Apple v. Epic Court Documents Reveal Rationale for Not Bringing iMessage to Android

New findings reveal that Apple could have launched iMessage for Android years ago but deliberately chose not to do so.

According to court documents from Apple’s App Store battle with Epic Games, Apple execs are well-aware that iMessage helps keep customers tethered to its ecosystem.

Epic Games argues that Apple purposefully locks customers into its ecosystem of devices and services, and its lawyers this week served up some Apple emails to prove its point. As The Verge reports, one of the key exchanges is from an unnamed, former Apple employee, who states: “The #1 most difficult [reason] to leave the Apple universe app is iMessage … iMessage amounts to serious lock-in.”

“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 Fellow Phil Schiller responds that “moving iMessage to Android will hurt us more than help us, this email illustrates why.” SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi also weighs in by explaining, “iMessage on Android would simply serve to remove [an] obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones.”

The lack of iMessage on Android is one felt strongly by consumers, especially in the United States where iPhones make up nearly 50 per cent of the market.

It’s obvious why Apple wants to keep iMessage close to its chest. The company makes its money based on people buying its devices, and those devices are useless if they don’t have a great range of features and services.

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