I suppose it was clear all along that iMessage was one of the biggest factors locking iPhone users to the iOS ecosystem, but it’s still quite shocking to see Apple executives talking so openly about it.
Court documents related to the legal battle between Epic Games and Apple give an insight into just how valuable Apple sees the fact that iMessage exists only on the iOS, iPadOS, and macOS platforms.
The documents show that in 2016, an unnamed Apple employee wrote in an email that “the #1 most difficult [reason] to leave the Apple universe app is iMessage… iMessage amounts to serious lock-in,” to which Phil Schiller, an Apple executive in charge of the App Store, responded that “moving iMessage to Android will hurt us more than help us, this email illustrates why.”
But there’s more.
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Craig Federighi, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering and the executive in charge of iOS, went as far as to say that “iMessage on Android would simply serve to remove [an] obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones.”
I’ve covered the topic of migrating from iOS to Android several times over the years, and always the biggest, hardest to surmount obstacle to making that leap is iMessage.
Another factor highlighted in the documents was what is called the “switching costs” of changing platforms.
These costs include “amount of time and effort that it takes for a user to switch between an iOS and Android,” the “human confusion and frustrations involved in switching between operating systems,” the “financial costs associated with the switch—for instance, losing valuable media, paid apps and in-app purchases that cannot be transferred from one device to another and must be downloaded again,” the “loss of utility or increased complexity of certain communication with family and friends,” and the “loss of services associated with a particular operating system.”
There was no doubt at all that Apple knew this, but it’s still a bit shocking to see it being discussed so…