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Apple Once Tried (and Failed) to Pitch a Standardized Version of iMessage to Wireless Carriers

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Apple will likely never bring iMessage to third-party platforms like Android, but there was a time when it tried to convince carriers to adopt a standardized version for everyone.

In a new Wall Street Journal editorial on about the lack of interoperability between Apple’s iMessage and common SMS texting systems, Scott Forstall, Apple’s former head of iOS development, reveals the Cupertino company once tried to push wireless carriers toward its version of messaging.

According to the report, Forstall said that Apple developed iMessage in the days of iOS because Apple wanted “messaging to feel more like a conversation.”

With iMessage, Apple introduced read receipts, dynamic typing indicators, rich photo and video support, and more. The problem, however, is that these improvements aren’t compatible with the traditional SMS and MMS technology used by Android, for example. Additionally, breaking out of Apple’s iMessage system to Android, for example, can cause a number of issues, including lost messages and broken threads.

While it’s easy to conclude that the continued development of iMessage is just another way to keep iPhone users stuck to their Apple products, Forstall has revealed that the Cupertino company in fact once tried to push carriers to use a new texting standard similar that shared many of iMessage’s features.

“We approached the carriers to pursue adding features to the existing texting systems and removing the additional customer costs,” explains Scott Forstall. “For various reasons, from the difficulty of extending the existing standards, to challenges with interoperability between texting systems and carriers, to the desire of carriers to protect a significant revenue stream, these explorations didn’t pan out.”

One can only imagine how different the mobile landscape could look today if carriers had decided to adopted Apple’s iMessage standard. Read Joanna Stern’s entire editorial on the difficulties of inoperability between iMessage and other texting formats here.

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