Mobile Messaging and its impacts on teenagers

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

Today, I found out a crazy fact; most people use the default option on their phones in the US. This seemed pretty crazy to me, as someone who routinely likes to mess around with my settings and switch out my defaults pretty regularly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hardcore customizer, but I always assumed that everyone at least dug around in the settings a bit when they got a new device to make it function to its fullest. However, it seems like most people just assume that whatever the manufacturer set as the default is probably the best option. That’s why most people use whatever default messaging app they have on their phone. Outside America, countries aren’t as iPhone dominated and people use apps like Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp and Telegram more than text messaging, but here, text messages are the standard. For iPhones, that’s Messages and for Android, it’s the manufacturers messaging app, like Samsung Messages or Google Messages. However, iPhone and Android use different technologies to power their messaging apps. Fun fact, your messaging app on iPhone isn’t called iMessage, it’s called Messages. iMessage is actually the internet-based service that Messages uses to communicate with other Apple devices, like an Apple version of SMS. SMS on the other hand is what most Android users are using, whether your on a Samsung or Nokia phone. SMS is hugely limited compared to other options, like Whatsapp or iMessage due to being pretty old, however is still the default on most Android phones. When an iPhone messages an Android, it has to switch to SMS messages which causes the infamous green bubble. Currently, the experience with communicating between an Android and iPhone is not great, due to using SMS, however there might be a way to fix that.

SMS has many disadvantages, even when communicating between Androids, to iMessage, but one of the most important downsides is that it isn’t end to end encrypted. End to end encryption is a huge security feature that allows only the people the messages sent to to see their messages, preventing any eavesdroppers. However, there is a newer service that can help, called RCS (Rich Communication Services). Available to Android phones on 5.0 and later, RCS is what’s supposed to be the successor for SMS and gives a lot of iMessage features, like read receipts and end-to-end encryption to Android users who have it. While this sounds great, it’s only supported by Google Messages, which is something many people will have to install on their own and also only works with Android. The Google Messages part is getting better, with Samsung recently switching out their messaging app for Google Messages as default on their newer phones, and companies like OnePlus are planning to add RCS support to their own messaging apps. However, Apple has not announced any plans to add RCS support to iPhones and likely won’t for the foreseeable future.

Gen Z and the next generations are growing up with devices in their hand, and the green and blue bubble issue is a lot more impactful right now than people realise. Young people that use Androids in the US can feel peer pressured into buying iPhones just because of the green bubbles and iMessage, whether they know it or not. Android users commonly get called out for their green bubbles, excluded from group chats and even bullied and mocked for their choice of phone. Group chats especially suffer from this, as adding an Android user turns the whole chat green as everyone has to switch to SMS to suit the Android user, which ruins the experience and can lead to some people not even getting messages in the chat. There are studies that have shown Android users are less likely to get dates on Tinder and stories of people even committing suicide due to harassment from them being on Android. Androids are also seen as cheaper and thought to be for poorer people, so people may get harassed for that assumption too. I’m an Android user in high school and I have noticed the messaging situation firsthand. Friends have complained that their group chats with me don’t work as well and I’ve had many issues when trying to message cross-platform, especially with sending images and videos which are hit and miss at best. Once, I noticed two of my friends playing an online game and when I asked if I could join, they told that it was an game on Apple Messages, so I wouldn’t be able to play. While some people like me are fortunate enough to switch if we want, for many others, it isn’t a choice. The cheapest iPhone sold right now, the iPhone SE, sells for around $400, but many teenagers may not be able to afford that. Most likely, their parents will be buying their phones and they will be hesitant to buy an expensive phone for children who may break or lose it.

Overall, iMessage is one of, if not the biggest draw towards iPhones so Apple will do whatever it can to keep and attract people to their ecosystem. Unfortunately, this social ostracisation helps Apple to attract more people to iPhones, so they don’t have a strong incentive to help out the Android users. You’re probably thinking, “what’s the solution to all of this ?” however, it’s not very simple. The first idea is for Apple to bring iMessage to Android and in fact, back in 2013, they considered it. Unfortunately, Apple believes that they will lose lots of users if they do this, and they probably would be right. The next best thing is for Apple to replace SMS as a fall back with RCS so that Android users will get some features to make texting cross-platform bearable. I personally think this idea is most realistically suitable, since iMessage will still have some exclusive features and the green bubble will still exist, but messaging an Android user won’t be as miserable as it is now and will be much more secure too. This way, Apple still has advantages to switching to iPhone and won’t have a huge loss in customers. On the other hand, a big reason that this is an issue isn’t the technology or the companies, but the people using the phones. Green bubbles are only as looked down upon as they are because people have chosen to do so. A big part of solving this issue is for young people with iPhones to decide to stop bullying people due to an arbitrary thing like the phone they are using. While a worse messaging experience is frustrating, it’s not a reason to bully someone and peer pressure them to get an iPhone. Apple adding RCS support will help, but at the end of the day, it’s down to us to be responsible and accept each other no matter what device we use.

Sources:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-apples-imessage-is-winning-teens-dread-the-green-text-bubble-1164161800

https://www.gadgetmatch.com/iphone-users-have-a-higher-match-rate-compared-to-android-owners/

Originally published at https://ramhpillai.blogspot.com on August 3, 2022.

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