Google & EU telecoms pushing Apple to expand iMessage full support to Pixel and other Android phones
EU (European Union) legislation applies in all associated countries, so any company that wants to enter those markets must abide by its laws. The EU has been characterized by being aggressive in implementing legislation, even being the main responsible for the implementation of USB-C in the latest iPhone 15 series.
Recently, the EU has been updating its ‘Digital Markets Act’ set of laws seeking to improve the conditions of competition in the apps and apps distribution segment. Now, Google, together with EU telecoms, are trying to pressure Apple to expand iMessage full support to Pixel devices and other Androids, turning to the European Union.
iMessage full support on Pixel and other Android phones being requested by Google & EU telecoms
iMessage is an instant messaging service especially popular in the US, being exclusive to Apple devices. The company has always been fond of creating services or standards only fully compatible with its own ecosystem of products, such as iMessage or the Lightning port.
Regarding iMessage, Apple has always refused to offer full support on Android devices (like Pixel phones) through the RCS standard, which would allow bidirectional rich messaging features.
Although these types of practices by Apple have been going on for quite some time. Lately, the EU has been quite active in seeking to change what they consider harmful to free competition. For example, recent changes to the ‘Digital Markets Act‘ could cause Apple to allow the installation of external app stores on their devices before March 2024.
Now, the EU’s next goal could be to make the popular iMessage service finally fully compatible with Android phones too.
‘Pressure measurement’ pushed by Google
Currently, while iOS users can receive messages from Android phones via iMessage app, they will be displayed as simple SMS, a standard that is far behind what more modern ones like RCS can offer. This can be taken as an anti-competition movement, and that is where the EU comes in.
That said, it seems that the move was driven by Google, the main interested party in integrating full iMessage support into Android. According to The Financial Times (via The Verge), Google sent the EU a letter signed by multiple major European telcos requesting iMessage to be tagged as a ‘core platform service’.
If this happens, Apple’s messaging service will be forced to offer full cross-platform compatibility and interoperability, in accordance with EU laws. The letter states that iMessage meets the requirements to intervene with a regulation, and is signed by CEOs of carriers such as Telefónica, Vodafone, Orange and Deutsche Telekom.
This is what Apple says about it
Google has been insisting in the past on the need for iMessage ‘universal support’, even starting a #GetTheMessage campaign to put public pressure on them. Currently, this campaign has a dedicated section on the official Android website. Hiroshi Lockheimer (vice president of Google) has publicly tweeted/posted against Apple’s alleged anticompetitive practice too.
Sadly, all attempts have been in vain, and Apple has not wanted to give in regarding iMessage full support on Android. In fact, the company even publicly defended its position saying: “consumers today have access to a wide variety of messaging apps, and often use many at once, which reflects how easy it is to switch between them”.
Another of Apple’s arguments for not ‘opening’ iMessage is that the service is especially popular in the US, but not in other countries or continents (such as Europe).
The EU’s final decision on whether to force Apple to offer full iMessage support on Android (and therefore on Pixel phones) is expected to be made in February 2024. So, for now, we just have to wait for the outcome of the investigation of the EU commission in this regard.