Apple Admits to Not Bringing iMessage to Android to Keep Users Locked In to Its Ecosystem

BY Rajesh Pandey

Published 9 Apr 2021

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It has long been argued that Apple has kept iMessage exclusive to iPhone to lock users into its ecosystem. Well, Apple has pretty much confirmed this in the court filings that it has submitted in its ongoing battle with Epic Games.

iMessage is extremely popular among iPhone users in the US. It is also why many people do not switch from an iPhone to an Android device, as they will then not be able to remain a part of their existing group chats on iMessage. Epic Games has now filed a brief in its lawsuit against Apple for removing Fortnite from the App Store and thwarting competition. The brief contains excerpts from Apple executives and their decision not to bring iMessage to Android.

Apple has recognized the power that iMessage has to attract and keep users within its ecosystem.

a. As early as 2013, Apple decided not to develop a version of iMessage for the Android OS. (Cue Dep. 92:22-93:1.)

b. Mr. Cue testified that Apple “could have made a version on Android that worked with iOS” such that there would “have been cross-compatibility with the iOS platform so that users of both platforms would have been able to exchange messages with one another seamlessly”. (Cue Dep. 92:5-9; 92:11-16.)

c. However, Craig Federighi, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering and the executive in charge of iOS, feared that “iMessage on Android would simply serve to remove [an] obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones”. (PX407, at ‘122.)

d. Phil Schiller, an Apple executive in charge of the App Store, agreed that Apple should not offer iMessage on Android devices. (Cue Dep. 92:18-93:1.)

e. In 2016, when a former Apple employee commented that “the #1 most difficult [reason] to leave the Apple universe app is iMessage . . . iMessage amounts to serious lock-in” to the Apple ecosystem, Mr. Schiller commented that “moving iMessage to Android will hurt us more than help us, this email illustrates why”. (PX416, at ‘610; Cue Dep. 114:14-115:2.)

The statements above pretty much make it clear that Apple could have made iMessage for Android, but the proposal was shot down by Craig Federighi and Phil Schiller, saying this would hurt the company. Schiller also said that bringing iMessage to Android will hurt the company more than it will help it.

Apple also submitted its arguments to the court in which it claims that Epic Games is using the lawsuit to revive interest in Fortnite.

Our Take

Ultimately though, iMessage is Apple’s property, and it is up to the company whether it wants to bring the messaging service to Android devices or not. This revelation will paint Apple in a bad light, but in no way will this force the company to bring iMessage to Android, irrespective of the demand.

[Via Reddit]