Apple could have made a version of iMessage that works on Android devices but chose not to in order to keep people buying iPhones. The smartphone giant had made a decision as early as 2013 to not develop its messaging platform for competing phones.
There would “have been cross-compatibility with the iOS platform so that users of both platforms would have been able to exchange messages with one another seamlessly”, said Eddy Cue, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Software and Services. However, this idea was shot down by Craig Federighi, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering and the executive in charge of iOS, saying that “iMessage on Android would simply serve to remove [an] obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones”.
Mr Federighi also said it would be a “horrible idea” to “make it easier for someone to switch away from our platforms”. The lack of iMessage on Android is one felt strongly by consumers, especially in the United States where iPhones make up nearly 50 per cent of the market.
This is because iMessage works better than the default messaging apps on Android phones, which can lack functions such as read receipts, high-quality attachments, and typing indicators. Competing messaging services, like WhatsApp and Signal, are also used less in the United States. Only 20 per cent of US adults said they used WhatsApp in 2019, compared to the 69 per cent who used its parent company, Facebook.
The disparity is so great that Apple’s own employees had noticed it. “In 2016, when a former Apple employee commented that ‘the #1 most difficult [reason] to leave the Apple universe app is iMessage. iMessage amounts to serious lock-in’ to the Apple ecosystem”, the court documents state, Phil Schiller, former Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing, said: “moving iMessage to Android will hurt us more than help us”.