a text from Europe to the US, I pay 1 damn euro per delivered text. WhatsApp is free! Is there any viable reason why Apple users use SMS so much?

rootusrootus

Almost nobody I know uses WhatsApp. On the other hand, a significant number of people I meet do have iMessage. There's no incentive for me to install WhatsApp. Even my friends internationally all have iPhones. I don't install third-party apps unless there is a very good reason. SMS is an inferior but acceptable fallback for edge cases.

simonjgreen

Your bubble is not representative of the whole world though. >80% of mobile devices are not iPhones. (https://www.statista.com/statistics/272307/market-share-fore...)

80% is not an edge case.

kelnos

This is a subthread about someone not from the US being surprised at the messaging habits of people in the US, so I think quoting a stat about iPhone/iMessage penetration in the US is perfectly relevant. The US "bubble" is the only one that matters in this particular conversation, as it's specifically what this conversation is about.

dataexporter

This comment comes from a position of privilege and power. Not everyone can afford iPhones and neither is a value-for-money at those prices. If all your international friends are also using iPhones, then you are definitely in a very special bubble.

lotsofpulp

There are many people in the US who have no international contacts, and so they grew up using only the default messaging app. And they are not sufficiently incentivized to install another app like WhatsApp.

Between NYC/SF, I do not know a single person that does not use both iMessage and WhatsApp. But typically it is people who are not children of immigrants and whose social circles have no one outside the country that tend to not have WhatsApp.

kevin_thibedeau

SMS is the only federated messaging system guaranteed available on all cell phones. That makes it more useful than any walled garden.

kelnos

It's weird to me that so many people don't seem to get that. SMS/MMS are terrible in many ways, but they have the benefit of the universal network effect, without even trying.

Sure, if I want to send someone videos, or do regular group chats, I'm going to find an alternative platform. But if it's just a casual contact, or I don't anticipate needing these things, I'll just stick with SMS.

baby

Not end to end encrypted lol

kaashif

I'll have you know all of my texts are encrypted with GPG.

90% of my time is spent copying and pastingl...help me.

Andrex

That's a hard problem that a lot of smart people are trying to figure out. I'd say there's been good progress.

https://support.google.com/messages/answer/10252671?hl=en

I think this is exclusive to Jibe and Google Messages but a widespread (in terms of installs) proof-of-concept is still pretty cool, and better than nothing.

The bigger problem is adding E2E to SMS is going to attract the FBI's ire, they really really really like reading everybody's texts.

macintux

WhatsApp was appealing before it got sucked into the FB vortex. Thanks, but no thanks.

If there were a single 3rd-party messaging platform that I trusted, and my friends started using it, sure. But since 75% use iPhones/iMessage, and the rest SMS, why in the world would I use WhatsApp?

aembleton

To exchange photos and video with those on Android.

macintux

Fairly limited use case for opening myself up to more Meta in my life. I'll pass.

stonemetal12

It comes preinstalled, works, is free. Why would I look for a different messaging app? What does WhatsApp do that the preinstalled, free, messaging app doesn't?

cgrealy

Group messages to anyone regardless of platform.

SMS is crap for group chats, and imessage doesn't work if someone in the group isn't using ios.

Now, you absolutely might not care about those things, but millions of people definitely do.

kelnos

> SMS is crap for group chats

SMS doesn't do group chats; I think you're thinking of MMS. I agree that it's not a great experience, though.

> Group messages to anyone regardless of platform.

That's the thing though; that's not true. WhatsApp might be available on both Android and iOS, but it only works if the person you want to talk to has it installed and has set up an account. That requires coordination. If I meet someone new and want to get in touch with them, I'm going to ask for their phone number (or email address). I'm not going to ask them which messaging apps they have installed so we can figure out which one(s) we have in common.

Sure, if later on I want to start a long-running group chat including this person, I'll absolutely go to the effort of finding a common chat platform that is not MMS, because MMS is terrible. But if I'm only doing 1-on-1 conversations, or just short one-off group chats, I won't bother.

