It’s no secret that Apple sees iMessage as a big enough selling point to keep the service exclusive to Apple devices, however new court filings submitted by Epic Games in its ongoing lawsuit with the company reveal just how Apple executives have rationalized their decision not to develop a version of iMessage for Android.
Apple clearly recognizes the power that iMessage has to keep users loyal to its platforms, and Epic is using emails as well as extracts from depositions with Apple executives Eddie Cue, Craig Federighi, and Phil Schiller to bolster its narrative that Apple seeks to lock customers into its ecosystem.
For example, the document cites an 2016 email in which an unnamed former Apple employee complained that iMessage “amounts to serious lock-in,” which prompted Schiller to respond: “Moving iMessage to Android will hurt us more than help us, this email illustrates why.”
a. As early as 2013, Apple decided not to develop a version of iMessage for the Android OS. (Cue Dep. 92:22-93:1.)
b. Mr. Cue testified that Apple “could have made a version on Android that worked with iOS” such that there would “have been cross-compatibility with the iOS platform so that users of both platforms would have been able to exchange messages with one another seamlessly”. (Cue Dep. 92:5-9; 92:11-16.)
c. However, Craig Federighi, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering and the executive in charge of iOS, feared that “iMessage on Android would simply serve to remove [an] obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones”. (PX407, at ‘122.)
d. Phil Schiller, an Apple executive in charge of the App Store, agreed that Apple should not offer iMessage on Android devices. (Cue Dep. 92:18-93:1.)
e. In 2016, when a former Apple employee commented that “the #1 most difficult [reason] to leave the Apple universe app is iMessage . . . iMessage amounts to serious lock-in” to the Apple ecosystem, Mr. Schiller commented that “moving iMessage to Android will hurt us more than help us, this email illustrates why”. (PX416, at ‘610; Cue Dep. 114:14-115:2.)
As Cue’s comments show, Apple was capable of developing an Android version of iMessage as early as 2013, but chose not to, since it would remove one obstacle that prevents families from giving their children Android phones.
In 2016, rumors began swirling around the possibility Apple might launch a version of iMessage for Android smartphones due to the company’s increased focus on services, however senior Apple executives shot down those rumors by admitting that having a superior messaging platform that only worked on Apple devices would help sales of those devices, which has been the company’s classic (and successful) rationale for years.
Apple does distribute some apps on the Google Play store for Android, such as Apple Music, Move to iOS (for users who are transitioning from an Android smartphone to an iPhone), and Beats, an app used to pair with Beats products with Android devices.