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Will RCS be enough to end the Android vs iPhone peer pressure and bullying?

It’s still almost impossible to believe, but Apple is adopting RCS on the iPhone next year. While there’s a ton we don’t know, it’s a big deal that very much opens the door to big changes in the Android vs iPhone debate. However, my big question is if it will be enough to change the ongoing Android vs iPhone peer pressure that often turns into actual bullying.

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So, first let’s talk about the big news.

Apple is adopting RCS.

Starting in late 2024 (aka probably iOS 18), Apple will integrate RCS into its messaging app alongside iMessage, with SMS being the “backup.” Apple says that iMessage will continue as the “most secure” option for iPhone users, but the company will be using the same Universal Profile that Google is. We don’t know if it will be end-to-end encrypted, but it’s looking like it will support features like read receipts, better group chats, high-quality photo/video attachments, and Apple explicitly mentioned support for sharing your location in text threads via RCS.

It’s probably the biggest news we’ve had in Android vs iPhone in years, and mind-blowingly comes just a couple of months after Apple adopted USB-C on the iPhone. Google is even helping make it a reality.

Wild times.

For me, though, I’m just glad that this gives a genuine opportunity for the conversation around Android vs iPhone to change in a potentially positive way. Because it’s abundantly clear that the peer pressure and bullying around people’s choice of phone is just getting worse.

This week friend-of-the-site Will Sattelberg over at Android Police published a piece talking about the dilemma Android is in with teenagers in the US. While Android makes up a good portion of the US smartphone market, the reality is that when you focus on younger generations, the iPhone is beyond just dominant. A recent study found that nearly 9 out of 10 teenagers are using iPhone, and just as many plan to buy an iPhone as their next device.

It’s a worrying statistic for the future of Android in the US, even if it doesn’t mean a whole lot to the rest of the world.

Since that story went out, it’s sparked a lot of conversations about Android vs iOS, and one anecdote in particular caught my eye.

Dan Seifert of The Verge took to Threads to relay the story of how his oldest child, who doesn’t even have a smartphone yet, has watched one of their friends be made fun of just because they have an Android phone. As Seifert went on to explain, these 11-year-old kids are making fun of a friend because they have the “wrong” phone, and aren’t even making fun of kids who don’t yet have a phone at all, which just seems wild.

Post by @danseifert
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Android vs iPhone peer pressure and bullying are very real things. There are countless stories of this online, and it’s been happening for a while.

Just a few examples to call out. Back in 2014, one player (Thon Maker) on the Milwaukee Bucks had an Android phone while their teammates had iPhones. The coach, Jason Kidd, when making a group chat with everyone, said that Maker’s choice showed the team “wasn’t united” and forced the whole team to do running exercises. And that wasn’t an isolated incident. Last year Jarrett Allen of the Cleveland Cavliers relayed a story of how he was forced to give up the Android phone he liked and switch to iPhone because the rest of the team wouldn’t add him to the group chat otherwise.

Outside of the sports world, there are plenty of “regular” examples too, and they’re even more harsh. Dating app OKCupid confirmed to CNET in early 2022 that over 30% of their followers (when polled) said that they wouldn’t respond to someone using an Android phone. There are plenty of folks over on Reddit, too, who have run into cases where dating conversations ended the second the other person realized they couldn’t use iMessage.

The comments on these posts are so often “no one is that shallow,” but the reality is that this genuinely happens.

But, arguably, most of those cases aren’t “bullying,” but rather just societal peer pressure because you don’t have the “cool” thing.

Other times, though, iPhone users aren’t even trying to hide that they’re bullying folks who just want to use an Android phone.

A post on Barstool Sports around Google’s RCS effort sees the author point blank explain, quite aggressively I might add, how his group of friends has completely cut out one of their friends – the author’s best man at that! – from group chats because he won’t “comply” and get an iPhone and then goes on to say that people should be doing the same thing.

…our group of friends completely cut this guy out of all group communications and text chats because he refuses to comply and get an iPhone. …he’s been replaced in our fantasy football league because he’s totally out of the loop. All because of [Android]. 

But that’s the kind of line we need to be drawing in the sand. 

That’s… disgusting.

Of course, this does go both ways to a certain extent. Android users do tend to “bully” iPhone users too, but it’s the way in which this happens that makes it feel different. There are always extremes, but generally speaking, it seems like when Android users are bullying or mocking an iPhone user, it comes down to something technical, like sideloading apps or just a distaste for Apple’s “walled garden.” That doesn’t make it OK, but it’s different from when it’s coming from the Apple side of the conversation.

When peer pressure from iPhone users happens, it usually comes from a social aspect, and the stigma that you’re “not cool” or even not a fit partner just because you carry an Android phone. Often, that’s just cruel, and something Apple doesn’t seem to care about at best, and has encouraged at worse – “Buy your mom an iPhone.”

But this week’s announcement, even though it was probably rooted in legal pressure, is good news for everyone because this really benefits everyone. Texts from an iPhone to an Android phone, finally, will have a baseline of features that are at least comparable to iMessage. Group chats won’t suck (hopefully), media won’t be low-quality, and so on.

And while a lot of enthusiasts and fans will be quick to point to specific iMessage features that are still better, I don’t think the average person will care that much, simply because chats won’t suck in the basics anymore. The best parts of iMessage will now work across Android and iPhone.

Yet, I’m just not convinced that this is going to fix the peer pressure and bullying we see today.

As our Abner Li brought out last year, RCS probably won’t “significantly combat the lock-in effect of iMessage” because Apple inevitably will continue to make iMessage better for its users – the company even directly said as much this week. Plus, RCS messages will still show up in a green bubble anyway.

I sincerely hope I’m wrong, and RCS on iPhone is everything that everyone wants it to be.

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Top comment by Andrew

Liked by 30 people

This bullying should be embarrassing for all iPhone users, and is a clear sign that Apple thinks that the iPhone needs this kind of stuff to happen in order to maintain it's popularity. Which of course calls into question just how good is the iPhone vs the best Android phones if Apple thinks they need this?

Thankfully Europe is forcing the issue and now it's Apple that must comply and adopt RCS, something they should have been involved in years ago. Just imagine how much faster RCS with full encryption would have been implicated industry wide if Apple only did then what they're being forced to do now in working with the industry coalition responsible for RCS development. Instead Apple decided to shaft their own customers and smartphone users in general by sticking with unsecured SMS as default.

That said, I wouldn't put it past Apple to somehow cripple their implementation of RCS in such a way that the tasteless and immature behaviour continues anyway. They are apparently that insecure about the iPhones place within the industry.

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