December 7, 2023

Google has as soon as once more marketed the weak spot of Android by begging Apple to allow RCS help in iMessage, a key characteristic of the iPhone. However Google is making a giant fuss about one thing that’s not an issue in most elements of the world. As I defined, RCS help in iMessage (or WhatsApp, for that matter) would solely deliver pointless confusion.

I’ve by no means had an occasion the place a pal or member of the family couldn’t get in contact with me by way of chat apps. However then WhatsApp is king in Europe, and even a few of my iPhone-using contacts favor it over iMessage.

The one method RCS involves iPhone by way of iMessage help is that if regulators power Apple to conform. The one regulator on the planet with the facility to take action proper now’s the European Union (EU), due to its Digital Markets Act (DMA) regulation.

However the EU has simply designated its gatekeepers below DMA, and iMessage isn’t one in all them. Not but, a minimum of. Due to this fact, Apple doesn’t must open iMessage to RCS like WhatsApp would.

With all that in thoughts, those that hope that RCS will make it into iMessage must know that even the EU can’t power Apple to ship a full RCS expertise in iMessage. That, even when it did, the interoperability might be regional, identical to iOS 17 sideloading can be. And that lastly, that gatekeeper designator needs to be renewed, which implies RCS help can all the time disappear.

Nonetheless, due to the EU’s new regulation, I’ve an thought of how lengthy it’ll take for RCS help to indicate up in iMessage and the way lengthy it’ll take.

Gatekeeper designator

I’ll remind you once more what helps the EU determine whether or not an organization and/or service is a gatekeeper within the area:

(i) when the corporate achieves a sure annual turnover within the European Financial Space, and it supplies a core platform service in a minimum of three EU Member States;

(ii) when the corporate supplies a core platform service to greater than 45 million month-to-month lively finish customers established or positioned within the EU and to greater than 10,000 yearly lively enterprise customers established within the EU;

(iii) when the corporate met the second criterion over the past three years.

Underneath these guidelines, Apple’s iOS, App Retailer, and Safari are gatekeepers. However iMessage isn’t, because the EU will examine Apple’s chat platform till February 2024.

Chat apps like WhatsApp and Messenger are gatekeepers, and I’m mentioning the Meta chat apps as a result of they’re direct rivals to Apple’s iMessage.

The six firms and 22 providers the EU considers gatekeepers below the brand new DMA regulation. Picture supply: European Fee

How Apple would deliver RCS help to iMessage

However say the EU determined subsequent February that iMessage is a gatekeeper, and subsequently, it has to work with competing providers, whether or not it’s RCS or one thing else.

Apple would then have till August 2024 to conform and implement interoperability help. Meta is doing it with WhatsApp already, however its deadline is March 2024.

In such a situation, iMessage must work with these rival chat apps so long as the rivals ask Apple for help. Google would undoubtedly do it. Importantly, interoperability would work provided that customers select it. I already defined I don’t need such confusion in my on the spot chat app expertise.

That’s, I don’t need troubleshoot iMessage and/or RCS points for anybody within the household. I’d most actually flip off RCS help. And I’m pretty sure Apple would have a approach to disable the characteristic within the app for the straightforward purpose that interoperability within the EU doesn’t imply interoperability in the whole world — extra on that later.

As for the best way RCS help can be carried out properly, the EU presents the next pointers:

Some primary functionalities must be made obtainable for interoperability inside six months from the designation of the gatekeeper, (e.g. textual content messages between two particular person customers), extra complicated ones can be launched steadily and must be made obtainable after two years (e.g. group textual content messages) or 4 years (e.g. audio and video calls between two particular person customers or teams of finish customers) from the second of designation.

At the perfect, you’d get RCS help for two-way iMessage chats by August 2024. It’ll be even later if the EU deems iMessage as a gatekeeper properly after February 2024.

Then, Apple has two years to deliver extra complicated RCS options to iMessage. Like wealthy group textual content messages. Within the best-case situation, that offers you an August 2026 deadline.

RCS help might be restricted to the EU

Apple will undoubtedly adhere to the EU guidelines, however not with out protest. And when iMessage turns into a gatekeeper service, it’ll in all probability do solely the minimal required.

The present gatekeeper designations have already scored a win for these protesting Apple’s App Retailer guidelines. iOS 17 will nearly actually help sideloading by March 2024 alongside third-party app shops and fee techniques. However these options can be obtainable solely domestically, within the EU.

This isn’t like USB-C. Apple might have made USB-C iPhones just for Europe, however that will have been an costly manufacturing trouble. With software program, it’s completely different. Apple gained’t must deploy options worldwide simply because the EU calls for them domestically. It is perhaps a ache for Apple’s software program builders, however interoperability for iMessage is perhaps restricted to the EU, identical to sideloading.

Software program modifications are reversible

Come February 2024, we’ll be taught whether or not the EU has deemed iMessage a gatekeeper. If Apple wins, then it’ll haven’t any purpose to conform. If iMessage turns into a gatekeeper, the designation will keep in place for a minimum of three years. That’s as a result of these designations won’t be everlasting. The EU should replace its gatekeeper record repeatedly. Some firms/providers can be added; others can be eliminated.

Think about this situation: iMessage turns into a gatekeeper service in February 2024, however by 2027, it fails to satisfy the factors above. Possibly the addition of RCS ruins iMessage a lot in Europe that iPhone customers abandon it in droves.

In such a case, iMessage might lose its gatekeeper standing. And Apple would be capable to disable RCS help. With a kill swap. The identical swap that I mentioned earlier I’d need in iMessage to stop interoperability on my machine.

Image showing the blue bubbles vs. green bubbles from Google's latest campaign against iMessages.
Picture displaying the blue bubbles vs. inexperienced bubbles “downside” from Google’s newest marketing campaign towards iMessages. Picture supply: Google

By the best way, this dialog applies to any on the spot messaging app that turns into a gatekeeper within the EU. I don’t need RCS help in WhatsApp or another app. Or the opposite method round. Of all of the DMA necessities, the EU’s guidelines for chat apps annoy me probably the most as a European. I don’t recognize mixing chat experiences. As an alternative, I favor standalone apps for every chat app.

That is all hypothesis, in fact. However it’s based mostly on the EU’s DMA rules. We’ll see how all the pieces unfolds within the coming months. By March 2024, we’ll witness iOS 17 sideloading help and WhatsApp interoperability.