We’re talking iMessage—Apple’s ubiquitous messaging platform. We all know that texting between iPhones and Androids is a pretty awful throwback to the early days of SMS. “It’s not about the color of the bubbles,” Google says. “It’s the blurry videos, broken group chats, missing read receipts and typing indicators, no texting over Wi-Fi, and more.”
Sure, the iPhone from Apple is considerably more secure than an Android device, and yes, Apple continues to set the standard for privacy protection. There is, however, a significant exception to the Cupertino company’s security- and privacy-first philosophy, and it affects more than a billion iPhone and iPad users. This week, we received harsh proof that Apple is refusing to take responsibility for the problem and solve it.
As much as we read about nation state level attacks, these impact just handfuls of users. You might be better protected from Chinese cyber-spies, but if you reuse passwords, click on dangerous links and casually open email attachments, then you, your data, your bank balance are far more at risk.iOS 15 Is Available Now With These Stunning New iPhone Privacy Features.And so it is with iMessage. While Apple has sandboxed messages, plugging high-risk gaps, its end-to-end security only protects you while you stay enclosed within its ecosystem. As soon as those blue bubbles turn green, as soon as you text someone with an Android device in their hand, all bets are off.
But as fun as all these features would be, there’s a much more serious issue lurking in the background. iMessage has been central to Apple’s wider security challenges over the last year. Sophisticated (read national security level) cyber attacks have been found exploiting its architecture, and Apple has hardened the platform as a result. But there’s a much bigger problem that still hasn’t been fixed.
Google is now on a mission to embarrass/shame Apple into adopting RCS within iMessage. “Apple should fix what’s broken,” it says. “The bad experience you get when texting Android users is created by Apple. But they can fix it by switching from SMS/MMS to RCS.”
Until fairly recently, there was no solution to this. Google had no real alternative to iMessage. The carriers were slowly deploying SMS v2, known as RCS or Rich Communication Services, but that still relied on the archaic SMS architecture that bounced from carrier to carrier, exposing data to all along the way. Google stepped in to fix this. First by taking over responsibility for driving RCS adoption across its user base. And then, critically, by introducing end-to-end encryption.
But the Apple is clearly not for turning. “I don’t hear our users asking that we put a lot of energy in on that at this point,” Tim Cook told an event this week in response to a question on iMessage and RCS, suggesting instead that “I would love to convert you to an iPhone.” And when the questioner complained this impacts texting with his mother, he was told to “buy your mom an iPhone.”