The Dreaded Green Bubble

Apple's iMessages and teen chic.

Some news aggregator or another pointed me to WSJ‘s “Why Apple’s iMessage Is Winning: Teens Dread the Green Text Bubble” over the weekend.

Soon after 19-year-old Adele Lowitz gave up her Apple iPhone 11 for an experimental go with an Android smartphone, a friend in her long-running texting group chimed in: “Who’s green?”

The reference to the color of group text messages—Android users turn Apple Inc.’s iMessage into green bubbles instead of blue—highlighted one of the challenges of her experiment. No longer did her group chats work seamlessly with other peers, almost all of whom used iPhones. FaceTime calls became more complicated and the University of Michigan sophomore’s phone didn’t show up in an app she used to find friends.

That pressure to be a part of the blue text group is the product of decisions by Apple executives starting years ago that have, with little fanfare, built iMessage into one of the world’s most widely used social networks and helped to cement the iPhone’s dominance among young smartphone users in the U.S.

After a few paragraphs recounting internal company emails demonstrated how calculated the decision was, the story continues,

From the beginning, Apple got creative in its protection of iMessage’s exclusivity. It didn’t ban the exchange of traditional text messages with Android users but instead branded those messages with a different color; when an Android user is part of a group chat, the iPhone users see green bubbles rather than blue. It also withheld certain features. There is no dot-dot-dot icon to demonstrate that a non-iPhone user is typing, for example, and an iMessage heart or thumbs-up annotation has long conveyed to Android users as text instead of images.

Apple later took other steps that enhanced the popularity of its messaging service with teens. It added popular features such as animated cartoon-like faces that create mirrors of a user’s face, to compete with messaging services from social media companies. Apple’s own survey of iPhone holders made public during the Epic Games litigation found that customers were particularly fond of replacing words with emojis and screen effects such as animated balloons and confetti. Avid teen users said in interviews with The Wall Street Journal that they also liked how they could create group chats with other Apple users that add and subtract participants without having to start a new chain.

While I was aware that iMessage came to my phone in blue and externals texts in green, I was oblivious to the other distinctions until a couple weeks ago when a group of Alabama football fans started turning a group email chain into a text message group and ran into problems because a couple of people, including our host, were Android users. That, plus at least one member being overseas, caused us to hastily move to WhatsApp instead.

Apple’s iMessage plays a significant role in the lives of young smartphone users and their parents, according to data and interviews with a dozen of these people. Teens and college students said they dread the ostracism that comes with a green text. The social pressure is palpable, with some reporting being ostracized or singled out after switching away from iPhones.

“In my circle at college, and in high school rolling over into college, most people have iPhones and utilize a lot of those kinds of iPhone specific features” together, said Ms. Lowitz, the Michigan student.

She said she came to realize that Apple had effectively created a social network of features that keeps users, such as her and others, locked in. “There was definitely some kind of pressure to get back to that,” she said.

Many of the new iMessage features—such as the 3D-like digital avatars known as memojis—exist fundamentally as a reason to own an iPhone and don’t make money for Apple directly. Last year Apple also made it possible to share FaceTime connections with Android users—a slight crack in Apple’s self-reinforcing ecosystem as video calling became more prevalent during the pandemic. In recent years, however, it has incorporated some moneymaking elements including Apple Pay and e-commerce links to other businesses such as Starbucks.

“We know that Apple users appreciate having access to innovative features like iCloud synching across all their Apple devices, Tapback and Memoji, as well as industry-leading privacy and security with end-to-end encryption—all of which make iMessage unique,” Apple said in a statement.

There’s a whole lot more there but you get the point. The authors raise questions about whether this constitutes monopolistic behavior on the part of Apple. But, honestly, this just strikes me as savvy marketing to create stickiness. That’s what we’d expect companies to do. (Planned obsolescence, making it difficult for external companies to repair the phones, and other tactics are much more concerning in terms of anticompetitive behavior.)

