Trying (and failing) to get why iMessage is such a big deal!

As someone who lives outside the US (India, in my case) I am surprised whenever I see iMessage being described as one of the most popular and sticky features in the Apple ecosystem. Here are the main reasons why I use WhatsApp and Signal over iMessage.

  1. Network effect: Using iMessage as your primary messaging service limits you to using it with others who have Apple devices. In places like India and Brazil there is a very strong network effect that forces everyone to use WhatsApp. Since Android doesn’t exactly have a negligible marketshare in the US, I am surprised that more people don’t use a cross-platform service.

  2. Ambiguity: I have at times been charged for/lost messages that I meant to send as an iMessage but that got sent as an SMS/the archaic MMS because of a flaky/unavailable Internet connection. I like the certainty of knowing how my messages will be sent, especially when sending them internationally, which I cannot get with iMessage.

  3. Spam: This is unfortunately still a huge scourge in India and I get at least 10-15 spam messages a day. While the in-built filters in Messages do a decent enough job of weeding out a lot of the junk, I still have to make sure that nothing important gets marked as spam and sift through all the noise to get to the handful of messages that actually matter. I have encountered far less spam on WhatsApp and none on Signal.

  4. Multi-device support: While it is nice to have Messages on all platforms, Apple’s implementation often gives a false sense of assurance to the sender that the message has been delivered. Both WhatsApp and Signal require the phone to be in close proximity to the Mac for the app to work on the Mac and so a situation wherein a message is delivered to a Mac and shown as such, when the user is far away, perhaps even for days, doesn’t arise. I prefer this implementation as it enables the convenience of using the app on multiple devices and gives the sender an accurate indication of whether the message has been delivered in a manner that is accessible. I have also found Messages to be frustratingly flaky when it comes to syncing across devices.

There are many things I don’t like, and that make me uncomfortable and apprehensive, about WhatsApp (mainly privacy concerns given the Facebook connection and the ugly design.) I’d like very much to use Signal, which seems far more trustworthy, and is thoughtfully and beautifully designed, instead. However, given its ubiquity, it is almost impossible to function without WhatsApp in India. Depressingly, WhatsApp seems to still have an edge over Signal when it comes to stability and, for all its flaws, has always been rock solid in my experience.

I’d like very much to know what makes iMessage so popular in the US!


Nice post. The market in the US is quite different. I’d say the bottom line is that here, iMessage is generally preferred for social/fun reasons and security is an afterthought for most users.

  1. Apple devices have a strong network effect in the US. Many have social circles that are 100% iPhone. Teenagers and young adults are something like 80% iPhone users. This is also true in some social circles in other western countries. I’d also add that Android users in the US generally don’t care very much about secure messaging. If they are encouraging their friends to chat outside of texting, they’ll often suggest FB Messenger, which is very popular. Signal and Telegram are mostly only used between people who are committed to privacy.
  2. In the US, anyway, almost no one pays per SMS, so the occasional lost message isn’t worth worrying about. Usually an iMessage is only lost if the other user is having trouble with their cellular service or accidentally disables data use.
  3. iMessage spam isn’t an issue in the US and we don’t get much SMS spam.
  4. I would say that most people in the US don’t care about iMessage from their laptop if they don’t have a Mac.

IMO, because it’s the default on the iPhone.

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This is interesting as it only takes one person to break this system.

I have precisely zero group chats on iMessage; they are all on WhatsApp, is because in the UK and Australia, while many people have an iPhone, enough don’t which makes iMessage problematic.

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I can’t speak for others but I will not use anything affiliated with Facebook.


It’s worth noting that in large part almost no one in the U.S. pays per SMS because of iMessage. When iMessage was introduced there weren’t other free messaging platforms like Signal or WhatsApp with any significant user base. Instead it was competing with the cell carriers’ SMS services which either charged per-message (IIRC, mine was $0.25 per text sent or received) or you could pay an extra $20 per month on top of your already expensive voice and data plan for unlimited SMS. iMessage was free (as long as you had an iPhone). Apple completely ate the carriers’ lunch on this. SMS went from being their cash cow to being included for free with all but the cheapest cellphone plans.

