Apple Didn’t Bring iMessage to Android Because of its Lock-In Strategy

Posted on April 9, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, iOS, iPadOS, Mobile with 111 Comments

I’ve often said that Apple’s ecosystem is a one-way, dead-end street, and now that theory has been proven true by the company’s own executives.

“Consumers—and often their households—become locked in to iOS, with high switching costs and decreased ability and willingness to extract themselves from the iOS ecosystem,” a 365-page Epic Games legal filing notes of Apple’s strategy. “Apple’s core business model is to ‘hook’ its users on this integrated Apple ecosystem, so they ‘wouldn’t want to leave it’ … Apple has developed a number of apps, services, and features that enhance ‘lock in’ into the Apple ecosystem.”

There are many examples of this lock-in, and of course Steve Jobs infamously directed the lock-in strategy in a 2010 internal meeting in which he told executives to “tie all of [Apple’s products together, so [Apple] further lock[s] customers into [its] ecosystem.” But key among these examples is iMessage, Apple’s proprietary messaging system.

“Consumers have come to rely on the ability to iMessage each other on iOS devices,” the Epic filing reads, referencing deposition comments made by Apple CEO Tim Cook, Apple Fellow Phil Schiller, senior vice president Craig Federighi, and senior vice president Eddy Cue. “If an iPhone user attempts to send a text message to the user of a non-Apple device (such as an Android phone), iMessage transmits the message as a standard cellular text (called an SMS), meaning both users are deprived of the features uniquely associated with iMessage. Apple prominently reveals to iOS users whether they are exchanging messages with someone who owns an iOS device: iMessages appears in blue bubbles, and standard text messages appear in green bubbles.”

Apple could have easily ported iMessage to Android to provide cross-platform compatibility. But as early as 2013, the company’s executives decided not to do so because it would lower the bar for users leaving the platform and could enable families to have a mix of iPhones and Android handsets.

“Craig Federighi … feared that ‘iMessage on Android would simply serve to remove [an] obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones,” the filing continues. “Phil Schiller … agreed that Apple should not offer iMessage on Android devices. 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, Mr. Schiller commented that ‘moving iMessage to Android will hurt us more than help us, this email illustrates why.”

In other words, and contrary to Apple’s marketing, the firm chooses what’s best for itself over what’s best for its users. And that is why “iMessage is still not available on Android.”

Epic has other examples of this lock-in strategy, but they’re obvious to anyone reading this or other tech enthusiasts sites and the argument is, of course, aimed at the courts, which are comprised of less technical people who are probably more readily swayed by Apple’s consumer-first marketing.

Interesting stuff.

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Comments (117)

117 responses to “Apple Didn’t Bring iMessage to Android Because of its Lock-In Strategy”

  1. bkkcanuck

    Another related item... Facetime was originally going to be an open standard (Steve Jobs mentioned this in the 2010 keynote), but those plans basically evaporated after Apple was sued and lost to a patent troll VirnetX.

  2. webdev511

    Well it's another thing for Epic to put on their pile of evidence. iMessage, FaceTime, so many lock in examples. It's one reason I've steered clear.

  3. hal9000

    I know plenty of iPhone users, including myself, and no one uses iMessage, at least here in Europe. There is no reason to use it when there are plenty of multiplatform alternatives available. I don‘t really see the issue here. Just use services that are available on both Android and iOS and you can seamlessly switch anytime between the two. I think there are plenty of things you can criticise Apple or Google for, but iMessage is a non issue in my view. It is their system, they don‘t owe it to anybody to port it to other platforms, and they surely don‘t force it upon anyone. Why all the fuss?

    Other example: Safari. Sure, I would like them to offer Safari on Android and on Windows, but they don‘t. It is their browser. If I want something cross-platform I‘ll go with Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome or Firefox.

    • gartenspartan

      In reply to Hal9000:

      You need to understand iMessage is a very US centric platform with over 100 million users based on platform marketshare. Third party communication platforms therefore are scarcely used as most non iPhone users in the us use sms. Most people use the default messaging apps and don’t download third party text apps. Especially in iPhone in US

    • qaelith2112

      In reply to Hal9000:

      Too bad that isn't the situation here in the US. School children can be brutal with this, exiling their classmates and friends who dare to show up in the chat with a green bubble. The peer pressure is enormous to join the collective and go demand an iPhone from the parents.


  4. lbj

    I am fine with iMessage being Apple only. It’s up to them, it’s their software. Microsoft doesn’t put Halo on PlayStation and why should they.


    I cannot see the issue here.


    I quite liked Windows Phone but Android is crap and I don’t understand why Google didn’t do a good iMessage competitor. There is always FaceBook’s WhatsApp I suppose, if you trust FaceBook that is.


    At least with Apple you and your data aren’t the product, the price for that is you have to pay for the product and the services/software integration and be happy with the wallled garden.


    I think Epic should just end this now. The same argument they are using against Apple can be used at any lock in, consoles, Netflix, Tesla, NFL, Sports rights, etc., etc.

    • scovious

      In reply to LBJ:

      There's a difference between a videogame played by tens of millions of players, and a communication service used by billions of people.

      • curtisspendlove

        In reply to scovious:

        There's a difference between a videogame played by tens of millions of players, and a communication service used by billions of people.