What motivated me to post this, though, is that the oldest, who just turned 13 a few days ago and got her first real phone* for Christmas, an iPhone 13. We’ve been an iPhone family, separately and now together, for many years now so the decision to get an Apple phone was a no-brainer. Plus, she’s had an iPad since her 6th birthday, so she’s quite familiar with the ecosystem.

We knew that there was some social pressure on the phone front. She’s halfway through 7th grade and is probably in the middle of her peer group in terms of getting a phone. And, when we discussed with her getting a phone for Christmas, and the tradeoffs involved, she let on that there was some peer pressure in having the latest models. Despite being a public school, and a very large one at that, it’s a fairly affluent area so I guess that’s not surprising.

I was, however, surprised that she mentioned the blue/green bubble phenomenon this morning when I was taking her to the bus stop. Because her first week back to school had been delayed a week because of the snow, we moved back her birthday party to this weekend and she’s going to invite friends using her phone over the course of the next couple of days once she gets their numbers. Alas, she noted, some of them would have green bubbles.

Who knew?

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Parenting, Science & Technology, , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Scott says:

    We’ve been an iphone family since the beginning of smart phones so, quite frankly, while I knew about the color change, I didn’t think anything of it. I just have young adults as children now but we do have a lot of group chats mostly passing pictures around.

    Like everything else, this will pass. Soon it will be cool to be anti-Apple just to be contrary. Because that is the way of teenagers.

    2
  2. Joe says:

    It is noticeable to me because group messages that include any android phones show up on my iPhone, but not my iPad where I do a lot of my messaging. I am a little too old to be mean girling those friends about their phones.

    3
  3. Kathy says:

    Teens really need some other excuse to exclude others from their cliques?

    2
  4. EddieInCA says:

    At work, I’m part of 10-15 different daily text chains. All of them are Imessage only, except for one, the main one, with 24 people on it, which is on WhatsApp due to the three Android users we have out of the 24.

    3
  5. Sleeping Dog says:

    … some of them would have green bubbles.

    Off with their heads! Send them to the land of the uncool kids! Sit alone at lunch!

    Saw this article yesterday and I read it, memories of middle school social structure came roaring back.

    I tend to agree with you that this is simply good marketing on Apple’s part, but it is also a brick in Apple’s walled garden that is rife with anti-competitive behavior. Looking at this from a broader view it should be dismissed as simply marketing. A significant issue, that at present, is mostly roiling only the tech and consumer activist communities, is the question of who controls the technology after it is purchased by the consumer? That question leads to a host of issues including right to repair and the consumer having the ability to use the device as she/he feels is best for them.

    Computer and particularly OS software manufacturers realized that they made a mistake in making the devices an open environment. Microsoft tried closing the the door and placing limits on Windows, but that was slapped down on anti-trust grounds. So today, I can write my own code using the OS developers API and you can load it on your Windows or Mac computer (though not a Chromebook) and you assume the risk of any virus or malignant code.

    Smart phones provided a new opportunity for the OS developer to control the use of the device and Apple has taken full advantage of that, as has Google, to a somewhat less restrictive extent. But the issue of who controls and the limits to the span of control is still an open question. The EU is much further along on these questions than the US, so it is likely that we may end up living under whatever structure the EU settles on. Will that be good or bad?

    2
  6. Lounsbury says:

    And here I thought from subject it was going to be about the issues in sustainability metrics for Green Investing and the whole kerfuffle with EU standards

  7. I have a couple of ongoing chat chains that mix-and-match iPhone and Android. They work, for the most part, but there are times I have to re-sent texts and often pictures or non-text texts won’t GOP at all. It can be maddening.

    And there is little doubt that it is smoother and more enjoyable if everyone is on iPhone.

  8. @Joe: Yes, that’s annoying, too.

    1
  9. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Or if all apps conformed to standards. The reason that some don’t is that they are hoping for a market advantage.

    1
  10. Mikey says:

    My wholly-anti-Apple 17-year-old just kind of laughs and then goes up on Discord because that’s where real gamers talk.

