Apple’s bad decision on Messages for Android.

Paul Alvarez

Photo by Alexander Shatov on Unsplas

I don’t usually keep up with tech battles in court. The Epic versus Apple case is interesting, though, and since so many podcasts bring it up, it is hard not to be somewhat aware. Once the trial starts, there will be more to share, which I will then be informed of but do not seek to learn more. I don’t care all that much.

What I do care about, though, are things that come out of the trials discovery phase. I remember when the Samsung versus Apple trial was going on and how much news came out of all the discoveries where we got to see all these internal Apple secrets and specs that we would never have been able to see otherwise.

This was prone to happen again with the Epic v. Apple case, but one of the first things to come out rubbed me the wrong way. Many people have written and talked about the discovery, first reported by Macworld, about messages on Android and how it was a lost cause from the beginning.

Apple has the right to do whatever it wants with its platform and intellectual property. With their iPhone, if they choose to only have certain things on it that are not available on other things to make it more unique and desirable, I support that fully. Messages, for example, fall under that umbrella.

But Messages, previously called iMessage, don’t just work with iPhones. They also have it available on the iPad, Mac, and even Apple Watch. What is also true is that you don’t have to use another iPhone to use messages; anyone with SMS/MMS can also send messages to an iPhone where they will receive it as a green bubble.

Now, many want to shame others for being a green bubble. I have many Message groups that include someone with an Android, which makes everybody have green bubbles, and that one person is teased quite a bit for it. It is nothing personal and all fun, but it does ruin a part of the experience compared to having a group thread with only iPhones.

I remember about a year ago when my brother was still using a Samsung phone, and every time he would try and send us something in a group message with him and my two other brothers, it would never be entirely right. A video would come through tiny and super pixelated and didn’t have to just come from my brother’s Android; anyone sending something in that thread would come out awful.

The experience is horrible, not just for the Android user trying to message iPhone users but also for the iPhone users. Not only can we not send backhand forth pictures and videos properly to others with Android users, but sometimes I lose messages, or a conversation happens, and I only end up getting the end of it.

Antidotes aside, what I am trying to say is that this experience is terrible for all users. Apple has always been know for not just creating the best products but also offering the best experiences. Using an iPad Pro over a Windows Surface provides a different OS experience, but arguable, if iPadOS does what you need, you will have a better experience using that device.

The same with Android versus iOS. If you want to use an iPhone 12 over a Google Pixel 5, you will get a completely different OS and ways of using the phone, but Apple guarantees a certain kind of experience that many people find better. They know that by controlling the hardware and software together, they can provide an experience like no other.

But then they choose to withhold a part of that experience for reasons I can only speculate. The Macworld article I mentioned above talks about internal emails by Apple executives who ultimately decided not to ship a finished and readyversion of Messages for Android. This, to me, goes against everything Apple talks about when they say they are trying to provide the best experience to their users.

Why would they do this? Again, this is only speculation, but you could see that withholding Messages from Android would want to push those users to adopt an iPhone instead — and does make the iPhone more valuable since the Messages experience between two Apple devices is so much better. Especially with all of the new features coming out like better groups, threads, Memoji, stickers, etc.

I understand that Apple needs to make money, but making a worse experience for users who have loved ones or friends with Androids doesn’t make sense. How do they know that someone who has an Android already chooses not to go to an iPhone solely because their relative or friends own an Android phone and refuse to deal with the lack of message support?

That could potentially be doing the opposite of what Apple’s goals are in bringing more people into the ecosystem. I doubt that happens, and if it does, it is tiny because Android and iPhones can message one another; it still just isn’t that good.

The bottom line is that Apple needs to start breaking out of its bubble (pun intended) and start thinking about what is best for its users instead of worrying about incentivizing other platforms. Some argue that Apple would never put Apple Arcade on Android or any other Apple-only service like iCloud, Fitness+, etc. But Apple does provide access to Music and TV+.

When Apple can make money, they would create a version for Android. This, to me, is the wrong approach. I understand Apple needs to make money, but part of the reason you have done so well in that is because of the experience you provide to those who choose your products which will then, in turn, keep buying more products and services.

Messages on Android would not make any more for Apple. But it would provide a better experience for iPhone users. Seeing full-quality images from my Grandma, or knowing that I am not missing any messages in a bachelor party group message with over thirteen people, would make me love my iPhone even more.

I can’t fix this problem by forcing all of my family and friends to switch to iPhones. I honestly don’t think that is fair nor something I would ever want to do. Apple can make this all work better without the need to do this though, they almost did but chose not to.

Something about this whole thing makes me sad. Sometimes I feel like a companies sacrifices to their bottom dollar can go a long way. Sometimes that sacrifice at the beginning may end up making them more money in the long run. Either way, this is a bit disappointing on Apple’s part, and I feel like instead of thinking about how doing this would benefit Android users and stop there, think about your users and how this might help them.

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My passion is in technology. I write reviews about gadgets that interest me but also provide some kind of value in my toolset to achieve my goals. Most of my writing is surrounded by technology and how it plays a role as a tool, help with productivity, and also provide mindfulness for a more fulfilled life.

Turlock, CA

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