Why Apple’s iMessage is winning: Teens dread the green text bubble

Tim Higgins, Wall Street Journal:

Soon after 19-year-old Adele Lowitz gave up her Apple iPhone 11 for an experimental go with an Android smartphone, a friend in her long-running texting group chimed in: “Who’s green?”


That pressure to be a part of the blue text group is the product of decisions by Apple executives starting years ago that have, with little fanfare, built iMessage into one of the world’s most widely used social networks and helped to cement the iPhone’s dominance among young smartphone users in the U.S.

Astonishingly, the Piper Sandler annual survey of teen habits reports that 87% of US teens own an iPhone.

You could argue that the blue/green bubble issue is at least part of the reason why.

More from the WSJ:

“In the absence of a strategy to become the primary messaging service for [the] bulk of cell phone users, I am concerned the iMessage on Android would simply serve to remove [an] obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s chief software executive, said in a 2013 email


Phil Schiller made a similar case to Chief Executive Tim Cook in another email: “Moving iMessage to Android will hurt us more than help us,” he said. Another warning that year came from a former Apple executive who told his old colleagues in an email that “iMessage amounts to serious lock-in.”

When an Android (i.e., green bubble) user joins an iMessage thread, the thread turns green. I find this annoying. The color change is not an issue. It’s the fact that functionality changes once that blue bubble thread turns green. For example, when I send an image as part of a mixed green thread, the send often (but not always) times out and fails.

Obviously, the Android team wants this changed (see this tweet in response to the WSJ article from Google Senior VP Hiroshi Lockheimer). Question is, will Apple budge on this?