    2
  11. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Mikey:

    I was just about to pop on here and speculate that the rise of Discord and Slack may put a lot of this to bed. About half of my ongoing group friend chats have migrated to these platforms over the past year, mostly discord. There’s not cross platform issues–everyone can see the same emojis, gifs, etc–media sharing is easier, and one can add or remove people to chats rather than starting a whole new text chain.

    2
  12. Mikey says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Discord also lets me talk to him when he’s on his desktop and his phone is across the room on silent and I’ve tried calling him three times already…lol

    1
  13. just nutha says:

    TL/DR: People will use whatever systems they have available to create whatever ecosystem of in crowds and out crowds that they prefer. The power to shun is always sought, and apparently, it’s not just an evangelicals thing.

    1
  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    One more reason to avoid the whole damned mess. Like I needed another. (don’t text, never have never will)(my sisters and brothers do, I tell them, “Call me if somebody dies.”

    Also very happy that my sons were out of HS before cell phones became the new normal for children. The arguments would not have been pretty.

  15. just nutha says:

    “And there is little doubt that it is smoother and more enjoyable if everyone is on iPhone.”

    Or if everyone is on an Android. (Unless phone satisfaction is a one way street, in which case, I am blissfully ignorant.)

    2
  16. Kathy says:

    @just nutha:

    It’s just that Android is neither a cult nor a luxury brand.

    3
  17. James Joyner says:

    @Kathy: I baked into the iPhone because I was essentially forced by my previous employer to shift to the then-inferior AT&T network, the only advantage of which it had exclusive rights to iPhone. But it’s amusing that Apple has managed to get a “luxury” branding out of the phone given that the competitors, the various Android phones and Google’s separately-branded Pixel line, are almost exactly the same price.

  18. EddieInCA says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    WhatsApp is just so much easier.

  19. @Mikey: I can text from my iMac, which I like (and weirdly doesn’t have the same limitations as my iPad–yes, I have finally succumbed to the Apple cult all around).

    I may give Discord a look, however.

  20. @Sleeping Dog:

    Or if all apps conformed to standards. The reason that some don’t is that they are hoping for a market advantage.

    @just nutha:

    Or if everyone is on an Android.

    Of course. I was commenting on the experience of having 7 of us all on iPhone and then having 6 of us on iPhone and then 1 going Android.

    And I would prefer a shared standard (which seemed to be the case for a while).

    We can also agree, I expect, on the need for standardized charging cables. I finally have a critical mass of one kind and now Apple has shifted to all USB-C.

  21. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I can text from my Chromebook as well and with the right app, from my wife’s Windows PC.

    In mixed iPhone/Android environments, there are texting apps out their that provide identical functionality across platforms.

  22. ptfe says:

    @James Joyner: “But it’s amusing that Apple has managed to get a “luxury” branding out of the phone given that the competitors, the various Android phones and Google’s separately-branded Pixel line, are almost exactly the same price.”

    The phones aren’t the only part of the luxury-brand ecosystem. I recently had to buy an iPad (specific software only available on that platform), and spent $800 for a device whose comparison in the Android space is ~$350. That’s a big jump, especially when you’re shopping for a family.

    And while the Pixel and other “Flagship Phones” are still close to the iPhone price, you can easily find an Android for $100 new. You can even find freebie phone deals with certain contracts. But they’re all Android-based, usually with proprietary overlays of applications from the manufacturer.

    @Steven L. Taylor: “I finally have a critical mass of one kind and now Apple has shifted to all USB-C.”

    Thank f’in god. The lightning cable was an absurd throwback to the days of phone-specific chargers. Just doubling the cable needs for no reason other than to stroke their own ego.

    Everything about the “sleek, smooth design” is artificially constructed through walling – that makes for a cleaner palette of user options, but for me it’s not great for accessibility. Fine, enjoy that space – I don’t begrudge them the design decision, and a lot of people really enjoy it – but this kind of petty behavior is just idiotic classism.

  23. MarkedMan says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    but it is also a brick in Apple’s walled garden that is rife with anti-competitive behavior.

