Why iMessage Might Just be Apple’s Biggest Competitive Advantage

The smartphone market is one of the most competitive and fastest growing markets in all of business. Companies like Apple, Google, and Samsung compete against each other year after year to increase their respective shares of the market. While Samsung holds the largest market share globally with a 30% share as of August 2018, Apple remains the biggest player in the United States with a 40% share as of Q2 2018. In the early days of smartphones, Apple was the only true player. The design, technology, and user interface on the iPhone was years ahead of their competitors in the late 2000’s. This, however, is not the case anymore. Samsung, Google, LG, and HTC all have phones that sport better screens, cameras, or processors that are coupled with a beautiful design and a fantastic UI – often for the same or less money than the iPhone. The question remains then, why have all these companies failed to overtake Apple in the domestic market? To me, the answer, while rarely discussed, is simple: iMessage.

Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 6.09.58 PM

Like most Americans, every two years I shop for a new smartphone. I’ve always had iPhones, but I’m not married to iOS or Apple’s hardware, so I’ve at times considered picking up a Google Pixel or a Samsung Galaxy. There has been one thing, however, that has kept me as a loyal Apple customer, and that is iMessage, and I’m willing to bet that the case is the exact same for many of you reading this.ROCK_Hydrogel_Screen_Protector_4_2048x

While Apple only holds 40% of the domestic market, they dominate the high end smartphone market that most of us belong to. This has created huge populations of iPhone users in communities across the country, such as Boston College. Here, I have been in group chats with 20 or more people who all have iPhones, causing blue iMessages to populate the screen. If there were even one Android user in that group, the messages would send as green text messages rather than blue iMessages – and nobody wants to be the one person who turns the texts green. This results in people with Androids being intentionally left out of group messages, or a group-wide switch to WhatsApp or GroupMe. These decisions are made, not to spite people with ugly green texts, but because messages sent over the internet such as iMessage or GroupMe send quicker, from more places, and often give feedback letting the sender know that their message has been delivered. These social pressures to remain part of the Apple family are strong, and I personally would never consider purchasing an Android, no matter how good the phone, until I knew my messages would send over the internet and appear as blue, rather than through cell towers and appear as green.


Social pressures, however, are not the only reason iMessage is such an integral part of the Apple experience. Apple has literally created a better way to text in doing away with the need for a cellular network enabled device. They have created an ecosystem of products and seamlessly integrated iMessage into everything under the Apple umbrella. As long as you’re on WiFi and have an Apple ID, you can send iMessages and talk to your friends from any Apple device. If I’m at my MacBook Pro, I can pick up all the iMessage conversations from my iPhone straight from my desk and talk to my friends from there. Lost your phone? Have an iPod or iPad? Great! You can still text anyone who has an iPhone straight from there without so much as a second thought. Apple has done away with the need for a texting plan and created a network of devices and people that rely on iMessage to communicate effectively and efficiently, while Android has failed to do anything of the sort. Sending texts on your Samsung Galaxy or Google Pixel means just that – sending texts on and confined to your phone.


Apple continues to lose ground to Samsung in the global market share race due to their cheaper and more accessible phones. I, however, believe that it will be very difficult for Samsung and other Android players to penetrate the markets in the U.S. that are already saturated with iPhones until they can develop a solution or a way to send messages over the internet that will integrate with iMessages. This seems extremely unlikely, as if Apple were to allow Android phones to send texts as iMessages, they’d be giving up their biggest competitive advantage.

10 thoughts on “Why iMessage Might Just be Apple’s Biggest Competitive Advantage

  1. This article is a really interesting take on Apple’s market competitive advantage. The seamless flow of messages through different Apple products definitely makes the customer experience much smoother. On similar lines, I believe that AirDrop will contribute to Apple’s large market share as it is adopted by more people. Amazingly, AirDrop doesn’t even require WiFi for phones to communicate. It will be interesting to see if Samsung adopts a similar product to iMessage or AirDrop over the next few years! Overall, very informative article!!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Really interesting take on the reasons for the iPhone’s popularity. I’ve noticed that 3rd party messaging apps like Whatsapp just aren’t as popular in the US as they are elsewhere, and I’m sure iMessage plays a huge role in that. Another huge perk of iMessage is the end-to-end encryption, which simply doesn’t happen if you send a message to an Android user.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I had never thought about iMessage being so central to apples success, but now that you bring it up, I feel the same way about the group chats. I would NEVER buy a non-apple phone. It really has become a crazy way we are hooked on the product. Network effects have been created and despite the products innate inferiority, we all use it because everyone else does and it makes it easier. It would be fascinating to know if this was an intentional creation of this network, or rather a simple selling point that became one of the central features of the phone.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting thought. I never paid attention to the value that iMessage contributed to Apple. I like the idea that people in the U.S. are more likely to use iPhone because they don’t want to be the only one who shows green texts in a group chat. Besides iMessage, other Apple’s other features like iCloud also help Apple enhance staying power for customers.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post, Keegan! Your point about how iMessage makes the iPhone sticky really makes sense, and I think is true for many young people who use group chats like ourselves. I really enjoyed your point about how Apple has created an extremely valuable ecosystem, where with every Apple product added to your personal collection, you gain more value from each product. For example, if you own an iPhone and you buy an Apple Watch, your iPhone immediately becomes more valuable and useful to you because it connects to your watch, and visa versa. I think that iMessage has been a key factor to this value ecosystem because it has created an easy and simple way for Apple users among all devices to stay connected to each other without needing cellular service. It really is remarkable how Apple has been able to create this ecosystem that ensures people continue to use and buy Apple products, I’d say this is their biggest competitive advantage. Thank you for sharing!

    – Nick

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Keegan I could not agree more with your point about how crucial that blue message really is. I was in a group chat for a group project today and one kid did not have an iphone, and people were in shock. It is not only incredibly obvious that the group message just doesn’t seem right, but it really seems as if somebody is completely different than the rest. Apple has done a phenomenal job of making their products both the norm yet also give them an exclusive and superior feel. Like you, I’d never switch to Android.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post, Keegan! I have a friend back home who has a Google Pixel, and he would always be out of the loop because my friends’ group chats were always on iMessage. So, the only ways to text him would be to text him individually or through WhatsApp. This example certainly confirms your point that iMessage is one of Apple’s main competitive advantages. Even beyond group chats, Apple has pioneered new technologies on iMessage, such as the ability to non-verbally react to messages, the possibility of including emojis and bitmojis in texts, and the ability to play games over text. In this way, Apple has made iMessage a platform for all sorts of communication and interaction, rather than just a platform for texting.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great point! I, too, am a firm believer that iMessage is Apple’s most formidable source of competitive advantage, luring users into the Apple ecosystem and forcing them to stay. Those tiny blue bubbles can determine whether or not a teenager is included in a groupchat — a tremendous feat for what many consider a phone company. Apple has trained the US market incredibly well to stay loyal to their products and ecosystem.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post! It’s always awkward when someone in the group doesn’t have an iPhone because iMessage tends to be the most convenient way for groups to communicate with each other. I also love using FaceTime on Apple devices because it’s all connected to the same account, so I don’t have to log in to separate apps. Can’t wait for the Facetime group chat feature to come out!


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s