On Saturday, Android boss Hiroshi Lockheimer accused Apple of “using peer pressure and bullying as a way to sell products,” after a Wall Street Journal report revealed how American teens have turned Apple’s iMessage into a social status symbol that shuts out Android users.
Now Lockheimer takes a slightly less abrasive stance: the Google manager said Monday that “we are not asking Apple to make iMessage available on Android. We ask Apple to support the industry standard for modern messaging (RCS) in iMessage, just as they support the older SMS/MMS standards.”
We are not asking Apple to make iMessage available on Android. We’re asking Apple to support the industry standard for modern messaging (RCS) in iMessage, just as they support the older SMS/MMS standards.
— Hiroshi Lockheimer (@lockheimer) January 10, 2022
“By not including RCS, Apple is holding back the industry and holding back the user experience for not only Android users, but their own customers as well,” adds Lockheimer, later in the Twitter thread.
That’s still a big accusation, but one that brings the conversation back to familiar territory: Will Apple? accept the olive branch from google to make iMessage more compatible with Android, or will it continue to use lock-in to sell more iPhones?
As far as the lock-in goes, there’s little doubt about Apple’s motivation. Thanks to Epic vs Apple trial, the world has now seen confidential emails between Apple executives showing that the company is deliberately withholding iMessage in favor of lock-in. “I’m afraid iMessage on Android would only remove an obstacle for iPhone families giving their kids Android phones,” wrote Apple CEO Craig Federighi in April 2013, adding: “I think we need Android customers. who are going to use Apple products and be made dependent on them.”
“Joz and I think moving iMessage to Android will hurt us more than it will help us, this email illustrates why,” Apple’s Phil Schiller wrote in March 2016, forwarding an email from Beats Music co-founder Ian Rogers on how he got “a lot of messages from friends and family” after switching to an Android phone.
What’s less clear is whether RCS, the next-gen replacement for SMS championed by Google and which includes popular features common to iMessage, has a compelling reason for Apple to sign up. That’s probably why Google itself creates a bit of peer pressure.
The edge asked Apple if it plans to support RCS literally years without response, so we don’t hold our breath. We’ve also raised the moral case that a company that claims privacy is a human right has a duty to bring encrypted messages to the world, not just its own customers, and we’ve written about the personal situation of dealing with Apple’s passivity. (And when I say “we” I mean Dieter, because RCS is his jam, I’m writing this post because he’s on vacation, and Dieter srsly, why are you reading these words, don’t you hear that you have a social beach somewhere in the distance ?)
But maybe now that Apple is basically a three trillion dollar company, and it’s under a lot of regulatory scrutiny, and its dirty laundry (in the form of emails) has been sent out to the world, and its employees are speaking out, and pieces like the WSJs are coming out, and the CEO Tim Cook is probably looking for a legacy bigger than just scaling the company to become the most valuable in the world with a fat pay package as a reward… maybe iMessage to Android or RCS to Bringing iMessage is the kind of small concession Apple could make.