Is Apple waiting to be crushed by the competition before it fixes iMessage’s broken sync?
Publicly, Apple and Facebook have brawled over privacy issues, with Apple CEO Tim Cook and Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg trading high-profile barbs over the past year. But behind the scenes the two companies are fighting what may be a more consequential battle for leadership in messaging, vying for customers’ attention and loyalty through Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp, and Apple iMessage…
iMessage has an estimated 1.3 billion active users, based on Apple’s most recent disclosure of total active devices that have the service preinstalled. Facebook Messenger alone, meanwhile, has already grown to more than 1.3 billion monthly active users as of September 2017. WhatsApp, the messaging leader in many parts of the world, has 1.5 billion users, and Instagram, which also includes messaging, has 1 billion users. Some of those are likely to have downloaded more than one of the Facebook apps.
Many of those Facebook-owned apps were downloaded on Apple’s iOS devices. Data from analytics company Sensor Tower shows that in the U.S. around 40% of new downloads of Messenger since 2014 and 46% of new downloads in the last year were on iOS devices.
“Our biggest competitor by far is iMessage, and in important countries like the U.S. where the iPhone is strong, Apple bundles iMessage as a default texting app and it is still ahead,” Mr. Zuckerberg said in a rare comment about the competition on Facebook’s most recent quarterly earnings call.
My take: In The Information’s comment stream, Stewart Alsop says what I was going to say, only better:
From the user’s point of view, both products suck. iMessage does not sync well on Apple’s own devices, which is supposed to be a key benefit. And Facebook Messenger purposely does not integrate with other communications apps and is hard to use for sharing or forwarding. Both ignore email as an adjacent app. (And I didn’t even mention LinkedIn Messaging!) Does the battle between two titans actually involve making a better product for consumers?