Apple, Google Dispute May Sway Competition Rules

John Lister's picture

Google is leading a bid to force Apple to make its iMessage tool more compatible with other services. It could have a wider effect on tech competition as a whole.

In the past, most messaging tools used SMS (Short Messaging Service) which sent text messages over the cellular network. These are either paid for individually by the user, or taken out of a monthly allowance that's separate to cellular data services.

Most phones now have one or more services that let users send messages via cellular data and the Internet. As well as not using up SMS allowances, such messaging tools also allow enhanced features including knowing if a message has been read, having multiple people exchange messages in a group chat, and sending images and videos.

The Shame of Blue

Many of these tools comply with a standard called RCS (Rich Communication Services) that means users of different operating systems and apps can still exchange messages. However, Apple's iMessage, the default tool on iPhones, is not compatible. Although iMessage users can still message people on other devices, including Android, it has some limitations including lower quality images and video.

Any group chats that involve a non-Apple user will have the messages on a blue background on iPhones rather than the standard green. Ludicrous as it may sound, some tech analysts believe this deters younger iPhone users from switching to Android and being "shamed" among their peers by the color switch. (Source:

Competition Rules May Kick In

Now Google is leading a group including several major European mobile carriers in a surprise bid to effectively force Apple to be fully compatible. They want the European Commission to declare iMessage a core service under the Digital Markets Act. Such services, which have a strong market position, must follow several consumer-friendly rules including compatibility with rivals.

The European Commission initially decided what counted as a core service using strict objective criteria about revenue and user numbers in Europe, with iMessage not making the cut. However, Google says it should have been included via a separate "qualitative" assessment that doesn't use fixed numbers. It believes iMessage's importance in the business market in particular means it's exactly the type of service the rules should cover.

Regulators will decide by February whether to back Google's argument. While the immediate effect could be an end to the green/blue divide, the more important long-term result could be whether European officials are willing to use more discretion and expand the scope of its competition rules. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Would you like to see Apple make iMessage fully compatible with RCS? Should competition rules be based on strictly objective thresholds or use more discretion? Have you heard anything more ridiculous than caring what color background your messages have?

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