As part of the ongoing legal battle between Fortnite maker Epic and Apple, some new information has come to light confirming the most annoying thing about Apple’s iMessage app: that Apple could make a cross-platform version of iMessage for Android phones, but it won’t because it would be bad for business.
This info comes from testimony that appears in Epic’s brief against Apple, which was posted recently on Reddit. In the document, there are several statements from well-known Apple execs describing the reasons why Apple never made a cross-platform version of iMessage for Android devices.
In one quote dating back to 2013, Eddy Cue — who is now Apple’s senior vice president for internet software and services — said that Apple “could have made a version [of iMessage] on Android that worked with iOS,” providing the possibility that “users of both platforms would have been able to exchange messages with one another seamlessly.”
Sadly, it seems multiple Apple execs were concerned that doing so would make it too easy for iPhone owners to leave the Apple ecosystem, with Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, having said, “iMessage on Android would simply serve to remove [an] obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones” — a sentiment Epic’s brief says was also shared by Phil Schiller, who back then was in charge of overseeing Apple’s App Store.
It seems these sentiments have been known within Apple for quite some time. The brief describes a 2016 comment from a former Apple employee who said “the #1 most difficult [reason] to leave the Apple universe app is iMessage … iMessage amounts to serious lock-in,” with Schiller having affirmed the comment by saying, “moving iMessage to Android will hurt us more than help us, this email illustrates why.”
The most depressing thing about these statements is that it removes any doubt that Apple could make an Android version of iMessage if it wanted to, but it hasn’t because Apple is more concerned about potentially making it easier for its customers to leave its ecosystem, which has resulted in a needlessly fragmented messaging ecosystem and a sense that Apple is using manufactured exclusivity to hold longtime iMessage users hostage.
Unfortunately, while these testimonies seem to be pretty damning for Apple, it’s unclear if these revelations will force Apple to reconsider porting iMessage over to Android in the future. But at least now we know for sure why it never happened before.