Tech Talk: It's Time For Apple To Open Up iMessage

Let's not beat around the bush, here; there is a war going on in the mobile world, and it's over messaging. Different messaging services with different focuses and capabilities compete daily for users' attention. Most of them are working on becoming full-on platforms, a user's hub and portal to the internet, allowing them to do things like control their device, order food and check the local news from within their app. Facebook Messenger stands as the current gold standard for this behavior, but competitors like Telegram aren't far behind, and Google's Allo AI-based messaging app is shaping up to have real potential to disrupt the scene upon its release. All of the major messaging platforms can follow a user from device to device. With Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts and LINE, as well as others like them, users can chat with friends on their computer to arrange a meetup, then arrive with their phone and use the app to order takeout. One big name, however, is missing out on the fun, and that name is Apple.

Apple's late chief and co-founder, Steve Jobs, once called Android a "stolen product" and said that he would fight to his last dollar and last breath to destroy it. By all possible and lawful means, that is exactly what Apple has done with iOS. Apple's mobile OS sported a lot of features at the beginning that Android couldn't match, and they quickly catch up when a new Android feature comes out in order to keep from hemorrhaging users. There are a lot of great things that can be said about the iPhone family, especially the current flagship, the iPhone 6S. It's a beautifully designed and incredibly advanced phone with a number of cool features and some great hardware, but it's not quite enough to fight off the Android masses. The reasons for this are as varied as they are convincing. Those who are neck-deep in Google's ecosystem may love Android's deep integration, while open-source diehards favor Android because of its open-source nature. Some may love certain Android apps that aren't available in the "walled garden" of iOS. Some may not be able to afford an iPhone, and turn to Android as an alternative. Still others may find that they favor the hardware and build of a given Android over any iPhone. Whatever the reason, enough people favor Android that it has achieved worldwide mobile dominance.

While Apple makes their money off of hardware sales, they've showed interest in the past in making moves into the software and service space, and have made good on their word with Apple Music. Still, a great many of Apple's greatest software features are only available on their hardware platform. One of those is iMessage. At WWDC, a glut of new features were announced for iMessage, such as hidden messages and the ability to send your heartbeat. The features are as unique as they are useful, but the kicker is that you won't be using any of them unless you're willing to pony up for an iDevice and use it. There are a lot of Android users out there that would get an iPhone if they had the money, and there are a lot of Android users flush with cash that would turn their nose up at an iPhone if their only other choice was a dumbphone. Both camps, and everybody in between, suffers when Apple keeps their goodies to themselves. iMessage is an especially grievous example because of the big fight going on between all of the major messaging platforms right now.

iMessage's unique and vast feature set would be more than enough to compete on level with the likes of Messenger and WeChat, if only they would stop using it to sell iPhones. Buying a phone is a commitment, both financially and to that ecosystem. Not everybody wants to or could ever be convinced to make those commitments, and Apple is dragging their feet on acknowledging that with their actions. This same mentality is present elsewhere, but no more notably than in the game console market. Two cases in point; fans of the Dark Souls series who happen to be PC gamers or Xbox loyalists lament the fact that Sony is holding onto Bloodborne, a stylistically and mechanically tweaked entry in their beloved series. Unless there are other games they want on the platform, not many of them are going to buy a Playstation 4 just for that one game. Likewise, an Android user who sees little good in iOS is not going to toss aside their beloved device and sink themselves into Apple's ecosystem just for an app or two with cool features. Opening up the app would hook those users for possible monetization and at the very least, forcing them to create Apple accounts would open a door.

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