Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

That iMessage-on-Android Rumour, Post-WWDC

Shortly before WWDC this year, a rumour was flying around that Apple was preparing to bring iMessage to Android. I didn’t write about it because the source seemed sketchy and, for no other reason than gut instinct, it didn’t seem likely for this year.

Well, Walt Mossberg looked into it after the WWDC keynote:

When I asked a senior Apple executive why iMessage wasn’t being expanded to other platforms, he gave two answers. First, he said, Apple considers its own user base of one billion active devices big enough to provide a large enough data set for any possible AI learning the company is working on. And second, having a superior messaging platform that only worked on Apple devices would help sales of those devices — the company’s classic (and successful) rationale for years.

This year’s software enhancements greatly reduce the amount of lock-in to Apple’s services. In iOS 10, you can — on a per-contact basis — set third-party apps as the default for both messaging and voice communications. But that’s the kind of openness that doesn’t increase the likelihood of users crossing over to Android. Rather, it expands their choices within Apple’s ecosystem.

Bringing iMessage to Android is the opposite of that. It serves to increase choice for users with little incentive to keep them within Apple’s ecosystem. But, if that other rumour about Apple Pay transfers over iMessage comes true, that’s a good reason to bring it to Android. Another good reason is the forthcoming iMessage App Store.

It’s worth keeping in mind that Apple executives have, on more than one occasion, said one thing while planning another. Things may always change. But I don’t foresee iMessage working with anything other than Apple’s products anytime soon.