[Chronique d’Alain McKenna] It’s time for Apple to save Android

Steve Jobs was a fierce capitalist. Yet he understood the importance of industry standards. For him, it seemed to go without saying: messaging on the iPhone should eventually become an open protocol accessible by both Apple products and those of its competitors, including Google. Today, everyone wants it. Except a few diehards at the head of Apple.

In 2022, even at Google we agree: everyone would be better served if iPhone messaging became a default service for Android devices as well. This messaging currently takes two forms. There’s the Messages (formerly iMessage) text app where blue bubbles and green bubbles indicate when interacting with another iPhone or Android phone. Then there’s the FaceTime video calling app, reserved exclusively for Apple devices.

However, if two and a half years of pandemic have proven one thing, it is that these two services are actually one and the same thing: a simple, and oh so versatile, way to dialogue remotely between two or more people. And ironically, it matches what Steve Jobs proposed in 2010.

But Jobs went further: it was necessary, according to him, to make these communication tools open protocols, in the same way as the Bluetooth protocol, USB ports or files in PDF format are almost universal technologies today.

It never happened.

Google abdicates

For its part, Google has promised to include advanced standards in Android’s messaging applications to offer the same level of security and user-friendliness as the iPhone. These standards have a name. An acronym, in fact: RCS, for “Rich Communication Services”. This allows, among other things, to include high-quality photos and videos through text messages.

However, Google’s efforts were somewhat in vain. In any case, the Californian giant that produces the Android system threw in the towel a few days ago. On the official Android website (android.com), we now find this message:

“It’s time for Apple to fix texting. It’s not about the color of the bubbles. These are blurry images, the inability to text on wifi networks, and more. All of this exists because Apple refuses to adopt modern standards so that owners of iPhones and Android phones can text with each other as well. »

A tech fox would go further than that. Apple doesn’t have to “fix text messages.” It can literally “fix Android” by producing a version for this mobile system of its own messaging service, including FaceTime.

Because we will tell each other, Google Duo, the rival video call service to FaceTime on Android, simply does not take off. Skype, Teams, Zoom and the others still do not have the same magnetism as Apple’s application with its customers.

As for messaging, the whole SMS service on Android is broken. Each manufacturer offers its own app, but the Google Play Store has hundreds more. Some are legitimate, others less so. This proliferation of nearly identical applications is a scourge on Android that facilitates the emergence of misleading, malicious or downright fraudulent applications.

Apple has a golden opportunity to impose its messaging, which has the merit of being end-to-end encrypted, and therefore inviolable by a third party. Only the WhatsApp application currently offers something similar. Google has already tried to buy this service, again in vain.

The Canadian example

All Canadian anecdote here: long before the iPhone, BlackBerry phones from the Canadian company Research in Motion (since renamed BlackBerry, for short) offered fully encrypted messaging that was well ahead of its time. So much so that the President of the United States was invited to use it for his communications.

BlackBerry messaging — the famous BBM — was ahead of its rivals. A bit like his phones were somewhere in 2004, no doubt.

But the Windsor company hasn’t been able to extend its service beyond its own hardware platform either, and BBM is buried today not far from the brand’s latest smartphones, even if a version for Android was declined a few years ago.

The end of the iPhone?

Obviously, one would have to be crazy (or extremely visionary, or both) to predict that the iPhone will suffer the same fate as the BlackBerry in the foreseeable future. But Apple may be at a crucial moment these days to push itself even further into mobility by expanding its messaging reach beyond its phone’s current market share of around 30% globally.

Apple Music, Apple TV and other of its services are already present on Android. Nobody would tear up their shirt to make these applications universal… But even some of the most die-hard Android users are demanding their own access to iMessage and FaceTime these days.

In addition to Google, the creators of the AirMessage service, a simple application that bridges iMessage and Android phones, are also asking Apple to act. They also invite anyone interested to send a pre-written message to Tim Cook, its CEO On Twitter, it takes the form of a simple tweet:

“Tell @Apple to free iMessage #FreeiMessage”.

Twelve years after the wish formulated by Steve Jobs, it is high time for Apple to grant it. It’s time for Apple to fix Android.

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