        I keep hearing this, but no one can explain why. I can message people with Android phones perfectly fine. And they can message me just as well.


        Sure, they can’t send me fireworks; but I consider that a good thing.


        :: shrug ::

        • bkkcanuck

          In reply to curtisspendlove:

          In fact I would argue that what the subsidized console prices by tied to game sales is actually a more anti-competitive move than the internal app store of one device maker.... since it effectively locks other console makers by creating a significant barrier to entry into the market (i.e. a game console is effectively a computer with an OS and input devices other than a keyboard). If the game consoles were sold at market price then it would allow for new competitors who are not willing to sell at a loss forever.... e.g. Asus could effectively make a game console if it there was not effectively a barrier from entry. In fact tied selling is actually an anti-competitive move that is considered illegal (not all anti-competitive moves are illegal)... and I don't know the ins and outs of how they skirt around that potential quagmire.

          • Paul Thurrott

            Antitrust kicks in at volume. An app store that serves ~2 billion consumers on mobile is more concerning than one that serves ~50 million consumers on a console.
            • bkkcanuck

              In reply to paul-thurrott:

              The Anti-trust regulations in the US do not work that way and the market defined for anti-trust purposes tends to be not based on a given vendors own devices... but the game market as a whole. The courts are not there to write law, that is up to Congress. Laws should not be written with regards to one company but based on behaviour Congress wants to change, as such any law that applies to Apple devices should be equally applied to game consoles. As I have said before, I have no problem with Congress changing the rules. The law should not even be restricted to virtual goods, but physical goods (i.e. printers, coffee pods, etc.) . A simple regulatory change that would not change things too much could be that if you have a closed store, then there is a cap on the fees that may be charged (cost to operate + 40% of maybe 15% cap or something like that). The laws though should not give anyone a free pass.


              Anti-trust though has NOTHING to do with your article above, this is a simple application and Apple in no way is violating any anti-trust regulations by not investing in making apps for other platforms. I am heavily into the Apple devices since they do what I need, but I DO NOT use iMessage or Facetime... that is not where people are ... they are on Facebook unfortunately.

      • gartenspartan

        In reply to scovious:

        You overestimate the reach of iMessage. It has a very small market outside of the US. The essential communication service is sms and mms and iMessage only enhances the capabilities of those services for its users. It’s brilliant and likely how they will always be able to stay out of the anti competitive cross eyes with it. It’s no different than android messages and it’s version of RCS. It’s an app and service that is capable of enhancing sms and mms services and is not currently available to iPhone users. Most likely due to Apple but the point is it’s the same situation.

  5. Saarek

    It's like moaning that McDonalds doesn't share their Big Mac Sauce with Burger King.


    Apple Music is on Android because Apple can charge for it. iMessage is seen as free on Apple, but like all Apple software it's not really free, you get it by buying an Apple hardware device. They could put iMessage on Android, but no one would want to pay for something that is "free" on iOS and as noted it would lower the genuine lock in advantage to Apple.


    Nope, putting iMessage on Android is a grenade I can't blame Apple for not wanting to step on.



  6. randallcorn

    Nothing new here.


    Oh and Microsoft got in trouble in multiple countries by forcing IE?


    Where is choice?


    I guess my ball so if you don't like it then go home.


    They all suck. Just for the record

  7. TallITGuy

    If Apple made more money from iMessage/Facetime/etc over selling iPhones then it might be worth considering for them. But they don't make money on their own, but rather support sales of their hardware by making them more attractive platforms, so the only reason to have them is for them to be platform exclusives.


    That being said, once you have a market position that allows you to set the standards for that market you do run into antitrust issues (even if it's not what we'd normally think of as a monopoly - I remember some case in Europe where a mobile network provider had actions taken against them even though their market share was maybe 40%). Given Apples' position in mobile, there could be a legal argument for requiring them to open up these services to be multiplatform.

  8. winner

    This seemed pretty self-evident years ago.

  9. jgraebner

    I've seen a number of replies that point out that Apple really doesn't have an incentive to open up iMessage and that it makes good business sense for them to do it this way. That's really the key reason why antitrust laws and other government regulation are needed. It is very much in the public interest for a significant communications platform not to be tied to a specific company's products. Instances where the public interest conflicts with a company's best interests are exactly when government regulators should be stepping in.


    Think of it this way, how much would communications have been impeded if there had been multiple, incompatible standards for the telegraph or telephone and only those who had the same brands could communicate with each other? Wouldn't that have greatly impeded progress? The trend for successful communications platforms have always been through standardization, whether it's telegraph, telephone, government-owned postal service, email, or SMS/MMS.


    • Daishi

      In reply to jgraebner:

      Unfortunately the brainwashing of the corporate money cult is STRONG. I actually saw someone the other day arguing that Nvidia and AMD should be raising the retail price for their GPUs “in the interests of the shareholders” because clearly people are prepared to pay more for them.


      No matter how badly they are getting screwed over by a system designed to bleed them dry and set them against each other fighting for scraps while a handful of people live in obscene luxury they continue to believe that somehow it is all they’re best interests.

  10. vernonlvincent

    The surprise here is that it's a surprise to anybody. Anyone with any ounce of knowledge of how Apple operates could see this as a reason for them to not bring iMessage to other platforms.

  11. derekabraham

    Wouldn't this be similar to the case if Tesla invents a tires that improves mileage of its car, and all other car manufacturers crying to make the tire accessible to them?

