iMessages on Android
I have more than 90 phones now, and I have a problem. No, the problem isn’t that I have 90 phones, it’s that when I review each one, I keep coming back to the same phone: the iPhone.
However, if Apple decides to go ahead launch an iMessages app on Android at WWDC 2016, as some have speculated, it may change my upgrade plans quite dramatically.
What is iMessages?
iMessages allows me to exchange my normal phone number with new friends and work contacts, and then chat with them using what looks like a normal SMS app on my phone, iPad or Mac.
Seamless cross-platform messaging isn’t really a thing with SMS – texts are usually stuck on a phone, sans a few shoddy programs that try to relay text messages to your other devices – if your phone is on.
iMessages, on the other hand, uses Apple’s server to send and receive these messages, and it works the best if the other person has an iPhone, too.
But I also get texts from Android users now on all of my devices (if my phone is on and connected to the same WiFi network). In this way, iMessages is an over-data messaging app hidden within an SMS app.
You can also send photos, voice texts and your current or real-time GPS location. It’s also easy to switch between calls, FaceTime and texting. It has all of the bells and whistles of a good messaging app.
It’s iMessages or bust in the US
What’s amazing is how important iMessages is in the US and how many people just don’t fully “get it” outside of the States. This is distinctly a US problem: We still use phone numbers and SMS.
We don’t use WhatsApp, except for that one friend of ours who lives in Europe or somewhere that’s not America, and we talk to occasionally. It had about a very low 7% penetration, last time I checked.
Facebook Messenger is great and gets used a bunch, but it’s for closer friends. Every now and again, I’ll meet someone and friend them on Facebook right away, but I’m more likely to give someone I network with my phone number first and message with them over either iMessages or SMS.
That’s the big problem with Google Hangouts. I’ve never gone up to a girl, talked to her and said “Great meeting you, can you give me your Gmail address?” That’s super creepy!
There also the numbers factor. The iPhone and Android split is closer to even in the US, not the 80% number Google is able to cite worldwide. And of those phone owners, I find a lot of them are in the meaty middle demographic, someone who spends money on their phone.
It reminds me of WeChat when I visited China recently – everyone is on there and it makes communicating with people very easy. They’ve all rallied behind one app, and that’s sort of how it feels with iMessages for an iPhone and SMS on Androids in the US.
The genius of iMessages
iMessages primarily uses data, not costlier texts and, if the person doesn’t have an iPhone, then and only then will it be sent as an SMS (using the same app, no need to switch or toggle anything).
It’s kind of like a fallback plan that ensures your message is delivered by one of two means. First by data using iMessages, and then as a text if that fails, or if a person is an Android user.
The fact that I can send and receive all of these text messages on my iPhone, iPad and MacBook makes iMessages the best messaging app out there – at least in the US.
Why would I want to fetch my phone, which always seem to be in another room, whenever the text chime goes off? I’m often sitting in front of a full-sized keyboard! Why switch to a tiny on-screen keyboard across the room to respond to a quick text message?
There are apps like Pushbullet and MightyText for Android, but they’re a bit cumbersome and I’ve found them to be less reliable than iMessages. It’s a shame because that’s what I want from Google.
Why switch to Android?
If you read our best phones list, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and Galaxy S7 are ranked one and two respectively. They clinched this spot, in my view, because they have better cameras. The LG G5 is another phone I like with a great wide angle camera.
Apple’s iPhone 6S Plus doesn’t have the killer camera feature that the iPhone once had. The picture is narrow, the colors are bland and the default app offers little control or useful modes vs Samsung and LG.
But I can’t permanently switch to any of these Android devices, even if they’re better, if I feel like there’s no viable Android app alternative to iMessages in the US. It’s like being cut off from everyone you know.
If Apple, makes iMessages for Android, however, that’s enable me to switch away from iOS and load up its software on a Google-powered device. That’s the opposite of my Google apps-filled iPhone right now.
This is what it’s like not having iMessages in the US
Someone I know actually said in a group discussion once: “I hate people with green bubbles (Android users) in Messages. I just ignore them and don’t respond.”
That sounds extreme, but it’s true. It’s more difficult to get messages sent by Android users onto a computer or iPad, you can’t FaceTime someone using Android and it cuts them out of group messages.
Being left out of group messages has surely ended several friendships due to misunderstandings. Because of this, people will just flat out stop talking to Android users.
If any of these Apple apps come to Android, they’ll be popular in the US, but may further hurt Apple sales when its iPhone revenue has plateaued.
We’ll see if what Apple WWDC 2016 has in store for iPhone and Android users, and if iMessages does in fact come to Android, I’ll be true to my word and start using the Galaxy S7 Edge as my daily driver.