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Google says Apple ‘should not benefit from bullying’ created by iMessage lock-in

Google says Apple ‘should not benefit from bullying’ created by iMessage lock-in


Blue bubble envy is real

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A person sending a voice message via iMessage.
Apple’s Messages app distinguishes between iOS users (in blue) and Android users (in green).
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Google has accused Apple of benefiting from bullying as part of a deliberate strategy to make Android users into second-class citizens on the iPhone-maker’s iMessage service.

Apple’s messaging service includes a number of iOS-exclusive features, like Memoji, and famously turns texts from Android users green instead of the iOS-native blue. This has turned iMessage into a status symbol among US teens, creating peer pressure for young people to buy iPhones and sometimes leading to the ostracization of Android users. Showing up in a group chat as a green bubble has become, for some, a social faux pas.

A recent report in The Wall Street Journal highlighted this dynamic and prompted a response from both the Android team and Google’s head of Android, Hiroshi Lockheimer.

“iMessage should not benefit from bullying. Texting should bring us together, and the solution exists. Let’s fix this as one industry,” tweeted the official Android account.

Lockheimer was more strident: “Apple’s iMessage lock-in is a documented strategy. Using peer pressure and bullying as a way to sell products is disingenuous for a company that has humanity and equity as a core part of its marketing. The standards exist today to fix this.”

Apple says making iMessage available on Android would “hurt us more than help us”

Although Apple’s iMessage strategy has long been apparent, internal emails sent by company executives that were surfaced during the recent Epic Games trial confirmed the conscious importance of this strategy. Apple did consider making iMessage available on Android to attract more users, but concluded that doing so would “hurt us more than help us” (in the words of Apple exec Phil Schiller). As another executive, Craig Federighi, put it: “iMessage on Android would simply serve to remove [an] obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones.”

Google’s intervention here is not purely altruistic, of course: the company would benefit hugely from Apple making iMessage available on Android. Google has also recently been pushing for the iPhone-maker to support next-generation texting standard RCS, which is intended to replace SMS and has already gathered support from major US carriers.

Google is also not well-placed to criticize other companies messaging strategies. As Ars Technica editor Ron Amadeo noted on Twitter, the search giant is notoriously dysfunctional when it comes to messaging, and has launched 13 separate messaging apps since iMessage came out in 2011 (most of which have failed).