(Interestingly, for some people, even though I have group chats with them on an alternate platform, I'll still message them 1-on-1 using SMS. Not sure why that's the case, and it's not universal. I guess it's just whatever we'd gotten used to, and saw no need to change.)

asdff

A lot of people I know use groupme for groupchats, especially because they support a lot of users, but then its texts for everything else because its simpler. Chat apps have shortcomings, especially if you live where data connections are spotty which is everywhere in America with a large indoor space. My grocery store might as well be a faraday cage for anything demanding my 4g connection, but SMS goes through instantly.

radiojasper

Deliver your messages encrypted, not mess up video quality when sending to/from Android users, sends messages over WiFi just to name a few.

abawany

I've seen this position a lot throughout this thread and I have a question: all of these apps (whatsapp, signal, etc.) appear to be "free" - how do you suppose they will make money? In the US, the users of sms/mms/imessage paid in some way for this service and can have some reasonable expectation for delivery and availability.

kelnos

I believe the Signal Foundation runs on donations. So far this appears to have been sustainable, but of course you could make the argument that we don't know if that will always be the case.

But that's the case for any business, even one for which users directly pay for the service.

simonjgreen

In the case of WhatsApp they charge businesses for business features.

https://support.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/4408818454938-...

Prior to business features a long time ago they used to charge a one time $1 fee to download then $1 per year.

kelnos

I use WhatsApp as well, but not many of the people I communicate with have it. SMS/MMS is a common denominator that everyone with a phone number has, and can always be relied upon to work without foreknowledge that the other party has a particular app installed.

> But if I send him a text from Europe to the US, I pay 1 damn euro per delivered text

How the tables have turned! It's no secret that the US has more expensive cellular plans than the rest of the world, but with my carrier, international texting is free.

cgrealy

> Is there any viable reason why Apple users use SMS so much?

They don't. At least not in my experience. I have an iPhone, but there's about a 50/50 split ios/android in my friends and family.

Group chats are almost entirely WhatsApp, and single messages are a blend of WhatsApp, iMessage and SMS.

I probably use SMS/MMS once a week

kelnos

As counterpoint, I am an Android user in the US, and 90%+ of my contacts are US-based iPhone users. While I do use Signal, WhatsApp, or GChat for nearly all of my group chats, I have 1-on-1 conversations over SMS daily, with quite a few people.

I've managed to move a few of the 1-on-1 chats to Signal, but not many.

cgrealy

I'm not sure I understand.... if 90%+ of your contacts are on iOS, why are you using SMS instead of iMessage?

I wonder if that's a US based thing (I'm in NZ)?

kriskrunch

I setup a BlueBubbles server on a spare Mac and I installed the BlueBubbles App. Boom. iMessages on Android. Done.

Messaging is already extremely fragmented. BB is only the eighth messaging app on my phone. Considering getting on Beeper to consolodate this madness. Matrix/Element was too rough to utilize as is.

Almost everyone I text with is on iMessage in the US. 95% or more of my regular contacts. Many are often outspoken about their cult like allegiance to iMessage. Finally some respect.

The look on their face when I send them an iMessage from my Galaxy is priceless.

Now, nearly all of the SMS messages I get are spam. Google Messages and the phone companies are pathetic at stopping them.

mr_toad

> The look on their face when I send them an iMessage from my Galaxy is priceless.

Well, technically it was relayed through your Mac. Not sure how many Galaxy users have Macs to send message through, so I’m not sure it’s a workable solution for most.

googlryas

Probably many, since macs are the most popular laptop/desktop computers, and many people have one.

DennisAleynikov

I wanna live in the world where what you said is true!

alphabetting

I have not had this experience. Google Messages has been incredible at stopping spam for me. Android is best in class on calls as well. I was seeing memes about car warranties and looked it up. Apparently a big problem with spam calls. Haven't seen a spam call on my pixels in years. All filtered into the ether.

GekkePrutser

Yeah and there's also mautrix-imessage for those wanting to use element.

I know it's rough setting up but there's a really great ansible playbook that makes it easy to maintain. I really love having all my messaging consolidated and not having all those privacy-invasive apps on my phone. Having my chats all in one big database is another boon.

