Apple confirms iMessage’s green bubbles will stick around with RCS messages

Google Messages on Android phone next to Messages app on iPhone
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Yesterday, Apple shocked the tech world by finally promising to embrace the Rich Communication Standards (RCS) messaging standard next year after a long-running pestering campaign from Google. This had seemed like a long shot for years, with CEO Tim Cook once telling a journalist to “buy your mom an iPhone” if cross-platform messaging parents was a problem.

But while the (presumably reluctant) adoption of RCS messages will get rid of some of the practical problems of texting from Android to iOS and vice versa, the aesthetics will apparently remain the same. 

Apple has confirmed to 9to5Google that while RCS will bring a whole host of iMessage-style features to texts between Android and iOS (think read receipts, typing indicators and high-quality media), iPhone-to-iPhone messages will continue to appear blue, while messages from Android devices will be green. 

That’s apparently because Apple wants to clearly mark what it believes to be the best and most secure way for people to communicate: from one iPhone to another, via iMessages. But there’s likely a secondary factor at play, too.

Aesthetics matter

You may well be reading that with a shrug and wondering “who cares about the color of messages?”. That would suggest you’re not a teen. As the Wall Street Journal explained in a piece last January, “teens and college students said they dread the ostracism that comes with a green text.” And yes, there are memes to accompany that feeling.

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One woman claims that her younger sister and friends would mock her for exchanging texts with potential partners if their messages came through in the dreaded green. “I was like, `Oh my gosh, his texts are green,’ and my sister literally went, `Ew that’s gross,’” she recalls.

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Apple undoubtedly knows this, and is aware that iMessage exclusivity gives it a certain stickiness. Indeed, the WSJ article quotes Craig Federighi saying that bringing iMessage to Android would “remove [an] obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones” a decade ago.

This is undoubtedly all very silly (and all a bit incomprehensible for many outside the U.S., where WhatsApp is the dominant force in messaging), but it could still be a pain for Google and its plans for Android in America, where it significantly lags behind iOS compared to the rest of the world

RCS adoption may give Android to iPhone messages feature parity (or close to it), but if having blue messages remain a status symbol, then it’s not going to help with Android adoption in the US. Only now, Google won’t have any grounds to complain without acknowledging its embarrassing lack of youth cachet.

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Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.