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Why Apple’s ‘Messages’ app won’t be coming to Android, now or ever

iPhone Vs Android

With WWDC right around the corner, we’re just a few days away from Apple announcing a slew of compelling software and hardware updates. On the software front, Apple has done a solid job of keeping leaks to a minimum. Indeed, the number of WWDC rumors we’ve seen floating around this year is astoundingly small, especially in contrast to previous WWDC events when seemingly every new major hardware and software announcement was leaked ahead of time.

Interestingly enough, there’s one fascinating rumor that emerged last year only to have since fallen off the radar completely. This past October, John Gruber dropped an interesting nugget of information on our heads, claiming that he heard from sources in the know at Apple that “mockups of iMessage for Android have circulated within the company, with varying UI styles ranging from looking like the iOS Messages app to pure Material Design.”

Apple may very well be contemplating what a world with iMessage on Android would look like, but then again, Apple contemplates all sorts of things that never see the light of today. Gruber’s track record notwithstanding, there’s little reason to believe that Apple will ever release iMessage for Android. If anything, any and all of the arguments in favor of such a move are fundamentally unpersuasive for a variety of reasons.

Where’s the money?

Apple doesn’t venture into other ecosystems unless there’s serious money to be made, or barring that, a strong underlying strategic objective. When Apple released iTunes for Windows, the objective was to persuade tens of millions of PC users to purchase an iPod, a strategy that worked out brilliantly. More recently, Apple released Apple Music for Android, a move that directly yields Apple cash in the form of subscription revenue. Additionally, it provides Apple with a way to more fairly compete with Spotify.

iMessage on Android, however, isn’t exactly a money making proposition. Sure, there are sticker packs to be bought thanks to Apple’s dedicated iMessage App Store, but how is that going to work exactly on Android? Apple is going to have an App Store within iMessage within its Android app? It’s nonsensical. iMessage is now a platform of its own, with dedicated iOS developers spending more and more time focusing on it, and now people are expecting Apple to just drop it on the Google Play store?

Additionally, there’s no clear-cut advantage to Apple from releasing iMessage on Android. Is the money Apple making or expects to make from the iMessage platform so great that it warrants releasing iMessage on Android? For a company that makes as much money as Apple does from hardware, I’d wager that the answer is no.

No one cares about iMessage

iMessage is great, no doubt, but the idea that iMessage is such an amazing piece of software that it alone prevents iOS users from migrating over to Android has always seemed like B.S to me.

Gruber cites the following excerpt from Lauren Goode over at The Verge.

As someone who vacillates between iOS and Android fairly often, but who considers a lightly cracked iPhone 6S her daily driver, I’m also considering whether the Pixel phone is the next phone to buy. All of the software I use now is available on Android: all of my top email, calendar, music, fitness, photography, task-based, work collaboration, and social networking apps are there.

But one app is not, and that’s iMessage.

Perhaps that may be the case for the tech elite who routinely vacillate between various premium smartphones, but it seems like a point that most smartphone users in the real world could care less about. Funny enough, the ultimate benefit of iMessage, in my opinion, is that it enables users to text from their Mac. And yet, this is rarely if ever brought up as a reason to stick with the iPhone, as if its core texting functionality itself is the be all end all.

Imagine a scenario where Apple released iMessage to Android, who would download it? Why would Android users care? Is there a killer iMessage app Android users need to get their hands on? It’s pure foolishness. Especially now when popular sticker and emoji packs are available on multiple smartphone platforms, it’s virtually impossible for Apple’s iMessage to stand out and lure Android users in.

Furthermore, even if we assume that iMessage is this amazing piece of software that keeps many iPhone users from straying to Android, why would Apple, in that case, make it easier for said users to switch? If iMessage works “as a glue” for the iPhone, why would Apple bother with an Android version and risk margin-friendly hardware sales? Going one step further, why would Android users who can now enjoy iMessage on their current smartphone jump over to the iPhone?

My prediction is this: if Apple ever releases iMessage for Android, no one will care. Users on Android barely care about Apple Music, but we expect iMessage to get them excited?

What about Apple Pay on iMessage?

The only viable theory that could potentially explain Apple’s interest in rolling out iMessage for Android is peer to peer payments via Apple Pay. In the months leading up to WWDC 2016, it was widely believed that Apple was going to roll out an iMessage feature that would enable users to make payments to other iOS users via Apple Pay. The feature was obviously never announced, but it now appears that Apple may make such an announcement at WWDC next week.

That said, could this perhaps explain Apple’s seeming interest in rolling out iMessage for Android? It’s an intriguing argument, but there are too many questions that need answering. Presumably, any payment service built into iMessage will rely on iOS’ exceedingly secure Touch ID feature. What happens on the Android side of the equation? How will Android users authenticate payments? Will Apple trust the security mechanisms built into Android handsets? Will Apple be willing to entertain such questions when the payoff is seemingly small and the competition is fierce? Remember, there are already cross-platform payment apps that allow Android and iOS users to send money to and fro. Rolling out such a service in iMessage is smart because there’s an installed base of hundreds of millions of iOS devices out there. Rolling out such a service and then banking on Android users to download iMessage and then enter in their financial information just doesn’t seem realistic.

Apple is prone to unleashing some surprises at WWDC, but iMessage coming to Android likely won’t be one of them.

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.