The playbook doesn't support mautrix-imessage but that's because that needs to be run on macOS.

navanchauhan

mautrix-imessage is actually developed by Beeper. iirc they just send you a jailbroken iPhone if you subscribe to them (as far as I can remember)

GekkePrutser

Yes, tulir works for beeper. But I think they stopped doing that iPhone thing, and if you use iOS there are less features available: https://github.com/mautrix/imessage/blob/master/ROADMAP.md . A Mac with SIP disabled is now the recommended method (apparently this can be a VM too!)

That iPhone thing was something they did in the beginning, before they used the name Beeper, I forget the name they used.

I like the idea of Beeper but self-hosting is important to me, so I use the ansible playbook instead. For hosted services there's also Element One by the way, though that doesn't include the iMessage bridge.

thomasahle

Can this be done without setting up a private Mac server?

navanchauhan

You don't have to setup on a dedicated Mac server. You could also use a jailbroken iPhone / iPod touch

DennisAleynikov

At that point just make a hackintosh VM and run it from there. Why even buy apples stuff if you're not gonna use it.

saxonww

This is so funny because they don't even do a good job themselves with their own service.

I'm a Google phone user on Google Fi, and make heavy use of the web app (message.google.com/web) in addition to texting via the phone. Once you get a long conversation history, the phone experience becomes poor - conversations won't load, messages won't send - and the web will often lose sync and need to be re-paired (which may or may not itself work). On top of that, some days messages just will not send quickly, not over wifi or 5g, to the point that it's too hard to converse via text and we just give up.

Google has an alternative configuration for Fi users, btw: you can do all your calls and texts through Fi, have Fi store your messages and voicemails, etc. Except you have to turn off RCS for this, because Fi doesn't support it. So you get the SMS/MMS experience they are complaining about, and on top of that they convert all your audio and video to 3gpp and downscale the heck out of it such that it's nearly worthless.

Who knows what's realistically possible but I wonder if Google is going about this the right way. Call up Tim Cook and say we'd like to give Android users a better messaging experience, how can we work with you to do that. Don't try to embarrass Apple into helping you - Apple very likely does not care - and certainly if you're going to point out where their choices lead to a worse experience for your users, make sure you're not doing the same thing.

DangitBobby

Just to counter your anecdote, I've never had a single performance issue on the Android Messages app on my phone or the web interface. I have had friends with iPhones that fail to render images I've sent them, and they send this obnoxious "so and so responded with a thumbs up" (still do, android phones just do the right thing now and show a thumbs up reaction instead of the text). So YMMV. Apple needs to fix their broken messaging app.

obnauticus

I would agree more if the RCS standard wasn’t also hot garbage…

I would encourage anyone who is curious to read more about it. It’s taken so long to gain traction that it has also become somewhat legacy. Also, it still requires a carrier sponsored phone plan? How is this “modern” in comparison to say every other carrier agnostic messaging app in existence?

Also this: https://twitter.com/RonAmadeo/status/1480679515298934786

equalsione

It really is god-awful. RCS is a technology that benefits mobile operators, not users.

Also, Google really aren't in a position to lecture anyone on this topic, given their N+1 approach to messaging services.

jkingsman

Speak for yourself; I LOVE texting my fellow-Android-owners with RCS. My photos don't get squashed a la MMS, sending multimedia Just Works, and typing/receipt indicators are lovely. Maybe the mobile operators are getting far bigger wins, but as an average person texting my friends, it's great.

kelnos

I'm just annoyed that it's opt-in, and still seems to have some issues. I think I converse with exactly three other people who use Android.

One of them works with RCS! Yay!

The second hasn't enabled RCS for some reason. (Or he has -- I haven't asked him -- but for some reason the machinery in between hasn't figured out that we're both RCS-capable.)

