Another thing that is far too often over looked is what iMessage actually is to teens. Given the trend over the past several years with the rise of various messaging apps, e.g. WhatsApp, Messenger, Snapchat, Kik, most people now glance over traditional SMS as being much of a social experience, and understandably so. The only problem is many people consciously / subconsciously view iMessage as synonymous to traditional SMS. I can see why this is the case — after all, iMessage is a pre-installed platform on every single iPhone so obviously it will naturally have a ton of engagement. But it being pre-installed should not be a reason to discount it, especially when taking into account the level of saturation within the Gen-Z demographic and its dynamic user experience to date (relative to traditional SMS). Of course this is more of a subjective premise, however, after first hand observing how teens use iMessage over the past few years it is clear that they treat it as much more than a basic text message delivery service. It’s the center of their mobile social life, whether they themselves realize that or not.
This article is built around estimates and derivations, but its arguments are well-considered: amongst American teens, iMessage is insanely popular. Last year, when rumours of iMessage on Android began to bubble up, I was skeptical of their likelihood for reasons along these lines; today, I continue to be convinced that Apple sees iMessage stickiness on their most popular and profitable product line to be a key and very unique selling point.
I wonder how much of this is an exclusively American phenomenon, and what part that plays in Apple’s strategy. Gut instinct tells me that similar usage patterns would be seen in other wealthy countries, like Canada, Australia, and Britain, for instance. But Apple has prioritized China and India as their markets to crack, and both countries are heavily in Android territory. How much does that impact their likelihood of potentially making iMessage a cross-platform product? I bet that Apple would rather continue to sell lower-cost phones — think iPhone 5C or SE, not a discount iPhone per se — than see iMessage on any other company’s platforms.
See Also: Jean-Louis Gassée’s reflection on the state of Apple’s services business.