    Apple has 15% of the world market for mobile phones. It’s quite the stretch to call them a monopoly.

    Complaining about the iPhone’s dominance in the entire mobile phone market is like complaint about BMW’s dominance in cars – it’s only true if you define “cars” as German engineered cars that put road feel slightly above comfort.

    3
  24. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    But it’s amusing that Apple has managed to get a “luxury” branding out of the phone given that the competitors, the various Android phones and Google’s separately-branded Pixel line, are almost exactly the same price.

    There are many categories of Android phones. Some are cheap, some are Apple-like expensive. Apple seems to go from expensive to very expensive on their new phones.

    The last Apple product I loved was an Apple ][e computer with a phosphorescent monochrome monitor and dual disk drives. I think that was sometime in the 14th Century BCE, before the iron age.

    1
  25. James Joyner says:

    @ptfe: @Kathy: Fair enough. When I last considered a non-Apple phone a few years back, I was only considering comparable phones, which are all at the high end of the market.

    We could have gotten a free iPhone SE for my 13-year-old but went ahead and sprung for a 13. The rest of us have Pro Maxes but that seemed a bridge too far.

    At this point, with a blended family and a whopping six phones on the plan—the youngest will join next go-round, but maybe some of the oldest will drop off—I’m likely not going to switch unless Apple falls off considerably or something radically innovative supplants it.

    1
  26. Sleeping Dog says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Depends on your point of view, as a consumer there are plenty of alternatives, but as an app or game developer not being in the App Store can be a crimp on business and qualifying is not necessarily straight forward. Add to that forcing in App purchases to go through Apple so they can take their 30%…

  27. Mu Yixiao says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Apple has 15% of the world market for mobile phones. It’s quite the stretch to call them a monopoly.

    Complaining about the iPhone’s dominance in the entire mobile phone market is like complaint about BMW’s dominance in cars – it’s only true if you define “cars” as German engineered cars that put road feel slightly above comfort.

    I don’t think anyone is saying that Apple has a monopoly on phones. The claims of anti-competitive behavior is that Apple locks others out of competing with Apple within the Apple eco-system.

    Charging cables are a good example. Until recently, Apple owners couldn’t get a “Bob’s Bargain Cable” to charge their phones. They could only get ones officially licensed by Apple. The same thing is happening with the removal of the phone jack. Now you can’t pick up a $5 pair of ear buds at the Dollar Store. You need to get expensive bluetooth “AirBuds”.

  28. James Joyner says:

    @Mu Yixiao: C

    harging cables are a good example. Until recently, Apple owners couldn’t get a “Bob’s Bargain Cable” to charge their phones. They could only get ones officially licensed by Apple. The same thing is happening with the removal of the phone jack. Now you can’t pick up a $5 pair of ear buds at the Dollar Store. You need to get expensive bluetooth “AirBuds”.

    While I prefer the Apple fast-charger, I’ve had cheap non-Apple cables for years. They tend not to last all that long but I’ve had them as long as I’ve had iPhones—going back to 2013. And I’ve used cheapish Blutooth wireless airbuds for years and never owned a set of AirBuds.

    1
  29. MarkedMan and says:

    @just nutha: I’m not an Android user, but have been involved in smartphone application development. If there are special texting features like the iPhone has on an Android platform I would be surprised if they were seamlessly available on all Android platforms, and all carriers. I wouldn’t necessarily be shocked, but definitely surprised.

    In iOS world, if you want to cover 95% of the market, there is this generation and last generation of iOS and a couple of dozen different phones which are very amenable to running the exact same code with no differentiation necessary. In the Android world, no one ever upgrades so in order to get 95% of the market you have to support many different releases on hundreds of different phones, and on top of that Android is open so many manufacturers tweak the base OS. It’s a freaking sh*t show out there if you want to do “special” things, especially with audio or video or the haptic system, all of which are used by Apples Messages App.

    2
  30. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy:

    Apple seems to go from expensive to very expensive on their new phones.

