Originally, if you wanted to send someone a text message, you just get their phone number and send them an SMS. SMS (Short Messaging Service) is attached to your phone number, 160 bytes max per message and if you had the SMS application, you just had to write a text and hit send. If you had a long message, you had to spread it across 2 or more messages due to the size and character limit.
Now let's say you wanted to send a picture or an emoji, enter MMS. MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) was built on the same tech as SMS but had more than a 160-byte limit (300 - 600 kb).
The two messaging technologies blew up when smartphones became popular and everyone sent messages and emojis every time. Every phone by default has a messaging app.
As we are advancing how we communicate and send messages, we hit the limitations of SMS and MMS. Our messages are getting richer, we want to send larger and high-quality pictures and even videos. So, in 2011, Apple introduces iMessage.
The Blue Bubble and Its Experience on the Ecosystem
With the introduction of iMessage now we have the ability to send text messages, images as large as 100mbs, GIFs, and videos. But here is the catch, strictly it only works on apple devices, that is the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and MacBooks. And it works with the default apple messaging app.
The key to the blue bubble vs green bubble is that naturally most of us tend to use the default messaging application we find on the phone. And for those who are tech-savvy, we have the choice to choose our preferred messaging app with more features but most people use the default applications on their phone (Phone, Messaging, and Browser). So when someone buys a new iPhone and they want to text someone, they immediately open the messaging app and send a text. If the recipient is using an iPhone it immediately gets converted to an iMessage with a blue bubble. If the recipient is not using an iPhone the message is sent as an SMS/MMS with a green bubble.
The differences come in with the lack of features on a green bubble chat that comes with a blue bubble chat like read receipts and reactions. For example, if you like a message on a green bubble chat, the reaction is sent as an SMS saying " Xyz liked your text " instead of that nice reaction emoji that a blue bubble chat would get.
The divide is worsened when you try using the more unSMS-like features like sending videos on a green bubble chat. The video will default to sending it as an MMS and this is where the bubble bursts. Due to the max file size of MMS, the video will be compressed to oblivion to try to match that MMS ceiling, and with that comes a bad-quality-looking video. This does not happen on a blue chat, the same video will be sent to near original quality hence very very minimal compression and a better-looking video to share. A moment not ruined!
And it gets worse on group chats!! Imagine all the above problems escalated to multiple people chatting on the same chat screen. 🤦♂️ The differences are so vast and noticeable that blue chat users tend to dislike or sometimes make fun of the green chat folk. Thus the Blue bubble vs Green bubble.
Then why don't people move to the other messaging apps?
I bet you are asking yourself this question. It's actually a good one. Well, this is because as earlier explained, most people tend to use the default messaging apps. And well most of these people on the bubble wars and actually care about this issue, tend to use iPhones.
iPhones are pretty popular and so are android phones. The sad part is when the bubble wars started the experience wasn't good on android to android messaging. The same challenges on a green bubble chat were on android to android chat. Android users had gotten used to downloading other messengers and this isn't a problem, people got used to it.
Well for iPhone users, downloading a whole new app for messaging isn't their norm. iMessage is so good that on a blue bubble chat you get it all and it will be tough to convince the users to use other apps to accommodate the green chat folk. It actually adds more steps to the process and complicates the situation and Apple knows this.
Apple has integrated iMessage into its ecosystem so deeply that it actually plays a big role in tying down users into the ecosystem. iMessage works so well and seamlessly with all other apple products that you really miss out when using anything else.
We definitely need a solution to ease messaging across the two major platforms.
The Saving Grace
Well, it could be easy if Apple introduces iMessage for Android. But I don't think Apple would compromise its ecosystem lock-in, so that is not possible in the foreseeable future.
Okay then, users could just use the available messaging apps like WhatsApp or Telegram. Well, this could actually work but now this will trigger more conversations on how 1 company is holding all the data and more. Also remember how we said people like using the default apps, well this could bring challenges to making this solution possible.
But wait, there is a solution to fix it all. Enter RCS.
RCS comes with a tonne of features that are already being used in iMessage and other messaging apps. It allows for up to 100MB file sizes, read receipts, messages reactions, emojis, and end-to-end encryption. These features are a standard of the RCS protocol.
RCS is a revolution in messaging and it's the next step for smartphone manufacturers to have this feature available. Google is at the forefront of this, they have already added RCS into the messaging app and they are trying to make it the default messaging app for all android phones. Right now all the new android phones coming out have RCS built into them.
Well for Apple and iMessage, we still don't have RCS yet. What a bummer. This could solve it all. 😤 The best possible solution for the Green Bubble situation on iMessage is for Apple to build RCS into the app.
Wait, hold on a bit Apple is not the bad guy here. Getting RCS to iMessage isn't as straightforward as you think. As I said earlier RCS is a standard build by GCMC and it was made to be decentralized. Meaning anyone can build their own RCS but have to use the Universal Profile to enable it to work across the border. Some telcos have built their own versions of RCS and that's what Google has done. Google made its own version of RCS under the Universal Profile that has been hosted on its own servers working on its own app. Ummm this sound familiar, this is how iMessage is. Apple built its own messaging standard hosted on its own servers being used on its own application. And this is where Apple states that what google has done is just made their own version of "iMessage" and they have been doing that for years so there is no pressure to adopt someone else's version.
With all that Apple stands for, pressure is now coming from somewhere else. The European Union adopted the Digital Marketers Act to allow interoperability for services like iMessage and support for third-party app stores.
The law was approved and promises to bring changes to the game. But we are yet to hear from apple if they will open up iMessage or adopt RCS now that there is a law basically forcing them to do so. As slow as Apple is in adopting new technology, we could wait for more than a couple of years.
My take is that Apple should add RCS into iMessage. Although RCS does not have all the nitty gritty features of iMessage it covers the basics. This would make partially end the Green Bubble vs Blue Bubble war, coz it is possible if RCS is adopted we might not see a change in the bubble color.