There was a well-spread rumor leading up into WWDC 2016 that Apple was going to announce and release iMessage for Android. I admit, like many people, I was excited at the idea. Except, my interest shows why this was probably a bad move for Apple in the first place. It makes sense – at least for now – why Apple hasn’t launched iMessage for Android. Let’s talk about why, starting with the appeal.
iMessage for Android seemed promising. I’d finally get to remove those pesky “green bubbles” from my chat logs, or the messages I send and receive to people without iPhones. Everything would send quickly, I’d have read receipts and the ability to quickly share my location and other information, all easier to do through iMessage than through a regular text message. This conversation could have been held almost a decade ago, however, just with a totally different platform.
Right around 2008 and 2009, I preferred to chat with people over BBM instead of SMS; it was the remaining reason I – and probably millions of others – stuck with BlackBerry devices. Had BlackBerry launched BBM on Android and iOS earlier, we all might have removed them from our hip holsters even sooner. Somewhere buried in our psyche we’re all still afraid to send too many text messages, as if carriers hadn’t started offering unlimited text as the default option years ago. Plus, these new platforms, including others like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, offer much richer features than a standard text message. Why send a text when I can send an iMessage?
And that brings up why it would have been a bad idea for Apple. I know that there are plenty of folks who don’t find value in iOS but stick around because they like iMessage. Then there are others who are attracted to iOS because of iMessage. My brother, for example, is ready to switch from Android to an iPhone almost purely because he’s tired of being the “green bubble” in text chains. He’s left out of iMessage group chats and, after being left out of group dinner plans time and time again, I can see why he wants to make the move. If Apple had launched iMessage for Android, my brother wouldn’t need to buy an Apple product. He’d stick with his smartphone. There’s a missed sale.
There’s certainly a different side of the argument, however. In iOS 10, Apple’s going to launch an iMessage app store, allowing developers to create and sell applications to millions of iMessage users around the world. That’s going to be big money for Apple, and it could make more money by making iMessage available on additional platforms, including Android. But is that revenue enough to offset possible lost sales from folks who ditch iOS for Android because they can have iMessage wherever they want? Or enough to offset the possible losses for folks like my brother who, ultimately, decide they don’t need an iPhone? These are the questions Apple is probably asking itself.
And my argument doesn’t take into account the fact that people, including myself, genuinely like and enjoy iOS (much to the displeasure of Android fans, who I also understand.) That’s where iOS is different in BlackBerry, at least the BlackBerry of 2008 and 2009. Its operating system was getting stale and wasn’t keeping up with the competition. At one point, BBM was quite literally the only reason people stuck with it. To Apple’s credit, there are dozens of reasons people continue to use iOS, so what I described above is purely a worse-case scenario.
I think, though, that Apple is wise in keeping iMessage out of the hands of Android users. Maybe it’ll surprise me and launch the feature anyway.