    It depends what you mean by “expensive”. We just got my son a brand new iPhone SE for $400. Quite a decent phone, quite responsive and miles and miles ahead of the broken screen iPhone 6 he had been using. He immediately started gaming on it and seems satisfied.

    Apple has made a decision not to compete in the lowest end of any market they are in. But they compete quite aggressively in the mid range.

  31. MarkedMan says:

    @Sleeping Dog: I always considered the Apple Store discrimination thing a non-starter. Why do so many developers complain about the Apple Store? Because they get so much of their revenue from Apple, even in markets where Android predominates. Apple users spend more money and the developers want to go where the users are spending money. Years ago, when the company I worked for subscribed to a sophisticated state-of-the-smartphone-market yearly report, the average iPhone user spent multiples on apps and services as compared to the average Android user, even on comparably priced phones.

    BTW, the Android Store charges the exact same 30% as the Apple store (it’s actually more complicated than that, charges range from 15-30% depending on a number of factors. And sure, you can direct your customers to side load your app and avoid the fees, but even on Android customers prefer the convenience of the store.

    1
  32. just nutha says:

    @Kathy: As to luxury brand, that designation may depend on whether a smart phone is a luxury product. To my thinking, it seems to lean that way in that there are systems available (theoretically anyway) that provide the same services at lower product complexity and lower costs (i.e. flip phones, 2G and 3G phones, and such). LTE and 5G constitute luxury products. And some level of conspicuous consumption. iPhone is certainly a higher level, though.

  33. MarkedMan says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Apple owners couldn’t get a “Bob’s Bargain Cable” to charge their phones.

    I’m not sure why you think that? Third party cables have been around since the 30 pin connector days. If you want to take your chances on a non-Appled certified cable, no one is stopping you. As for me, I don’t buy the Apple cable but pay the extra money for an Apple certified one, and further buy from a well known brand. Anyone can claim anything on Amazon so a vender claiming Apple certification isn’t worth the pixels it’s written on.

  34. just nutha says:

    @MarkedMan and: My comment was limited exclusively to the issue of users all being on one platform (is that the correct term?), not comparative advantages of one type to the other. Which system one prefers is incidental to the ease of communicating with everyone using the same system.

  35. Sleeping Dog says:

    @MarkedMan:

    A favorite app of mine isn’t available for the iPhone, with the free version available in the Google, Play Store the upgrade to the full version is done via the developers website, which was fine for me, but I recognized others may not feel the same way.

  36. just nutha says:

    @MarkedMan: For the record, $400 is expensive in my cell phone world. The only things that justified my spending $200 for a phone 2 years ago were the need to switch to a non-metered phone contract and the fact that the savings over the comparable contract where I was paid for the phone before it would wear out.

  37. Mister Bluster says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:..(don’t text, never have never will)
    I was like that till several years ago after my old connection left town and my new pharmacist texted me with where and when to meet so I could pick up a bag of weed. I learned how to use the service pretty quick.

    1
  38. Mu Yixiao says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I’m not sure why you think that? Third party cables have been around since the 30 pin connector days. If you want to take your chances on a non-Appled certified cable, no one is stopping you.

    It seems my information is out of date. With iOS 7, chargers that weren’t licensed were “unrecognized” by Apple and would not work.

    You might recall that when the earliest iOS 7 betas hit, iOS 7 would warn users when an unsupported Lightning cable was plugged in, but otherwise didn’t take any action. Unlicensed Lightning cables would sync and charge just fine. Starting with the GM, however, Apple has apparently started enforcing compliance with its MFi licensing program for all third-party cables… and shutting out anyone who dares to release a Lightning knock-off without paying Apple their share.

    So while it might not be true anymore, it was in the past. I remember a few of my friends complaining about it.

  39. MarkedMan says:

    @just nutha: My point wasn’t clear. iOS represents one platform when it comes to compatibility. Android represents many slightly-to-significantly different platforms.

    Anyway, if you want universal compatibility, best use a non-OS specific app such as WhatsApp or Slack.