  12. fishnet37222

    iMessage is the reason I went back to iOS from Android. My mom would send me text messages and they kept appearing on my iPad and not my Samsung phone.

  13. compsciguy31415

    The guy that founded Pebble (one of the first smart watches) founded a new company called Pebble that will provide a service that brings iMessage to Android: Beeper - All Your Chats In One App

    • waharris007

      In reply to CompSciGuy31415:


      I'm on the list for Beeper, but I probably won't get it at $10/month. There are already services that do this for free. I've used both AirMessage and Blue Bubbles, and they work great. I can iMessage from my Galaxy Note 20, my Galaxy Tab S7+, and Windows. I use it for a few group chats all day.

  14. glenn8878

    I use iMessage, but what makes it great is total integration with Apple technologies. Will Apple port Facetime and Contacts to Android? How about a big NO. That’s a lot of technologies to test and develop on alternative platforms. Microsoft can barely offer new technologies beyond the US market.

  15. peter_cook

    I fail to understand why all of the non apple people get themselves all twisted about what Apple does and doesn't do. If you are in the Apple ecosystem and everything is working for you, well played. If not then why are you all so bitter and twisted over Apple? No one is forcing you to like/dislike decision Apple make so why the angst?

  16. RobertJasiek

    @Peter_Cook, as to disliking Apple but caring about what it does: if one dislikes Apple, one might wish to simply ignore it and enjoy the tech world. However, the tech world is not so simple. In an ideal world, there would be enough competition so that one could always choose what one wants. Instead, there are quite a few oligopolies in the tech world. Apple smartphones or Android smartphones or crap. Apple iPads or competing tablets with different specifications or crap tablets with similar specifications. Non-existing Nvidia GPUs or non-existing AMD GPUs or iGPUs with crap speed or maybe in a few years fast enough Apple APUs.

    One is often faced with decisions between abstaining from tech, choosing crap hardware or choosing Apple hardware with crap Walled Garden. Oligopols in the hardware market are bad enough but Apple makes the overall situation even worse by unnecessarily imposing its crap Walled Garden.

  17. ontariopundit

    What an odd article.


    iMessage is an order of magnitude farther ahead in allowing interoperability than Whatsapp yet I don't see articles pointing out Facebook's anti-competitive lock-in.


    iMessage on the iPhone can send and receive messages with any other SMS-enabled device. Apple doesn't prevent iPhone users from communicating with ANYONE else using an OPEN STANDARD. Apple enables it.


    Whatsapp does prevent such communications. Whatsapp ONLY sends and receives message to and from other Whatsapp users in their walled garden. Whatsapp has a true monopoly on communications in many jurisdictions yet it's interesting to see the comments here about a piece of software that actually works with other systems.


    Besides, Apple does bring its services to other platforms when it's profitable. Apple Music exists on select other platforms.


    Ultimately this is about jealousy. People want Apple to bring the Apple experience to competitor's devices. Yet, if Apple were to do so what does that do to the experience on Apple devices.


    Samsung isn't lambasted for keeping its software Samsung-only--oh wait, it's because people don't actually WANT to use Samsung software. It's been a few years since I owned a Samsung device (I'm now 100% Pixel--though, I do hate how the Pixel is effectively a disposable device because they make it impossible to replace the battery, unlike Samsung and Apple devices which can actually have their battery replaced without having to pay a king's ransom).


    Google and Microsoft would happily do this too if they'd been successful in their respective realms. But, they weren't successful

  18. ontariopundit

    And this is news or insightful or something only Apple does?


    Apple is not the villain here--it's regulators and governments who have ceded policy-making power to corporate giants.


    This is merely envy of legal success by those who aren't successful. There is no evidence that Apple has illegally obtained a monopoly, or has obtained a monopoly, for that matter, the way Microsoft had a monopoly on the desktop and consciously used that monopoly to hurt Netscape in the 1990's.


    There is a gigantic viable alternative to the iPhone that did not exist in opposition to Microsoft's DOS and Windows in the late 90's. Just because Apple earns the lion's share of profits in some markets does not make it a monopoly. It just makes it a highly successful company.


    This is what almost every successful company does if they have the brand loyalty to get away with it.


    Amazon isn't providing access to its Alexa devices to Google's services and vice versa. Google does not bring its YouTube and other Google apps to Amazon's app store even though the Fire device ecosystem is compatible with Android. Apple doesn't allow users to purchase items on Amazon devices because Amazon takes a cut of every sale. Microsoft did not permit users to use any search engine but Bing with Cortana. Microsoft does not allow other app stores on secure Windows.


    There's nothing special here other than envy of success. No one is forcing people to use Apple products or stay with Apple products. It's called tie-in/lock-in/what-have-you. We've seen it since the beginning of time and they all do it.

  19. midpacific

    You know I don't care if people want to use Apple products. More power to them. But what I think is unconscionable is Apple FORCING me to use their products. It took me some time to figure this one out...but I was have trouble getting messages from some pretty important people in my life. I could send them messages and they said they were replying but I was never getting them on my ANDROID phone. I had a thought that they probably used iPhones so I asked and confirmed that yes they do. I went one step further and bugged them to check that they did not have the "use SMS" as a backup setting turned OFF. No they didn't. So why wasn't I getting their messages? Why Apple? Why?

