Last year, Google surprised us all with a new feature that improved the iMessage experience on iPhones. Instead of ugly text strings that cluttered iPhone-Android conversations with “Mike laughed at” or “Karen loved” messages, Google mapped its own emoji to Apple’s tapbacks so a pleasing icon showed up instead.
The feature is so good, Apple took steps to make sure it works for everyone in iOS 16. Now Google is taking it a step further. Instead of limiting tapbacks to RCS/iMessage conversations, it will begin allowing emoji reactions for SMS texts from iPhone users as well. In a thinly veiled dig at Apple, Google writes: “While RCS is the ultimate solution, we’re doing what we can to help Android users have a way to consistently react to messages.”
This will no doubt make things objectively worse for iPhone users. Where tapbacks were limited to RCS before, which plays nicely with iMessage, Android users will now be able to respond to any text with a reaction emoji, even If they’re not using RCS. And that will send the iPhone one of those “Brad liked” responses that repeats the entire message they’re reacting to.
It’s hard not to see this as something of a shot by Google. The company has been on a crusade against Apple’s refusal to adopt RCS on the iPhone and told reporters it’s “up to Apple” to decide whether to incorporate the change into iMessage. We’re not hopeful that’ll happen until iOS 17 at the earliest (if at all), but if things get bad enough maybe Apple will give in.