When you grab your phone to text a family member or a friend, you can often tell if the person you’re messaging has the same kind of phone as you. You’re either a blue bubble in the text thread — i.e., an iPhone user — or a green one — a “non-iPhoner.”
But the lines between those two texters are about to get blurrier. Apple says sometime in 2024 its iPhone software will change, making it easier to connect with Android users. It’s a big shift to the Apple ecosystem that brings its products a lot of clout.
If you’re an Android user, maybe this feels familiar: You reveal you don’t have an iPhone, and then comes a sideways glance. A big sigh. Or a kinda-joking, kinda-not threat to leave you out of the group text.
“You know a lot of times, if someone’s not an Apple user you look at them a little differently,” laughed Dan Ives, who owns an iPhone.
Ives is also managing director at Wedbush Securities. He said Apple created a luxury product, and people don’t have to flash the actual phone to show they can afford it. They can just text.
“That’s unique to what Apple has created. And for them they’ve been able to further monetize that,” Ives said, through Apple’s closed hardware system of products like iMessage, iTunes and Apple Podcasts.
“Now, Apple’s come under fire for doing that,” said Eric Seufert, an independent analyst. His text bubble is blue.
He said Apple argues the closed system is for privacy and security. But plenty of companies, like Spotify and others that use Apple’s App Store, say that system is anticompetitive.
“And what they’ve done with iMessage in particular is kind of deteriorate the experience for Android users that want to message their iPhone-owning friends,” Seufert said.
The EU is in the middle of an investigation of Apple’s iMessage. Seufert said Apple is probably trying to get ahead of a potential mandate to make messaging interoperable. The software update will allow iPhone and Android users to message over wifi and share photos and videos more easily.
Oppenheimer analyst Martin Yang, who is … you guessed it … also an iPhone user, said iMessage itself doesn’t make money for Apple. But its cultural cache does. And losing that exclusivity could affect business.
“I think it has a particularly stronger impact on younger users and it can influence how younger users choose their first phone,” Yang said.
That’s important because once someone’s in Apple’s ecosystem, they’re unlikely to leave it.
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