    Turns out we do have an iPad. (Yes I know why? Why do schools force this one on us?) And yes SOMETIMES that iPad is actually ON. And yes the AppleID is tied to my email address. And yes my email address is tied to my contact phone number in these people's iPhones. SO NATURALLY APPLE DELIVERS THEIR MESSAGES TO THE IPAD (when it is left on in a drawer)! Not my Android phone that I use everyday and usually have with me. (Yes I turned iMessage off on the iPad.)

    It wouldn't even bug me so much but this is the main point of the lock in strategy. Apple users don't even have a choice or even know what is going on with their phones. The just know that they have trouble dealing with people who don't use iPhones. And that my friends is the problem. Why would they switch to something that was so much trouble? Of course they wouldn't.

  20. Brian Hodges

    Chat integrated into Gmail will go a long way towards eliminating this problem because the price of getting a Gmail email address and app is significantly cheaper than buying an iPhone.

    • ontariopundit

      In reply to Brianahodges:

      It's kind of telling that I just saw the following XDA headline: "Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T end their cross-carrier RCS plans".


      RCS is a solution in search of a problem. The only thing it seems to do that SMS doesn't is tell me if someone is typing (or, maybe that's mediated through SMS as well, idk)--do I really care?


      Carriers don't earn more money from RCS--they have to spend money to upgrade their networks. Users have to pay more for their phone plans because the carriers had to spend money. And, RCS is just as insecure as SMS. Where's the upside in this?


      Ultimately RCS has been pushed by Microsoft and Google because both failed to produce viable messaging platforms despite throwing an awful lot of money at the problem.


      Skype had a gigantic head start over all other competitors and it squandered that lead by being mediocre (I still remember trying to use Skype in 2012 on mobile--it was a painful experience compared to FaceTime). Google never had a lead but they had numerous initiatives that all failed to capture users imagination.


      For RCS to be useful it has to be able to attract the big players like Messenger, iMessage and Whatsapp. Sure, it'll replace SMS in time but it's not going to do anything to take away from the communications dominance of those corporations.


      Is it a problem that Whatsapp, Messenger and iMessage are dominant? YES! But, this isn't an Apple problem. This is an unregulated, corporate problem.

  21. spiderman2

    what a surprise /s


    classic apple style

    • bkkcanuck

      In reply to spiderman2:

      Classic any company style. As a company, you invest in products that bring in revenue, if it loses you money... why would any company invest in such a product? Apple only builds it's own ecosystem, that is what it is good at -- that is what it works on - that is where it makes money. After all, it is primarily a hardware company that writes software for it's own hardware, not a software company that makes hardware as a sideline. If this is big news, then someone is having to work very hard because they are obviously failing at finding real stories.

  22. waharris007

    In reply to SteenMachine:

    "Drink the Kool-Aide" means blindly do what you're told and champion a cause without ever questioning why, even though it's likely a doomed idea. Comes from the mass suicides of the Peoples Temple cult led by Jim Jones, who gave his follows poisoned Kool Aid and they all drank it and died.

  23. thewarragulman

    I've come to notice that the only market that iMessage matters in is the United States, as other people I know outside of the US don't really use it. I live in Australia and over here nobody uses it, 99% of people here use Facebook Messenger, with the rest using standard SMS, WhatsApp, Telegram and whatever else.


    As someone who uses an iPhone, an iPad, macOS as my daily OS on a Hackintosh (dual-booted with Windows) and a couple of other Macs and Windows PCs, the only "lock-in" I have is my Apple Watch. Everything else I use is cross-platform, and even with iMessage being a "lock-in" feature, I care so little about it that I could easily switch back to Windows and use an Android phone and use SMS relay via the Your Phone app and be completely fine. But the Apple Watch is so good that it actually does force me to stay with my iPhone, as I would find it very difficult to properly replace it without any compromise. The Apple Watch is another perfect example of this, it's such a great device yet it's locked to a smartphone platform unnecessarily.

    • eric_rasmussen

      In reply to thewarragulman:

      This is one of the reasons people don't have more trouble with the lock-in: Apple's devices and services tend to be excellent. Apple chose to target the consumer market specifically while most other companies target the enterprise. The only real issue I have with Apple products is the inflated pricing compared to the competition.


      I'm a Windows, Linux, and Android guy. My daughter is all-in on Apple and doesn't want anything else. I tease her about it, but when I'm helping her with her devices I'm consistently impressed by how well everything just works together.


      It's interesting to hear about the use of Facebook Messenger in Australia. I use that with my family too, but a lot of my friends here in the U.S. have switched over to Signal out of fear of being monitored and our words used against us.

  24. davidlbangs

    I text regularly with Android users from my iPhone. I am using “Messages” and they are using whatever text is called on Android. They get the text and the pictures, and I get their’s. I’m aware that Apple has quirky , novelty animations that may be degraded on their end. We don’t care. With other friends, I use Messenger, or WhatsApp, or Discord, or Slack.


    If I had Android and could download Apple iMesssage because a friend had an iPhone. I would not bother. Text is text.

  25. Singingwolf

    Went won't Apple allow RCS clients on its phones? It's open. The only barrier is Apple. This is illegal. RCS will render this whole issue moot.

