Apple to bridge message divide – but keeps green bubbles

Person texting someone on an iPhone with green-coloured messages displayed on phone screen

Hopes have risen that the era of green and blue message bubbles on iPhones might eventually come to an end.

Currently only iMessages from iPhones have blue bubbles.

Apple says it will support a new messaging standard that will make it easier to send texts between phones.

But messages from Android phones will still appear as green bubbles, suggesting those who want the bubble divide to burst may have a long wait.

The company said it will introduce support for a new messaging standard – Rich Communication Services (RCS) – on iPhones and iOS devices from 2024.

RCS is a standard designed to make it easier for phones on different operating systems to exchange messages.

The move, first reported by 9to5Mac, has been viewed as a sea-change for Apple.

Apple plans to introduce support for the messaging standard in a software release later next year.

An Apple spokesperson told the tech publication that RCS would be better for users seeking to message users of rival phones compared to SMS or MMS.

“This will work alongside iMessage, which will continue to be the best and most secure messaging experience for Apple users” the spokesperson said.

Google, which develops the Android phone operating system, has been the biggest competitor calling on Apple to enable RCS.

Its “get the message” campaign has emphasised that besides frustration for some users met with green-coloured messages on iPhones or iOS devices, SMS and MMS messages are not protected by end-to-end encryption.

Recent EU rules for digital platforms may have also encouraged Apple’s adoption of RCS.

The bloc’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) requires providers of major digital services – so called core services – to introduce ways for users of their platforms to easily interact with rival platforms – including sending messages between rival systems.

The Financial Times reported in early November that Google and other firms had written to the European Commission, urging it to declare Apple’s iMessage a core service that should be interoperable with rivals like WhatsApp.

Apple has argued iMessage shouldn’t be subject to these rules, but the European Commission had said in September it was investigating whether Apple’s iMessage should be deemed a core service.

Earlier this year Apple was forced to ditch its signature lightning port on new iPhones to meet EU requirements for a common charging cable.

Apple’s announcement comes days after phone manufacturer Nothing launched a way for owners of its latest smartphone to send iMessages to iPhone users.

The company said its app Nothing Chats would offer a bridge between iPhone and Android handsets and let users connect via blue bubble messages.

Responding to the news of Apple adopting RCS the company posted on X (formerly Twitter), “looks like they got the message”.

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