When it comes to text messaging apps, we Apple devotees have plenty of choices. The one most of us use the most is, well, the default Messages app on iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Watch. Why? Mountain climber George Mallory said it best, “Because it’s there.”
Most of us may use Messages because it’s the default, but there’s more to it than vanilla SMS text messaging. Apple’s version of Messages handles photos and video clips, emojis of varying kinds (and, more can be added), and a whole bunch of animated emojis. A whole bunch? Think 5,000 different packages that can be added to Messages (I have a few dozen already, but I’m picky).
What do all those little extras amount to? Platform stickiness; an embedded way to infect and addict Messages users to Apple’s new platform within a platform. Messages apps come in many flavors, but the largest group is games, followed by entertainment (the cute emojis), utilities, and after that it becomes a long tail of categories that are far more bewildering than useful and evoke the question, “Why?”
That means you’re stuck with Apple Messages. Why? That’s where all the fun is. People gravitate toward fun. I don’t even bother to text with my Android-toting friends because their texts are so boring. Apple wasn’t even the first to do cool stuff with text messaging but managed to one up LINE and WeChat and others by turning Messages into a kind of mini-platform within iOS, and then making sure Messages would be available on iPad, Mac, even Watch. What’s next? Messages on Apple TV? I’m OK with that.
What’s really interesting about this Messages as a platform is Apple’s inattention to how Messages’ emojis are found, managed, and installed. Sorry, folks. That’s a convoluted mess so I hope we’ll see a better way coming out of iOS 11 in Apple’s WWDC developer’s conference late this spring. Still, estimates say there are 5,000 apps for Messages and if that doesn’t constitute a mini-platform within a platform I don’t know what does.
What’s really important about Apple setting up Messages as a platform is multifold. First, it’s the most used app on iPhones. Texting. Not camera. Not email. Not Photos. Texting. Second, messages between iPhone users work and look and play better than the ugly green balloons that come from Android smartphone users. Google has a problem that isn’t easily fixed.
Finally, another reason Apple wants Messages stickiness is the competition among messaging apps. LINE, WeChat, WhatsApp, Wire, Signal, and many others are growing in popularity and increasing in capability. Signal even does secure video calling now. So, while we’re not really stuck with Messages in the absolute sense, we’re forced to use Messages if we want to send text messages to our non-Apple equipped friends, relatives, co-workers, and neighbors.