    • ontariopundit

      In reply to Singingwolf:


      How will RCS fix anything? RCS is irrelevant because the tech world sees it for what it is--an attempt by Microsoft and Google to get back into the instant messaging game that they lost so spectacularly to Messenger, Whatsapp and iMessage!


      Notice how there are three dominant players (outside of China) in the messaging game. And, none of them are rushing to make RCS a roaring success. RCS is a solution looking for a problem. SMS is functional, albeit dated. Proprietary messaging platforms bind users to the relevant companies.


      What should be more concerning than Apple's iMessage lock-in is Facebook's dominance in the messaging sphere. Facebook should have never been allowed to purchase Whatsapp. But, that's the way of the unregulated world of corporate giants.

  26. tripleplayed

    Text chats with iOS users while I'm on Android can be annoying. Half the chat is messages saying the person liked something.

  27. red.radar

    Things will get interesting as RCS starts to roll out in the Android ecosystem. Theoretically RCS should bring Android's native messages app to feature parity to Imessage. Which then brings the interesting question. Does apple continue to not allow iMessage to work with RCS capable phones? Maybe the carriers can force the issue.



    • christophercollins

      In reply to red.radar:

      I don't think carriers can force anything on Apple. It's usually the other way around. Apple has the power, not the carriers.


      I have always wished they'd put iMessage on Android & Windows, though. I have a nice gaming PC I built years ago, but I use my MBP when I'm not gaming, specifically to get message integration.


      I rarely touch my phone when home, I usually answer the calls on the MBP too.


      I wish MS and Samsung had done better with the phone integration. It's still kind of hit or miss when I test that on my spare number with my Galaxy.


      There should be a framework between Windows & Android phones at a core level that works every bit as good as iPhone/MBP integration.


      As long as they've been improving Your Phone, it still isn't where it needs to be.


      I can take a screenshoot on my MBP and it pops up on my iPhone for editing and the edits show on the MBP. Those are nice touches.


      I really want MS and Android to get to that level.

  28. reservoirmike

    This has been rendered moot by Snapchat and Instagram for a while now. The only people kids are messaging these days (blue or green) are their parents.

  29. datameister

    Remember when Steve Jobs said they were going to make Facetime an open industry standard? Then they didn't.


    If I have my timeline right this was back when Google Talk was still supporting XMPP. Then after Apple was obviously not going to play well with others, Google decided to make Hangouts and keep it proprietary too.

    • bkkcanuck

      In reply to DataMeister:

      It was Facetime, which was newly introduced at the time, and they were sued and lost to a patent troll VirnetX. As such they cannot make free what the courts have in their wisdom encumbered (or the damages would likely be a billion on top - i.e. trebled).

      • spiderman2

        In reply to bkkcanuck:

        I love apple and apple fanboys, when apple lost to patents it's always a patent troll, when apple wants money from any patent (including rounded corners) it's well deserved

        • bkkcanuck

          In reply to spiderman2:

          A "patent troll" is a derogatory term that describes a company whose entire existence is to make profit by acquiring 'patents' as their primary or only means of earning revenue and thus profits. Many of these entities use one specific district court in the US (almost a town industry now) -- the Eastern District of Texas. VirnetX meets all of these criteria.


          Back in the early days we never bothered with patents and understood patents were not applicable to the software industry (that was what copyright was for). I think at a certain point the courts basically allowed them and large companies started registering anything and everything regardless - as sort of a mutually assured destruction sort of scenario... but then the lawyers thought .... gee we can create companies where you can use them by having nothing to the corporation but these entities that held patents to effectively commit legalized extortion.


          The software industry would be best served by the total elimination of any patents when it comes to software. For Apple it is a nuisance - and a bit of pocket change in the end, but for smaller companies it is a constant and ongoing issue with basically a patent based mafia demanding protection money from them.


          The politicians don't correct it because they are clueless and judges generally are just as clueless... and politicians take in lots of 'donations' (i.e. payoffs) which keeps this ongoing merry-go-round in operation...

    • Paul Thurrott

      Don't ever let go of this grudge. It's super-healthy. :)
    • ivarh

      In reply to DataMeister:

      That was FaceTime. I don't ever think they have said the same about iMessage.

  30. lwetzel

    Some people will drink the Kool-Aide no matter what you tell them. That's ok though thins the gene pool.

  31. yoshi

    I've seen a lot of Tweets about this already today, and most of the replies are stuff like "and water is wet" or "no kidding Sherlock". Yes, everyone knew this was the case. But to have Apple execs plainly say they use it solely as a hardware lock-in, is something.

  32. anthonye1778

    Yeah to see apple execs not only acknowledge but actively admit to engaging in this anti-consumer strategy is wild, to say the least. There's a psychological element to it as well. I have seen it first hand: people who do not use iMessage can be mocked and actively ostracized from friends or even family because of being a "green bubble". That "green bubble" term has become something of a catch phrase in younger circles to signify people that are somehow lesser... or "out of the loop", and can even be considered a form of bullying in some circumstances. In young people especially it can cause actual psychological damage. So yeah, to hear Apple execs not only acknowledge their anti-consumer strategy but actively pursue it is incredibly unfortunate.

