There are few apps that lock iPhone users into Apple’s ecosystem quite like iMessage. For us Android users, it can lead to a frustrating experience when trying to communicate without our iPhone-toting friends, often leading to lost messages and a lack of feature compatibility.
As it turns out, in an alternate universe iMessage may have been available on Android years ago. As reported by The Verge, Apple senior vice president Eddy Cue tried to bring iMessage to Android as early as 2013.
Unfortunately, other Apple execs, including Craig Federighi, didn’t like the idea.
The news comes courtesy of the ever-so-juicy Apple vs. Epic legal case. Epic is using this fun little tidbit to make its case that Apple is abusing its position as a market leader by trying to lock users into its ecosystem.
The Verge reconstructed communications from Cue to Federighi based on a recently-made-public deposition. Cue said, ” We really need to bring iMessage to Android,” and after reading the news that Google had tried to buy WhatsApp, asked, “Do we want to lose one of the most important apps in a mobile environment to Google?”
Federighi in turn responded:
“Do you have any thoughts on how we would make switching to iMessage (from WhatsApp) compelling to masses of Android users who don’t have a bunch of iOS friends? iMessage is a nice app/service, but to get users to switch social networks we’d need more than a marginally better app.”
He went on to say he was concerned bringing iMessage to Android would “simply serve to remove an obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones.”
Federighi wasn’t the only exec who, at least as some point, thought bringing iMessage to Android was a bad idea. Earlier documents in the Epic case suggested that back in 2016, Apple’s Phil Schiller had said that expanding iMessage to other platforms “will hurt us more than help us.”
I’m not sure I agree. iPhones are particularly popular in the US, and communicating with friends means having to use a mishmash of text messages and chat services, depending on who I’m talking to. I can’t help but feel that if iMessage had been available on Android so many years ago, it could have well dominated the messaging space.
Granted, I can’t know for sure; for all I know, Apple could still be debating the idea internally. The company made Apple Music available on Android some time back, and Apple TV+ has come to a few Google TV units. There’s hope yet that one day I can be more than just a green bubble to my iPhone-loving friends.
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