Why Messaging Between Android Phones and iPhones Won’t Get Better

Apple CEO Tim Cook recently dismissed messaging issues between devices, suggesting that you "buy your mom an iPhone"

Laurene Powell Jobs and Chief Executive Officer of Apple Tim Cook speak onstage during Vox Media's 2022 Code Conference
Laurene Powell Jobs and Apple CEO Tim Cook at Vox Media's 2022 Code Conference
Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Vox Media

While it’s kind of funny to mock the person with the Android phone in your group chat, there’s a reason Apple doesn’t play nice when it comes to messaging: They literally don’t want you to leave their tech ecosystem.

And they’re bringing mom into the fight. As reported by The Verge, on Wednesday Apple CEO Tim Cook dismissed Rich Communication Services (RCS) messaging, increasingly used by Android devices, at Vox Media’s Code Conference. “I don’t hear our users asking that we put a lot of energy in on that at this point,” said Cook, who then followed up with a mild zinger when a Vox Media reporter noted his mother couldn’t see any of the videos he sent her since they are operating on two different messaging systems.

“Buy your mom an iPhone,” replied Cook.

It should be noted here that messaging between the RCS system and Apple’s iMessage goes beyond the bubble color of each user’s phone, which is green for Android and blue for iPhone. Right now, the incompatibility between the two systems does mean a lot of rich media (like video) is getting lost or not coming through properly. And even with Google attempting to shame Apple into taking on the RCS protocol, it looks like Apple will only switch away from its own system when it wants to switch.

And Tim Cook & co. are certainly not going to give Android users the option to use iMessage, either. Last year, during the Epic Games legal dispute with Apple, a court filing revealed some internal communications from Apple higher-ups that noted the company’s closed ecosystem has its advantages. One unnamed employee noted in an email: “The #1 most difficult [reason] to leave the Apple universe app is iMessage … iMessage amounts to serious lock-in.” To which Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi responded, “iMessage on Android would simply serve to remove [an] obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones.”

Those emails were from 2016. Six years later, it’s still about mom.

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