    • gregorylbrannon

      In reply to AnthonyE1778:

      Yep, experienced this first hand years ago when my then teenage daughter was a cheerleader in high school. She had a the latest Samsung Galaxy at that time but her friends on the cheer squad all had iPhones. She would miss important information such as last minute game time instructions like uniform attire, etc because she was left out of the communication chain not having an iPhone. We ultimately before the football season ended getting her an iPhone because of this reason. And Apple devices are huge among teens.

      • qaelith2112

        In reply to gregorylbrannon:

        This is what I was referring to in a couple of my other replies, though I don't have first-hand experience so much as hearing it from other people with teenagers who have had no choice but to get their kid an iPhone so they wouldn't be ostracized and left out of the loop. Kids do most of their socializing these days through their phones and when they won't have anything to do with others who show up with a green bubble, it doesn't leave that kid with much of a choice. My own kid is autistic and doesn't care to communicate with anybody so I could get him whatever phone he wants but I feel for others who get the high pressure to join the club.

  33. gartenspartan

    This has been discussed for years in tech circles. iMessage will be withheld from non apple platforms indefinitely. It just doesn't make sense for them to open it up to other platforms. imessage is their single biggest lock-in mechanism to their phones. It's the unfortunate reason I use and keep coming back to ios. I wish I could convince my wife to use an android device, but as long as she keeps an iphone iMessage is an important medium in my family for sharing photos and videos of our kids. She is locked in because her whole family is made up of iphone users and they imessage each other all the time pictures and videos and group chats. It's my biggest frustration and I'm sure it's many android users frustrations that imessage is something they don't have access too. I think android phone popularity would explode in the US if iMessage was compatible and Apple knows it.

  34. toukale

    I don't get exactly why this is even news, is there a law that says Apple must make their software available on android? If the answer is no then this fall in the same camp as all the past lets hate on anything Apple. No corporation are going to do anything that does not benefit them in some way, in this case it would actually hurt Apple, next.

  35. ghostrider

    This is 110% true. iMessage is one of the primary reasons a lot of people stay on iOS, and Apple knows it. They've known this for years and years, so won't ever port it to Android. When Apple hook you in, they try to make it as big a hook as possible - 'personal choice' is a phrase you won't hear much mention of in Cupertino.

    • basic sandbox

      In reply to ghostrider: It was basically impossible for me to get iPhone people to use iMessage and Facetime alternatives. Android is irritating if a majority of your friends/family have iPhones.


    • toukale

      In reply to ghostrider:

      Name a corporation who does not try to make their product as sticky as possible. what you've just described is a practice every business follow so I failed to see why this is regarded differently because its Apple.

      • Paul Thurrott

        The reason this is interesting and relevant is that it is part of establishing a pattern of behavior.
        • Oreo

          In reply to paul-thurrott:

          I agree that all services being interoperable would be better for us users. But the question is by what laws could Apple be compelled to produce ports to other OSes? I would prefer if legislators (of the EU, the US and others) do not decide these questions piecemeal, but come up with broader principles that apply to many companies at the same time.


          Apple can legitimately point to users being able to choose other messenger services and to my knowledge it probably does not have a dominant position in any market. In Japan (where I live), the most popular messenger service is Line. In Europe and South America it is WhatsApp (although Signal and Telegram are growing. Think about the move what you may, I think this is a solid argument.


          To be honest, I would prefer if government regulators came up with an official, end-to-end encrypted replacement (a replacement for SMS if you will). But given that no government I am aware of wants to lose access to message data (by cryptographically enforced privacy), I don't think this will happen either.

          • Paul Thurrott

            I don't see any path toward forcing Apple to create/support software on other platforms. But that's not the point of this at all.
            • Oreo

              In reply to paul-thurrott:

              You criticized Apple for using iMessage as a way to pull users into its ecosystem. You called it a one-way, dead-end street for Apple. And I agree that for users it’d be better if iMessage were cross-platform, ideally open like IM protocols of yore (e. g. ICQ and AIM). It’d provide an end-to-end encrypted, fully featured chat platform and protocol. Google tried, but its messaging strategy is a mess with several competing projects and the one that had (has?) buy-in from carriers lacks end-to-end encryption. (No, thank you.)


              So I think it is natural to ponder whether there’d be ways to change it.

      • paul_nelson

        In reply to toukale:

        I would argue that no such lock in exists on Android due to its much more open nature. I am more than happy to be proved wrong though.

        • MikeCerm

          In reply to Paul_Nelson:

          Android is one big lock. Want a phone, but don't want to pay the Apple tax -- $800 for a phone that costs less than $400 to make? You have to use Android, which comes bundled with a bunch of other Google services. Google gained this advantage through unfair competition. Basically, they gave away Android for nearly free (subsidized by their advertising revenue), and made it impossible for Blackberry, Palm, and even Microsoft to compete. Since all their competitors were forced out, they've abused their monopoly power in the non-iPhone market to force handset makers to bundle more Google services. Sure, it's better than Apple's complete vertical integration, but just because Android is "open" doesn't mean you have much choice.

          • toukale

            In reply to MikeCerm:

            Don't bring logic to those discussions. I am not sure if putting Apple in the title just triggered lots of folks and they just can't think or see how things actually are beyond the regular pr speaks from their corporate du jour.

