Just days after unveiling a new Android campaign that borrows heavily from Apple’s strategy, Google has attacked Apple for its green and blue message bubbles. Now he’s asking for help.
Following a report in the Wall Street Journal that documented how “the push to be part of the blue text group” is shaping teenage smartphone buying decisions, Google executive Hiroshi Lockheimer took to Twitter for lambasting Apple’s color-coded chat bubbles, calling them “a documented strategy” by the company that uses “peer pressure and bullying as a means to sell products.” Google’s Android account also tweeted the story with a reference to “harassment”.
The Journal report resurfaces from Epic trial documents that highlighted Apple’s resistance to expanding iMessage to Android. In a series of emails, Craig Federighi, Phil Schiller and other Apple executives worried that “iMessage on Android is just being used to delete [an] obstacle to iPhone families giving their children Android phones.
Many high school and college students were polled for the article, which described situations in which iMessage kept Android users out of social circles. In one case, a daughter’s sister “laughed at her for texting potential lovers using Android phones,” calling the green bubbles “disgusting.”
In the report, Lockheimer said there was “no real technical or product reason” for the iMessage lockdown and urged Apple “to join the rest of the mobile industry.” Google has tried many proprietary messaging platforms over the years, including Allo and Hangouts, but none have gained the kind of traction Apple’s iMessage has.
For its part, Google recently updated its own Messages app to support iMessage interactions such as Like and Laugh. Previously, reactions resulted in boring texts repeating the message someone liked and clogging up the conversation, but in the new system, emoji appear like on an iPhone.
Google has also recently switched to RCS (Rich Communication Services) for messaging, which allows many of the benefits of iMessage to be enjoyed but without locking into a single device. Similar to SMS, it is a more universal system supported by operators.
Lockheimer continued his criticisms with a Twitter thread urging Apple to support RCS to “improve the experience for iOS and Android users”. He also said Google was “happy to work with Apple to make RCS interoperability a reality,” although supporting RCS would benefit Google more than Apple. That said, Lockheimer’s tone was much friendlier after days of “big talk.”
Public shame aside, the iMessage platform is unlikely to change anytime soon. As evidenced by the Journal report, the system is working as expected and Apple has no reason to change it. RCS might be superior to SMS, but a lot of features overlap with iMessage and it’s not end-to-end encrypted. For these reasons, we’re likely going to see additional lockdown as Apple expands its clothing catalog and looks into augmented reality-based services.
Update 1/11: Added more details.
Michael Simon has covered Apple since the iPod was iWalk. His obsession with technology dates back to his first PC, the IBM Thinkpad with the pop-up keyboard to replace the reader. He’s still waiting for it to come back in style.