Google accused Apple of bullying in a deliberate strategy to make Android users second-class citizens using the iMessage service by Apple.
Apple’s messaging system includes many iOS-exclusive features like Memoji which famously makes Android users’ texts green, instead of the iOS native blue. This has made iMessage a status symbol for US teens. It can be used to push young people to purchase iPhones, and even lead to their exclusion. For some, it has become a social faux pas to show up in group chats as a green bubble.
This dynamic was highlighted in a recent report in the Wall Street Journal. It prompted a response from both Google’s Android head Hiroshi Lockheimer and the Android team.
Bullying should not be allowed to happen in iMessage. The solution is available. Texting should bring people together. Let’s make this a single industry,” tweeted from the official Android account.
Lockheimer was even more stout: “Apple’s iMessage lock-in is a documented strategy. Peer pressure and bullying to sell products are disingenuous when a company values humanity and equity as its core marketing strategy. There are standards today that can fix this.
While Apple’s iMessage strategy is well-known, internal emails from company executives were revealed during the Epic Games trial. This confirmed the strategic importance. Apple considered making iMessage available for Android in order to attract more users. However, Phil Schiller, an Apple executive, stated that this would only “hurt us more than help us”. Craig Federighi, another executive, stated that iMessage on Android “would simply serve [to remove] an obstacle for iPhone families giving their children Android phones.”
Google’s intervention in this situation is not purely charitable. The company would greatly benefit from Apple making iMessage accessible on Android. Google has also been pushing to the iPhone-maker to support next-generation texting standard RCS. This is meant to replace SMS. Major US carriers have already collected support.
Google is not well-placed either to critique other companies’ messaging strategies. As ArsTechnica editor Ron Amadeo pointed out on Twitter: Google is known for being dysfunctional in messaging. Since iMessage was launched in 2011, the search giant has launched 13 different messaging apps (most of which have failed).