  36. richardbottiglieri

    Hmmmm, I look at this a bit differently. By keeping iMessage an Apple exclusive, Apple is giving its users a compelling reason to switch to or stay on the platform. No sane person would argue that SMS is more secure than iMessage, so Apple isn't exactly lying about the security aspect of it. With regard to locking customers in, I think that most other public companies would literally kill to have the type of brand loyalty that Apple enjoys. Apple's market value reflects the overall success of these decisions, I think.


    Look, I totally get that you want iMessage on Android, but how does Apple benefit from that, exactly? Keeping it Apple only is a sensible business decision for Apple. No matter what, they are first and foremost a public company with an obligation to their shareholders.

    • karlinhigh

      In reply to richardbottiglieri: I totally get that you want iMessage on Android, but how does Apple benefit from that, exactly?


      Apple would benefit by not inviting antitrust lawsuits.


      I'm sure quite a list of trust-busted companies could be given, each with prior behavior that was defended by saying "How exactly does it benefit this company to stop doing it?"

  37. ronh

    Google could help their own case by making Duo easier to chat with instead of making it voice or video calling and turn of KNOCK KNOCK by default. I don't see a way to text message for the web version of Duo. On the Android app you need to send a note. There is no conversation list


    I have started using Signal, it would be nice if it would integrate with SMS

    • MikeCerm

      In reply to RonH:

      Allo and Duo should never have existed as separate apps in the first place. Google just needs to integrate Duo into Messages, steal the other good features of iMessage, and then release Messages for iPhone. If Apple won't open up, then it's up to Google to steal away their users. Offer a true iMessage competitor as default on Android, and then make the case to iPhone users, "if you're tired of green bubbles messing up your group chats, there's a better way, and 2 billion people are already using it because it's the default on Android. It does everything iMessage or WhatsApp does, and it's got the same strong encryption as Signal, so you can uninstall those while you're at it." Google probably won't do it though, because they've got enough antitrust problems, but that's the only way we'll ever get to a single, unified message platform across Android and iOS.

    • MikeCerm

      In reply to RonH:

      Signal does integrate with SMS, but only on Android. Back when it was called TextSecure, all messages were sent over SMS/MMS. When they re-launched the app on iPhone and changed the name to Signal, they changed the method of operation so encrypted messages go through their servers, which was necessary because iPhone users can't use alternative SMS apps. On Android, you can send Signal messages to other Signal users, and contacts who don't use Signal will just get regular SMS/MMS, just like how iOS falls back to green bubbles. SMS/MMS handling is not on by default though, because Signal is privacy-centric, and having SMS fallback on by default would definitely confuse people into thinking their messages are secure when they're not.

      • Oreo

        In reply to MikeCerm:

        I use Signal on iOS, and I like it precisely because of its user privacy-centric approach. I don’t see the ability to mix SMS with Signal messages as an asset, it is a liability. Like you wrote, you can easily mistake lose track of which communication is encrypted and which is not.

  38. Daekar

    I have used iMessage and regular SMS/MMS. Other than the lower resolution of photos and videos, there is really little difference to me. I don't understand why people think it is such a big differentiator, I wouldn't think twice about it. I can always send a link to OneDrive or something if I really care, but most of the time it doesn't matter a hill of beans...

    • scovious

      In reply to Daekar:

      I was lied to by Apple marketing and told that a 3G connected Apple watch could make calls and send texts to my friends and family. When I bought it based on that premise, it turned out that the Apple Watch only sends those messages when your recipient is on iMessage, and does not support standard SMS/MMS unless you have an iPhone in the immediate proximity of the Apple Watch, which defeats the purpose of 3G connectivity. Apple's own products lock you into communication with other people who only have those products.

    • gartenspartan

      In reply to Daekar:

      It matters to many people. There's a stigma to it, but aside from that, the higher resolution videos and pictures are important to many people as well. That's how my wife share's pictures of our kids with her family. in a group imessage chat. group chats don't always work well with mixed sms and imessage groups either. its an issue for many people and it's a differentiator for apple.

  39. reformedctrlz

    In reply to lvthunder:

    I’d say the opposite, if it was as easy as paying Apple for the app, it’d have been there years ago. The whole point of this is that Google and Apple both know that if iMessage was available on Android a ton of people would lose a reason to stay on/in iOS. Why else do you think Google has been chasing one messaging strategy after another?

  40. dstrauss

    What's the big deal here Paul?


    Does Amazon have to make Kindle DRM free so you can use their books anywhere?

    Does Microsoft have to let Sony run XBox games? Does it have to make Office 365 open source?

    Does Google have to make its search algorithm public?

    Does Hershey have to give up their recipe? What about Coke?


    This is whining for whining's sake. What I would be more concerned about is the October 2020 finding at National Interest that 86% of teens in the US now own iPhones. It is a fact that iPhones are the gateway drug to that walled garden, and if MS, Google, and Samsung don't come up with a compelling mobile solution, they will have nothing left but cloud services to offer to the Apple walled garden of 2030...

    • scovious

      In reply to dstrauss:

      What's the big deal?


      Communication for billions of people in a world where there are only 2 choices for mobile devices, is infinitely different than an industry of tens of millions of people playing videogames.


      Kindle doesn't lock you into only reading their books on their devices, you can access Kindle books on iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Kindles, and the Web.


      Office 365 is available on every device, on iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, even Linux!!


      Google doesn't have to make its algorithm public, but its service is available on competing platforms, on iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Linux, and the Web.


