Apple rejected plans to bring iMessage to Android in 2013
Apple’s iMessage platform has been a strong selling point for iPhones over the past few years, especially in countries where services like WhatsApp aren’t used. In many ways, iMessage exclusivity on Apple devices mirrors the rise of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), one of the first mobile-first messaging platforms that was initially only available on BlackBerry phones. Apple said in a court filing that porting iMessage to Android phones would hurt the sales of its own phones (big shocker), and now more documents have revealed that at least one Apple executive wanted to bring iMessage to other platforms.
Eddy Cue is currently Apple’s SVP for Internet Software and Services, and oversees platforms like Apple Maps, iCloud, Apple Music, and the iTunes Store. As early as 2013, Cue argued that Apple should bring iMessage to Android, according to emails released in a deposition for the lawsuit between Epic Games and Apple. The conversation came after it was rumored that Google attempted to purchase WhatsApp, which Facebook later accomplished in 2014 for $19 billion.
According to The Verge, Cue was quoted as saying “Do we want to lose one of the most important apps in a mobile environment to Google?” Later in the conversation, Craig Federighi (Apple SVP of Software Engineering) responded with, “Message is a nice app/service, but to get users to switch social networks we’d need more than a marginally better app. […] I am concerned [that] iMessage on Android would simply serve to remove an obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones.”
Eddy Cue’s main concern at the time was that Google would eventually dominate messaging, just as it had done with web search, email, and other services. However, Facebook ended up taking on the role, through its dominance of Facebook Messenger and later purchases of WhatsApp and Instagram.
Meanwhile, Google has struggled to establish a coherent product strategy for messaging. Google intended to replace its Hangouts service with Google Allo in 2016, but the platform never caught on, and Google’s focus shifted to RCS messaging in 2018 and 2019. The company now maintains several different messaging services, including Google Messages (SMS/RCS), Google Chat (the replacement for Hangouts), and others.