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Google Is Begging Apple to Make Life Better for Green Bubbles

As a longtime Android user, iPhone brand-loyalists have been annoying me about the colors of their text bubbles for as long as I can remember having a smartphone. As recently as five years ago, I’ve been on the receiving end of weird, passive-aggressive bullying by people who cared way too much about being able to name their group chats and get a cohesive color scheme going. 

Lately, Google and Apple are openly at war about the iMessage versus not-iMessage controversy. During Vox Media’s Code 2022 event on Wednesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook fielded a question about whether Apple would ever adopt the Rich Communication Services (RCS) standard for iMessage, which would improve the quality of images and videos between Android and Apple users, and, in theory, end the green versus blue war. Predictably, he said no.

Google started a campaign recently, which they’re dubbing “#GetTheMessage,” directing criticism at Apple for refusing to change. It seems like a call for bipartisanism: begging Apple and Android users to put aside decades of bullying to come together and tell Apple to stop forcing users into the iMessage lifestyle. 

The ads are all over TikTok, so they’re clearly targeting a young demographic. One video is about a hypothetical budding romance that’s being talked off the brink of destruction by a group chat with opinions about green versus blue bubbles. 

Another shows a fake text exchange between Android and Apple, where the Android side says things like “legit making people 🥴” and “that’s 🔥🔥🔥,” appropriating teen texting styles—and making it clear who the message is actually for. 

Android even sponsored an ad starring Keke Palmer about “green bubbles” and “blue bubbles.” The implication is that Apple is less secure, but it’s actually the combination of iPhone users talking to Android users on the phones’ native messaging apps that weakens security: iMessage is end-to-end encrypted if all parties are using it, but SMS is not. When the two talk to one another, the chat reverts to SMS and MMS, because Android doesn’t have iMessage. Google introduced a third option, RCS, and recently started a campaign to pressure Apple into adopting RCS, so that the two could finally play nice. 

I don’t know what it costs to hire Palmer to do an 80-second skit defending a phone brand that she probably doesn’t use, but it’s likely worth it to Google to try to get the youth engaged on this. These ads would seem absurd if they weren’t kind of true: People care way, way too much about what color their text message bubbles are, as a sign of brand loyalty and status. Teens—probably the most important demographic for any tech company, but especially cell phones—reportedly really do say “ew” when confronted with green bubbles. 

Obviously, the easiest fix for this whole problem is if we all get on Signal and don’t look back. As for my green-shunning then-friend group, I haven’t heard from most of them in a long time.

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