Snippet: Now’s the Perfect Time for Apple to Bring Messages to Android ☇

Shared on January 28, 2019

Michael Grothaus for Fast Company:

First, come late 2019 or early 2020, there will be tens, maybe even hundreds of millions of WhatsApp users looking to jump ship to a new messaging app. These will be users who could stomach Facebook owning WhatsApp–but only so long as it remained as segregated as possible from Facebook’s other platforms. As that segregation will no longer exist, these people will be looking for another reliable, secure messaging service. […]

Apple could use this upcoming mass migration of messaging users as a great branding opportunity. Frame it as a public service: “Your messages in our app stay private. Period. And now it’s available for iOS and Android–because we believe privacy is a fundamental human right no matter what phone you use.”

The goodwill it would generate—and, more importantly, the service and user experience Apple would be able to provide to new users—would have the ancillary benefit of acting as a gateway to other Apple products. In other words, once Android users see how great Apple’s Messages are, they’re more likely be tempted to further move into Apple’s ecosystem and start snapping up iPhones and Macs.

Second, everyone knows Apple’s future lies in services when it comes to revenue growth. I’ve argued this before, but if Apple wanted to bring in boatloads of cash in new services, they could do it at any time by releasing Messages for Android and charging for it. Release the app for free before Facebook’s changes go into effect, and let Android users use the app at no cost for a year. Then do as WhatsApp used to and charge Android users an annual fee to use the app after the first year–say an annual $4.99 in-app subscription. As I’ve previously said, five bucks times a few hundred million Android users on an annual subscription plan brings in a lot of services dough for Apple.

It’s an interesting thought experiment—I have a few Android-using friends and we’re trying to plan around Hangoutspocalypse, as they like to send messages with their computers. However, the anecdotal evidence is that Android users don’t spend money on apps and I suspect that free would still win out, especially for people who are fine with plain SMS, RCS, or Facebook Messenger. Beyond that, Apple may be transitioning to a more services-oriented business, but I think they’re looking for services that will bring in money, not necessarily just goodwill. Unlike Spotify and Pandora, there’s no free tier of Apple Music.

While iMessage is a great service, I don’t know if it has that “Holy smokes, now I must go buy an iPhone!” effect. The blue-versus-green-bubbles angst is more for people already using iMessage. Plus, if more people cared about better winning out, the entire tech landscape would look a lot different.

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