  40. MarkedMan says:

    @just nutha: Yep, Apple does not play in that market. $400 is their lower limit.

  41. Andy says:

    I love my iPhone and iMessage – but I hate that Apple won’t release versions for Android and PC. If they did, I could standardize on it.

  42. Kathy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    To be honest, I’ve yet to pay a penny for a smart phone. I get one from the company, and I get the one my mom discards when she renews her plan (and this included an iphone 4 years ago).

  43. Kathy says:

    Also to be honest, perhaps getting used to one OS locks people in it regardless of which one it is. By the time I got an iphone, I already had an Android tablet. I managed with the iphone, largely because it ran Waze in real time, where the tablet lacked any connection other than WiFi. But I was glad to switch to an Android phone shortly thereafter.

  44. MarkedMan says:

    @Andy: I think we all would, but what’s in it for Apple? They would incur millions in costs annually, all to the benefit of people that are not their customers.

  45. Andy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I think we all would, but what’s in it for Apple? They would incur millions in costs annually, all to the benefit of people that are not their customers.

    You could ask the same thing for Whatsapp.

  46. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Andy: I’m not sure that’s the case. Whatsapp is giving me and my friend videophone service in return for the right to data mine my phone (not a particularly good deal for them considering that I use less than 100MB of phone data in a typical month), whereas iMessage and iwhatever the other thing was are inducements to pay $200+ additional for the phone to begin with. I see two separate types of transactions.

  47. Mu Yixiao says:

    @MarkedMan:

    They would incur millions in costs annually, all to the benefit of people that are not their customers.

    a) How would it incur “millions in cost”?

    There would be initial development costs, but pretty much every app developer–from big firms to “some guy in his garage”–are able to put out agnostic apps with no appreciable cost. All the infrastructure is in place, the devs are already being paid, all app licensing is paid for. They might have to pay for a dev account on Google Play, and maybe for some APIs?

    b) Have you heard of this thing called “marketing”?

    Apple makes $0 from iMessage directly. The payoff is in the original post: Getting people to purchase iPhones because they like the ecosystem (or are teens with no self-esteem who can’t exist unless they’re doing what all the “cool kids” are doing.*) Letting a couple of the popular, low-cost apps become “free range”, gives them market penetration and allows them to show off how cool they are.

    “You think iMessage is cool? Buy an iPhone and we’ll let you inside our beautiful, sexy, exclusive walled garden where you can see all the other things that only the cool kids get to use. All you need to do is take a bite of the Apple!”

    ===============
    * The WSJ article is essentially doing viral PR for Apple and telling teens “You can’t be popular unless you have an iPhone.”

    1
  48. Jay L Gischer says:

    It probably would cost millions because Apple’s “walled garden” extends to its development environment, which uses different tools and different languages to do development on.

    There are Development environments available these days that let you sort of do both, but let’s remember that the system calls are going to be different, and you have to deal with that. But something like iMessage was built with the native IDE (Development environment, using Objective C and iCode or whatever) and thus porting it to Android would mean writing the whole thing over again and then maintaining it, because keeping it always changing and adding odd little new cool stuff is part of the game.

    Now, if you had planned to do multiplatform from the beginning, you could probably make this work.

    If Apple wanted to do this, they could probably make it work.

    But that’s not the the point. That’s not what they do. They live and breathe “walled garden”. The value proposition for the iPhone is based on the idea that the iPhone is a “premium” device, which is better than the “generic”.

    That is good marketing, at some level. It isn’t illegal, it probably never should be.

    And I want no part of it. I hate the fact that my perfectly good power cables for Mac Laptops all went obsolete in favor of something that’s obviously inferior. (the old ones were magnetic and would let go rather than drag your laptop onto the floor when you tripped on the cord. The new ones will trash your laptop just fine, thank you very much), for instance.

    Just no. I can tell when I’m being jerked around and I don’t like it.