By the time apps like WhatsApp and Signal came along iMessage already had huge network effects, giving it a ton of lock-in. Combine that with the prevalence of iPhones in the U.S. and other messaging services have had a very hard time getting traction. iMessage is the default option for iPhone users, with SMS (now included with their cell plans at no cost) as a fallback if they need to text with Android users.


Thank you for making this point, it baffles me too. I was previously all in on Apple’s ecosystem but after trying multi platform options I really think they offer a better experience. That said, some people are very dogmatic about iMessage here so it ends up being a situation where one has to have both apps together (texting apps are the only one still in a folder on my home screen for this reason)

I am still new to WhatsApp desktop specifically, how do you turn on the proximity feature you mentioned?

Privacy. Also I do tech support for my family and friends so they get iPhones because I don’t touch Android phones.


I use iMessage almost exclusively in the USA; living in South Africa a few years back it was 98% whatsapp. I think @ChrisUpchurch nailed what’s going on.


Definitely network affect going on. Although my friends that are on Android seem to gravitate towards signal. I did notice a spike of people joining signal after the whole privacy debacle of WhatsApp. Interestingly, I use a couple of other messaging apps because it’s the predominant app for different countries


Except that you can’t do a group message with a mix of Android or iPhone users. In those cases, how do you deal with it? I mean, it’s often that we create groups on Whatsapp to facilitate quick discussion among colleagues or customers. There is no way of knowing that your customer is not using an iPhone. If you created a group in iMessage and he’s on Android, that would be really awkward and inconvenient.

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The main reason I don’t use Facebook for my messages is privacy. I also live in a country where WhatsApp is used by almost everyone (I read somewhere that 95% of people here use it), but I do not use any Facebook services, and therefore refuse to use it. It may encrypt your messages but it also constantly sends your location, IP address, who you talk to and your contacts to Facebook (i.e. lots of data).

I also hate the idea of groups and constantly being distracted by messages that aren’t even directly related to me. My wife has groups for school that are full of parents gossiping all day, and I’m glad I don’t have that in my life. I’d be too distracted to get any serious work done.

I prefer the privacy of iMessages and that I don’t need to have my phone with me all the time. I often do not need my phone when reading on iPad or walking with my watch but still want to get my messages. I send most of my messages from either my iPad or Mac and I have never had any sync issues.

I also have an unlimited SMS plan and so does everyone I know here (I imagine this is the deal breaker for Indians), so Android users don’t mind sending SMS. I have Telegram for international messages, although all my family are on Apple and therefore I use iMessage too for 99% of international messages.

Also, I get no SMS spam. It isn’t a thing where I live because there is always a working unsubscribe (this is a legal requirement in my country), if I accidentally sign up for any SMS commercial messages.


Also in France, iMessage is not the majority. WhatsApp is, but as far as I’m concerned, Facebook can burn in hell and Mark Zuckerberg face some taste of French justice, 1793-style, so I flat out refuse to use WhatsApp and point people to Signal or Telegram if they want to get ahold of me.


You don’t want to see the future of the iPhone now? :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


I’d love to say I refuse to use WhatsApp because it’s owned by Facebook, however it is undeniable that they have dominant market share and the barrier to move to another app like Signal or Telegram is just too high because most of the people I have group conversations on WhatsApp don’t care, so I either stick to WhatsApp, or I am not in the conversation.

I do assume that whatever I discuss on WhatsApp is in full view of the world and ensure my conversations on there reflect that.

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Same here.
Not wanting to use anything related to FB limits my social interaction opportunities maybe, but on the other hand I’m not bombarded with constant nonsense in group chats.

I use signal for social interaction with my work and wider family, and iMessage with my core family.

So, all in all I’m happy with iMessage and the other options out there.


most of the people I have group conversations on WhatsApp don’t care, so I either stick to WhatsApp, or I am not in the conversation

I understand this. In those instances, I have decided that means I am not in the conversation.


While I have a Facebook account I don’t use and won’t use WhatsApp because of the privacy concerns

My office has a diverse staff including many Indian staff and there is the unofficial WhatApp group for staff but I’ve resisted installing so far. They’re also 50/50 Android / iOS split so they know to text me if needed

I do group messages with people who use iPhones and Androids all the time. As soon as you add an Android number, the messaging reverts to group SMS. It isn’t ideal, but it works. :man_shrugging:t2:


It is not good! I always have some android in the group and the answers come as individual messages.

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