      Hershey and Coke aren't providing essential services to billions of people so they can live a modern life, recipes for food have always been on a completely different playing field than fundamental building blocks of modern society like digital communication.


      You sound like you are trying to invent excuses for Apple to make mobile devices and communication exclusive to people who buy their products. There is a difference between basic services and their widespread availability for accessibility and making exclusive games or features and open sourcing the secret sauce of their creations. I guess you just can't see that.

      • Chris_Kez

        In reply to scovious:

        “Communication for billions of people in a world where there are only 2 choices for mobile devices...”

        And SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and more satisfy a billion plus users across those two choices of mobile devices. Why should Apple be required to support iMessage on Android?

        • bkkcanuck

          In reply to Chris_Kez:

          I am heavily into the Apple ecosystem, but I do not use iMessage since everyone I know is somewhere else (Facebook for personal, Teams for work). [and I still get SMS messages from companies which are using an SMS server of somesort - not Apple devices]. You forgot LINE which is popular here...

      • gartenspartan

        In reply to scovious:

        A non apple device can still send messages and recieve messages from an apple device so its not like imessage is this essential service you are making it out to be.

    • gartenspartan

      In reply to dstrauss:

      I agree with everything you're saying and I think Epic using this example is not a good one for them. This is a competitive advantage apple has created for themselves and it benefits themselves by far the most by keeping it in house. it's no different than any other companies proprietary technology that's used to create an edge and differentiate oneself.

    • anthonye1778

      In reply to dstrauss:

      Hey I get what you're saying. After all, companies have certain trade secrets that must be kept secret. But note that Apple would absolutely NOT have to give up its trade secrets if it made an imessage app for Android. That's not how it works. But also, there are some fundamental differences between a messaging service that in many cases provides the backbone for human digital communication... and an e-book. And the kind of negative effects to which Apple's policy directly actuates and contributes aren't really a thing when it comes to a Kindle e-book or Hershey's chocolate squares. Go read my comment over on the premium comments section and then read the first reply to get only a small taste of the full picture of the negative effects of Apple's policy.

  41. wp7mango

    In reply to lvthunder:

    Yes, and it's for the courts to decide whether they are in fact bad.

  42. curtisspendlove

    I honestly don’t see why this is that big of an issue. Every company out there has secret sauce that give them a competitive edge.


    :: shrug ::


    The legislators may say they can’t do this; but what are the long-reaching after-effects? Does everyone then have to have an open platform?


    Do Google and Microsoft have to share their search algorithms with Duck Duck Go?

    • scovious

      In reply to curtisspendlove:

      The secret sauce would be the code, no one is asking them to open source it; they just want basic communication to be available on more platforms for accessibility.

      • curtisspendlove

        In reply to scovious:

        That’s a pretty weak argument and I’m pretty sure you know that. You could easily point to pretty much any type of IP and say “the secret sauce is actually x ... but they can just share y, so what’s the big deal”.


        Also, porting an app isn’t cheap. And I’m guessing few Apple employees want to work on Android apps. I wouldn’t. The tooling is painful.

  43. jchampeau

    I think "Lock-in" is a misnomer. No one is locked into anything here except developers who sell apps in the iOS app stores. Apple's tight first-party integration and their decision to not make PC and Android versions of iMessage are differentiators for them. They set themselves apart from their competitors this way. They are being competitive, not anti-competitive. There is nothing "wild" or even surprising to me going on here. Do I wish I could run iMessage in a window on my PC? Definitely. Does it make me want to buy a Mac? Yes, at least a little bit. Is their depriving me of that ability to run iMessage on my PC anticompetitive? No. The high fees Apple charges developers to sell their wares in the app store, and their prohibiting loading of apps outside the app store or use third-party payment processing systems is indeed anticompetitive in my view, but the iMessage stuff and whatever else Epic calls "lock-in" is a different story, and I wonder if their attempt to conflate competitive and anticompetitive behavior will ultimately hurt them in court.

  44. RobertJasiek

    Apple's lock-in strategy has a second effect: those not wishing to be locked in the Walled Garden avoid Apple products / services entirely or else as far as possible. Due to Apple's strategy, I delayed my purchase of my first and only Apple device (an iPad Mini 4) by three years, I minimise the number of paid apps (one, which is a TV journal saving me the cost of a printed one), I minimise the number of paid Apple services (zero, e.g., I won't buy any music from Apple), always ensure that I can export everything as files and always reflect when I can quit Apple then hopefully permanently.

    Using an iPad is a consequence of the incompetence of all competing tablet makers. There is a small chance that I might some time buy an APU / GPU from Apple and the only reason this can happen is permanent incompetence of all competing GPU manufacturers (as currently).

  45. doubledeej

    Especially sad because when Steve Jobs announced iMessage he specifically stated that they were going to open it up to other platforms.

  46. obarthelemy

    Also: water is wet. News at 11.

  47. midpacific

    I guess I don't get some of the comments that ask why us non Apple people get our knickers in a twist about iMessage and other Apple products.

    I think it's because we have to communicate with people who use these products and it's on US to troubleshoot when things don't work. It gets annoying.

    And the fact that they single us out with a different color bubble is disturbing. And probably more disturbing to their customers who wish we would just use iPhones. Imagine if it was the other way around. If on Android we could mark iMessage users with a different color. There would be an uproar. Crazy.

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