  49. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mu Yixiao: I don’t think it’s as much the WSJ telling kids that they’re can’t be popular without an iPhone (how many kids nationwide read WSJ?) as much as it’s the WSJ reporting that kids perceive themselves/are told that they’re not popular unless… The PR effect is probably close enough to the same either way though.

  50. MarkedMan says:

    @Andy: “ You could ask the same thing for Whatsapp. ”
    Yep. And you should. Why is WhatsApp spending hundreds of millions on code devolpment, servers, advertising, etc, etc, etc, yet not charging you to use the app? Where is the money coming from?

    I think I know the answer to that question, but I’m curious what you think it is?

    1
  51. MarkedMan says:
  52. MarkedMan says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    are able to put out agnostic apps with no appreciable cost.

    Sure, if you are making the Wordle game you can make a Web App that will work on everything. But if you accessing video, audio, the haptic sensor, etc, then you need to customize for lots and lots of different phones. And that customization requires a lot of expertise if you are supporting thousands of different phones.

    1
  53. Andy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I think I know the answer to that question, but I’m curious what you think it is?

    Oh, I know the answer.

    But the thing is, Apple could expand iMessage to other platforms. There are ways to pay for the expenses. They are a huge, well-capitalized company, and there are ways they could monetize it and not just in the way that FB does with Whatsapp.

    Or they could use it as a loss leader.

    One example – Apple has decided to become much more privacy-focused than other tech companies – that’s something they could build on with iMessage. Apple users get the privacy features on Apple devices as standard – users of other devices have to pay a small fee.

    The fact that they haven’t expanded iMessage is a choice. I have no sway with the company, but I won’t pass up an opportunity to argue that they should make a different choice than the one they are making. But I don’t think it’s really about money or profits, at least not directly. Part of their brand and corporate culture is exclusivity and always has been and I’d guess that’s what is primarily keeping them from competing more broadly in messaging.

  54. Andy says:

    And this Apple exclusivity extends to other areas in annoying ways. My family Apple Calendar can see other types of calendars but doesn’t play well with them. So I can’t manage work, family, and other calendars in one place.

    The iCloud app for Windows is kind of shitty. I’m not going to buy a MAC for better iCloud integration, but I’d probably drop dropbox and utilize iCloud if it worked better on my PC. That’s a lost opportunity for Apple – I’m paying money to dropbox instead of Apple.

    I think this is an area where Apple is still living in a past that doesn’t exist anymore. People want seamless integration.

  55. MarkedMan says:

    @Andy: I still don’t see how it benefits them. I can see how it hurts them, in a dozen different ways. It seems to be all downside and no upside.

  56. Mu Yixiao says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I still don’t see how it benefits them. I can see how it hurts them, in a dozen different ways. It seems to be all downside and no upside.

    How does iMessage–all by itself–benefit Apple? They’re not making any money from the app, so why do they put all that money, time, and labor into developing and maintaining it? There a plenty of other apps that work just as well. All of which would cost Apple exactly zero–they might even make money if an app was for-pay.

    Apple obviously sees iMessage as a hook to get people to purchase iPhones. An Android version can easily be used as a “gateway app”* to get people hooked on the “superior” experience of the Apple ecosystem.

    Xiaomi has done this with great success**.

    iMessage could be a great loss-lead. It could bring people into the Walled Garden and get them to buy Apple devices (that’s where Apple makes its money, not on apps).

    It’s a marketing tool that doesn’t even qualify as a rounding error in their annual budget. There’s nothing but benefit for them from expanding out to Android (hell, they could even charge 99¢ and people would buy it). It would cost them less than a national TV ad buy and probably get them a far better ROI.

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    * Like a “gateway drug”

    ** I grew to like Xiaomi’s MiOS (an android fork) when I was in China, and still find it superior to other Android versions I’ve dealt with since I came back. One of the big things they’ve done (which is of less value in the US) is to partner with all sorts of other companies to build a true ecosystem and make their phones a “universal remote”.

    I had apps on my phone to control my TV, air conditioner, and camera. Xiaomi has a store full of smart devices from a range of manufacturers that can all be controlled from native apps.