While Tim Cook would no doubt prefer to be fielding questions about why the iPhone 14 is super duper, at Vox Media’s Code 2022 event, the Apple CEO had to deal with the familiar irritation of Android users who feel like second-class citizens in the company’s iMessage app.
As a quick refresher, iMessage is a seamless improvement to SMS which includes things like reactions, the ability to share files and an animated “…” when someone is typing. But if you’re chatting with someone in Android, the experience is far more hobbled with emoji responses appearing as awkward text, media files horribly compressed and no indication that they’re typing. This is all accompanied with the ‘green bubble’ of shame which, as The Wall Street Journal explains, often makes young people social pariahs in their friendship groups.
Apple could easily change this, and cooperate with Google by adopting RCS text messaging standards. But, despite an extended campaign aimed at shaming Apple into playing along, the company has so far stood firm in its refusal to play ball. And it doesn’t look like that stubborness is going to change any time soon.
“I don’t hear our users asking that we put a lot of energy in on that at this point,” Cook replied when asked what Steve Jobs might make of the company’s failure to embrace RCS. When a journalist followed up by pointing that it was hard for him to send videos to his mother, Tim Cook offered the following unhelpful, and somewhat tin-eared advice: “Buy your mom an iPhone.”
Frankly, we shouldn’t expect much else at this point. The problems between formats have been known for some time, and it seems Apple’s view is simply that it’s someone else’s problem — and one that, if fixed, would see the company giving up a big advantage.
We know this thanks to the ongoing Apple/Epic Games trial, which has caused thousands of pages of internal documents to become available. “In the absence of a strategy to become the primary messaging service for [the] bulk of cell phone users, I am concerned the iMessage on Android would simply serve to remove [an] obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s Chief Software Executive, wrote in a 2013 email.
Phil Schiller, at the time Apple’s marketing chief, made a similar point three years later. “Moving iMessage to Android will hurt us more than help us,” he wrote.
Still, Cook’s use of the phrase “at this point” does at least leave the door open to the possibility that Apple may one day relent and play nicely with its mobile OS sibling. Especially if he doesn’t come up with a better answer to the question of how you send videos to elderly Android-using relatives…