Don’t Burst Your Bubble Color

Recent news about division stemming from Apple’s iMessage app caught my attention this week. There’s a general notion that Apple discriminates against Google, or that iPhone discriminates against Android; I’ve got some thoughts on that. This is about the long-standing difference between iMessage texts, which are blue, and standard SMS/MMS texts, which are green. 

Here’s one of a few articles (this one’s from The Verge) written lately on the subject:

Google says Apple ‘should not benefit from bullying’ created by iMessage lock-in

“Blue bubble envy is real”

James Vincent – The Verge

I talked about this topic before, here and here. Now I’ve got more to say.

While it would be nice if everyone used the same standard or system of communication, such an ideal, for various reasons, simply doesn’t exist. In practical daily living, there’s really just one downside to the blue versus green texting dichotomy that affects me: group texts.

In a group chat, there is typically one chat or group of people texting unless one of the texts is SMS rather than iMessage. In that case, it causes multiple separated chats to appear in a list despite them belonging to the same group text. In effect, it ungroups the group chat. Not cool. At best, this is a minor inconvenience, and at worst, it can cause mild confusion. Such confusion hinders communication in a medium where context is typically lacking and thus limited in the first place.

That said, the blue/green texting dichotomy isn’t that big of a deal. While it creates a difference, it doesn’t necessarily cause division.

Of course, it’s generally good to remove or reduce barriers to communication. But it’s also good to remember that reality isn’t always optimized to match what’s ideal. So it’s normal for people to adapt to things — make them work — when those things don’t necessarily adapt to people. And when feasible, people strive to make reality as ideal as possible. In this case, it’d be cool if somehow Apple and Google or others managed to unify on a texting standard.

There’s another related problem, though, that is unlikely to be solved even if Apple and Google miraculously settle on an agreed texting paradigm.

While friends and family text my phone number to stay in touch, they’re not consistent. Sometimes they message me through another service like Facebook Messenger instead — that doesn’t get a bubble in iMessage at all. Besides text messaging, people chat through Signal, WhatsApp, and others. Everyone uses different platforms and services to communicate — at least we speak the same language. These separate ways to chat are not ideal, but we deal with it, and we don’t have to divide over it. That said, if such chatting can be simplified or unified, I think life might be a little more convenient.

I’ve been on both sides of the fence more than once when it comes to texting. I can’t ask everyone on Android to switch to iPhone any more than I could ask everyone on iPhone to switch to Android. If Apple does not adopt RCS into iMessage or doesn’t open iMessage up to Android, I think blue and green bubbles are here to stay. Would it help if Apple made them all the same color, say purple? I doubt it.

With different texting standards, texting just isn’t standardized. This is inconvenient, but it needs not be divisive — don’t let it burst your bubble no matter the color. Like agreeing to disagree, we can at least agree that differentiation (tech diversity) and competition are good things overall, though that isn’t the best consolation for broken group chats.

What’s The Big Deal With Green Texts?

Lock-In

The iPhone is very popular, so a whole slew of people chat with the iMessage app. I often hear that it’s one of the biggest reasons for “platform lock-in.” That’s to say, many folks don’t or won’t stop using an iPhone because they’re chained to iMessage. But I don’t get it.


Blue Vs Green

In the tech sector, iMessage lock-in is often described as blue bubbles versus green bubbles. Why? If a person using iMessage receives text in a blue text bubble, then the sender is also using iMessage. But if it’s green, that means the sender is using an app that is not iMessage, which most often means they’re using Android instead of iPhone.

So what’s the big deal about that?

As blue is to sky, green is to grass; they’re both pleasant colors. So it can’t be the color itself but what the color means. Still, I don’t see a real problem. So what if someone sends text from an Android phone? There are only two reasons I can think of. The first is petty. The second is important.

The petty reason has something to do with status. There seems to be an air of superiority among some people who prefer iMessage and iPhone over Android and whatever pathetic chat app is used. It’s as if not only the hardware and software are inferior, but so is the person who happens to use it. I think this attitude is found in more immature people.

The important reason I can see for making a good distinction between iMessage and other chat apps is about security and privacy. iMessage texts, by default, are encrypted on the inbound and outbound side. This means whoever (the NSA) intercepts and collects your texts should not be able to decrypt and read your messages. For more on how this works, read this article.

iMessage is encrypted; that’s a nice feature. But despite how good and reliable iMessage is, it’s not perfect. Personally, I dislike how full of stuff it is. It has too many options and features and sub-menus and screens to access more stuff. The balance has been tipped from simplicity to complexity, which detracts from delight in it.

Now there is more reason why iMessage lock-in is a thing. A recent Fast Company article details some technical and related social reasons that are more important than petty. Basically, a non-iPhone text message that is sent to iMessage reduces its rich experience and, to some degree, limits functionality. Still, while there’s some merit to these reasons, I think they’re just inconvenient and a dent in luxury. In other words, no big deal.

And for more on the default Messages app on Android, check out Google’s info page here. I don’t think it is encrypted at all. Some chat features are limited compared to iMessage, but those are just bells and whistles to me. They’re nice to have, not need to have. Just give me letters and emoji and I’m good. Okay, I like the occasional GIF too, but it’s not a deal breaker if missing.


Emoji Please

So there are some reasons and my thoughts about so-called iMessage lock-in. If you send me a text and it comes in green, that’s perfectly fine with me.

Actually, what I really would like is to have what was once found on Android Messages. It used to let you change the color of the message bubbles based on the color of the contact. I loved it! My wife was all purple, my dad was red, and I was orange; it all looked very cool!

It would be more important, though, if Android Messages was encrypted like iMessage. Google, telecoms, and the NSA are collecting our texts and metadata, destroying any semblance of ambient privacy. Not good.

But hey, as long as we all get those GIFs, right? Color…encryption…just give us our emoji. 🙂


Are you locked-in because of iMessage? Do you prefer Android Messages or Signal? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!