Text messaging has, over the years, become an important method of communication between people. When you give somebody your number, or you get somebody’s number, there’s a pretty good chance that the bulk of your communication will happen through text messaging. “Texting” has been a great addition to cell phone culture, but traditional texting is limited to using the cellular network in order to work. If you’re out of range of service, much like phone calls, text messages cannot be sent or received. Even if you have access to the Wi-Fi, most phones will not be able to send text messages (unless you have Wi-Fi enabled texting and calling, which is still a new and limited feature).
Some smartphones, however, have an easy workaround. For many, alternative “texting” solutions are offered - solutions that work with a Wi-Fi connection. As a result, these messaging systems are more reliable, have faster sending times, and are able to offer many additional features that traditional text messaging can’t do right now. First there was BlackBerry Messenger for BlackBerry devices. Then, Apple unveiled iMessage for iOS devices with iOS 5. Finally, you have Google Hangouts for Android (and iOS).
BlackBerry Messenger is nowhere near as popular as it once was. Hangouts is still a relatively new service. In my experience, iMessage is still the service that garners the most attention. But really, how important is it to have iMessage anymore?
I recently mentioned that I’ve moved to having an iPhone 5s, but even before that I had been using an iPhone 4s for a few months (yes, this year). It was kind of weird when I went back to the 4s, because when I would text people about having a new number, my fellow iPhoners would cheer me on and say “Yeeeeeeah! You have an iPhone! Now we can iMessage!” Yeah, okay, great. I never really thought of iMessage as being that convenient in my life personally. I turned off my read receipts because I still think it’s a horrible invention (I’m one of those jerks that tends to read a text message, set my phone down with every intention of responding, and then forget about it) and, at the same time, have the tendency to get offended when somebody else reads my message and doesn’t respond.
Of course, iMessage is good for way more than that. For one, iMessages sync between all of your Apple gadgets that have the service enabled. You can receive an iMessage on your iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, or Macbook. That’s pretty cool. Also, if you’re lucky enough to work with a group of people or have a group of friends who also happen to all have iProducts with iMessage, you can have real-time group chats with each other.
Oh yeah, and you can send .gifs to each other, which are perfect for reactions that words simply aren't good enough for. Or, you know, something that you could say, but it's better said by Samuel L. Jackson.
But I digress. Really, iMessage is perfect for iOS users, but that’s kind of the service’s biggest flaw as well. It only works with iOS users. You cannot use iMessage with BlackBerry, Android, or Windows Phone users. For a long time, it was also a potential nightmare to switch from iOS to any other mobile OS because if you mistakenly left iMessage on and it was tied to your phone number, your friends who used iMessage were informed that you got the message - but your shiny new phone never got the memo. That’ll teach you to leave Apple again, won’t it? (Fortunately, you now have an option to deregister your iMessage account via Apple’s website, even if you don’t have your iPhone anymore.)
And, in all actuality, iMessage itself is a potential reason that a lot of people don’t want to switch from iOS, and also a potential reason that people want to use iOS. The benefits of having an iMessage-centric ecosystem within your own home and with friends and co-workers can serve as a huge reason why one wouldn’t want to leave, or why one would want to join in.
Personally, while I like using iMessage when I talk to my fellow iPhone users, I feel like it could only get better if Apple would expand iMessage to work with other platforms. Hangouts is available on Android and iOS, and BlackBerry Messenger, as ancient as it might be, is available on all four major platforms. Plus, expanding iMessage would solve Apple’s issues revolving the whole “switching to another platform and not getting certain text messages” issue; people could switch to Android and still use iMessage seamlessly. Apple could also still make money from royalties (see how Microsoft ends up making more money from Android than it currently does for Windows Phone).
iMessage definitely remains relevant today, but with Android having around 80% of market shares, it seems like the only way to keep iMessage relevant is to start expanding services out. In fact, it would probably be a good idea to start expanding a lot of Apple services out, as they’re no longer the monopoly that they used to be in the smartphone industry.
Readers, how important is iMessage to you these days? Did you switch to an iPhone mainly so you could use iMessage? Have you not switched from iOS mainly because you would lose iMessage? Lastly, do you think Apple should expand iMessage out to other platforms? Let us know in the comments below!