iMessage, Google Hangouts, BlackBerry Messenger, Skype, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Kik, Facebook Messenger... the list goes on. As you have probably figured out, this list is just a small piece of the pie that represents the amount of messaging apps available to smartphones. Some of them you have to download; some of them don’t work across all platforms; not a single one of them comes stock on each major mobile platform, meaning that you’re likely going to come across at least one or two people who don’t use the same preferred messaging app as you do, therefore reverting you back to that old, archaic text messaging system of yesteryear.
Today, I texted four different people. Two of them used iMessage, two of them couldn’t. iMessage, for those of you who don’t know, is an iOS specific messaging application that comes stock with iOS devices. On the surface, iMessage doesn’t look like it does anything differently from standard text messages except for turn your speech bubbles blue instead of green so that you know when you're communicating with a fellow iBro and you can pat each other on the backs for using the same platform.
In reality, iMessage solves a lot of issues that plague text messaging systems today. You can easily create group messages, share images (and gifs!), see when the other person has read a text message (if they enable it) or see when they’re replying with an ellipses bubble next to their name when they’re typing, and send and receive messages faster than standard text messages. It’s great (well, I think it is) but there’s one major problem that I have with it - not everybody I talk to uses an iPhone, and the likelihood of that ever being the case is zero.
I really like using iMessage, and text messaging is okay until you’ve used something like iMessage. It’s not just iMessage either; there are other messaging platforms that “do” messaging better than standard text messaging as well. The list I mentioned at the very beginning of this article were just some of them, but as also mentioned, not a single one of these apps is included stock on each and every mobile platform, so everybody tends to use something different: iOS users tend to gravitate towards iMessage, Android users will use Hangouts, BlackBerry users will use BlackBerry Messenger, and Windows Users use Skype, and while BBM and Skype are available to every platform, it would require a cold day in hell before you could convince everybody to download and use these apps over their own respective stock apps.
I don’t think that taking one of these pre-existing applications and making them stock on every platform should ever happen (they each have their own issues, after all) but I do think it’s time to redesign the standard text messaging system to include more options. As phones have evolved, so has the way we’ve done messaging. SMS and MMS as we know it takes a while, and creating groups with standard texting can be a total nightmare. I just wish that a system similar to iMessage could be put into place of the standard text messaging system. And I’m not saying that because I currently use iOS, it’s just because iMessage has become my favorite stock-yet-exclusive messaging system for smartphones. If I could take iMessage with me every time I switched platforms, I would. I feel it has just the right additions to text messaging. Not a ton, but enough to really improve the messaging experience. You get the fancy iMessage experience when you can, and if something can’t send through iMessage for whatever reason it will send through standard SMS until iMessage is available again.
Which is, in my opinion, exactly how SMS should be at this point: used on an as-needed basis.
It’s obviously not the end of the world, having to switch from one to the other (or switching between multiple messaging platforms, for some) but I do feel like messaging could be simplified by just enhancing stock text message applications throughout all platforms. Stop with the restrictive, respective messaging apps and let smartphone users communicate with each other as effectively as possible, no matter what platform they’re using.
What do you think, readers? Do you think that standard text messaging should be improved upon at this point?