Home Android The cold, bitter truth about the Android-iOS messaging mess

The cold, bitter truth about the Android-iOS messaging mess

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My goodness, my fellow Google-observers: We’ve got quite the bit of virtual geek theater playing out in front of our googly eyes right now.

Have you caught wind of this whole debacle yet? Following a report in The Wall Street Journal that cited the “dreaded green text bubble” as the core reason for The Youths™ supposedly veering toward iPhones over Android devices these days, Google’s chief Android exec fired off a feisty series of tweets attacking Apple over its refusal to support contemporary cross-platform messaging standards.

Whew! That’s an awful lot of mush-mouthed gobbledegook to decipher, I realize. Let me break it down into super-simple terms (and if you’re already up to speed on all this stuff, feel free to skip over this bulleted list and hop down beneath it like the happy little bunny you are):

  • Apple’s iPhones come with an app called iMessage, which is roughly comparable to the old (and hilariously named) BBM messaging service from BlackBerry back in the day.
  • Just like BBM, iMessage is completely proprietary. In this case, that means you can use it on an iPhone or a Mac — and that’s it.
  • iMessage has its own closed-off network that allows you to chat with other iPhone owners in a modern messaging environment, similar to what you’d get in Slack, Teams, WhatsApp, Google Chat, or any other such service. The main differences are just that (a) it comes preloaded on iPhones by default, so most iPhone users in the U.S. tend to use it automatically, and (b) unlike virtually every other modern messaging service, it’s deliberately locked down to the Apple universe and unavailable to anyone on any other type of device.
  • When you message with any non-Apple users from within iMessage — as in, us lowly Android-preferring land organisms — Apple’s software falls back to SMS, a text-centric messaging standard that dates back to the mid-80s and was absolutely not designed with modern messaging uses in mind.
  • SMS doesn’t offer table-stakes contemporary messaging features like built-in encryption, active typing indicators, or the ability to send high-quality images and videos in a message. It was designed in the 80s, for cryin’ out loud. Our current-day technology didn’t exist back then, and no one was using messaging at the level we use it now (Neanderthals!).
  • Not exactly optimal, right? And Apple adds insult to injury by tacking a prominent green background onto the message of anyone who’s using an Android phone — that “dreaded green text bubble” we were talking about a minute ago — thus emphasizing the difference, creating a fascinating sort of manufactured stigma, and maintaining the perception among iFolk that their messaging experience is subpar with said humans because and only because such lowlife dare to use a non-Apple-blessed Android device (gasp — THE AUDACITY!).

Got all that? Good. Now, here’s the reality of this mess — from two very different and somewhat at-odds perspectives.

Part 1: Yes, it’s Apple’s fault

No way around it: Apple absolutely could and should do better with this. For all of the company’s pretentious blathering about how it cares so deeply about its users’ privacy, how it works so hard to provide a polished and often even magical experience, and — of course — how all of its stuff “just works,” locking down its modern messaging platform to its own ecosystem is a 100% self-serving move that flies directly in the face of everything it preaches.

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