The third has enabled RCS, and the messages I send to him go over RCS, but when he replies, they go over SMS/MMS. No idea why.

navjack27

Honestly same. And the same thing for getting Wi-Fi calls with people on the same network and how they sound crystal clear but then you call someone who's not on your network and it sounds like a crappy phone call again. When my dad and I were both on Google fi our phone calls sounded great and texting through RCS was great. He switched to the same carrier that his new wife has and the service is just degraded.

null

[deleted]

angryasian

Its definitely a compromise, but Google is ultimately at the mercy of the carriers. We can sit back behind our keyboards and criticize but it is a way to get something going. I don't think carriers have any incentive to improve this area, and probably nothing would happen

kelnos

> Its definitely a compromise, but Google is ultimately at the mercy of the carriers.

Are they, though? Google absolutely could have implemented an iMessage competitor, directly in the stock Android Messages app, and then required third-party Android manufacturers to include it as the stock SMS/MMS/"gMessage" app as a part of Android conformance testing.

But no, instead they choose to play games with Allo, Duo, Hangouts, Chat, etc., all of which are an optional download and need not be included in the stock install. And even if/when they are required, it's still an extra app that a user has to find, and understand why they should use it.

Now, I don't want them to do this. I want them to promote and support a federated, open standard; I don't want another iMessage. RCS is not great for many reasons, but at least it's not a walled garden.

rootusrootus

> Google is ultimately at the mercy of the carriers

Yet again I recall the deal with the devil Apple did with AT&T, giving them a year or two of exclusive rights to sell the iPhone in return for having exactly zero control over the device. That was an excellent trade. Before 2007, carriers were intrusively involved with all aspects of a mobile phone.

obnauticus

I understand that there are huge interoperability and legacy requirements on the phone network. But for the sake of solving the biggest problem of Android to iPhone communication I think we can and should demand something which is actually modern (ie platform and carrier agnostic).

The problem with RCS is that the solution has been stuck in GSM consortium hell for over a decade.

danaris

> Google is ultimately at the mercy of the carriers

I mean...are they?

If Google were serious about pushing a new standard, and were willing to actually push it on the carriers, they have plenty of money, reach, and clout to make their point heard loud and clear. That would be triply true if it weren't a "new standard" that was yet another transparent attempt to gather more data from users.

resfirestar

>There are zero benefits to phone identity over email

I can think of one: most people’s email identity is subject to termination under Google’s ToS. Same thing with identity tied to Facebook or other social networks. In the US, your ability to take your phone number to a different carrier is protected by federal regulations.

ElijahLynn

It is actually light years better than SMS/RCS and has a huge value to end users. I can see if a message was read, I can send legit voice memos without size limits, I can send large high resolution photos.

It may not be perfect but it is better than what Apple is doing now.

arbirk

Very interesting. I wonder what protocol and format the EU commission will point to in enforcing the Digital Markets Act

a2tech

No one really wants to understand it, they just want to complain that Apple doesn't support it

upbeat_general

I don’t love phone based identity but it’s wrong to say it has no benefits.

While it does lock you out if you don’t pay, at least you won’t be locked out by accident since you can generally prove your identity to the carrier. This obviously is a con (sms hijacking) but for many people it’s much more important.

Not to mention the importance of phone numbers being basically universal which is why 3rd party messaging apps haven’t totally replaced sms. RCS has the potential to do so, or at least cut down on sms usage further.

2OEH8eoCRo0

Google cannot legally ship, as part of Android, a carrier-agnostic messaging app like iMessage.

unethical_ban

Could you elaborate? I've never heard this before.

ThatPlayer

It's illegal tying[0]. Google used to force Chrome and Google Search as part of Google Play Store requirements. And were fined a few years ago by the EU[1]. Pretty much most of this reasoning could be applied to a messaging app too.

[0] https://www.ftc.gov/advice-guidance/competition-guidance/gui...

[1] https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_18_...

2OEH8eoCRo0

I've heard that since Android is the OS that 3rd parties use it could violate antitrust to include a Google branded chat-app. Apple does not distribute iOS so they can do whatever they want.

kart23

ehhhh, that twitter post is weird. It's like your phone number. You're free to switch carriers, and just like a phone number, you lose it if you stop paying. It's not designed to replace whatsapp, its replacing sms.