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The painful shame of owning an Android phone

Imagine being ostracized for not owning an iPhone. It's been happening to Android users for years. Google wants to change it, but is it really representative of the people here?
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

How could you?

By Jack Skeens -- Shutterstock

I've been hearing about this for years.

Whenever I go to phone stores and talk to salespeople, I ask about their choice of phones.

With exceptional regularity, many tell me they have iPhones because of their friends and family.

"If everyone's got an iPhone, just one Android makes it messy," one phone store employee told me.

It's a modern necessity to be part of a texting group. Families need it; friends need it. It's the quickest way to tell a lot of people nothing very special. It's the quickest way to emit a meme that half of them have seen already.

How else can you demonstrate your latest Memoji skills to a captive audience?

But now Google's all upset about it. Or, depending on your perspective, finally.

The company seems to realize that iMessage is a quaintly successful way of tying people to the iPhone world.

Why, here was Google SVP of Just About Everything Hiroshi Lockheimer ululating to Twitter only last week: "Apple's iMessage lock-in is a documented strategy. Using peer pressure and bullying as a way to sell products is disingenuous for a company that has humanity and equity as a core part of its marketing. The standards exist today to fix this."

See also: Google says Apple is holding back smartphone users with its iMessage approach.

What could have brought him to this? A Wall Street Journal article documented what so many have observed for a long time -- Android users being shamed for being Android users.

"Teens Dread the Green Text Bubble" revealed the article's headline. They dread being the odd teen out because all teens want to be the same as all other teens.

Even the official Android Twitter account bared its feelings: "iMessage should not benefit from bullying. Texting should bring us together, and the solution exists. Let's fix this as one industry." (Google's solution is a 14-year-old technology called RCS.)

Yes, of course, Android Twitter added a green and blue heart to symbolize the coming together of the blue iMessage color offered to iPhone users and the green offered to 'Androidal outsiders'.

Naturally, I want all the world's citizens to get together and love each other. And naturally, I believe Apple is entirely aware that its bent toward a certain exclusivity is mightily good for business.

Moreover, my wife and I are in this very painful situation. She is Android, and I'm iPhone. We're so pitifully ashamed that, rather than suffer the blue/green divide, we ended up resorting to WhatsApp, owned by the world's most heinous company, the one now desperately trying to make its name rhyme with better.

But where Lockheimer -- and, indeed, all tech types -- lose me is when they bleat about humanity and equity.

My eyes induce icicles when Google tries to shame Apple into acting according to Cupertino's supposedly higher standards. It's like mendacious presidents demanding the truth from others.

Could this be the same Google that is being sued by so many governments for its alleged penchant for non-equitous monopoly?

Could this be the same Google that's facing three antitrust lawsuits for allegedly -- and perhaps inhumanely -- manipulating searches?

This isn't the same Google that allegedly scares small businesses into lobbying on its behalf because -- again allegedly -- antitrust legislation would remove those businesses' names from search, is it?

And wait, is this the Google that's flaunted human privacy to an occasionally risible degree and whose CEO then turns up at Congress and declares: "Our mission is to protect your privacy."

Is this the point where one should mention that RCS isn't end-to-end encrypted?

I'm being inhumane and inequitable, of course. It's not as if Google has tried to launch its own messaging products over the years. What's that, you say? How many? Well, 13 of them since 2011, when iMessage came into being.

Of course, Apple is run by deeply, cuttingly venal businesspeople who know when they're onto a good thing. Ever since Apple's founding, the company's whole ethos has revolved around the creation of a walled garden where its customers can graze in peace and partake of Apple's fine fertilizer.

But at least Apple has consistently attempted to support the need for a little, occasional privacy. (While still allowing Google to pay Apple enormous amounts to have Google search on iPhones.)

Perhaps, though, you have a fifty-foot-deep well of sympathy for Android-owning teens who can't play certain games with their iPhone friends.

Perhaps you, too, are a hurt Android user ostracized by arrogant iPhone-brandishing family members.

Please don't worry; Apple will relent. When it sees a good business reason to do so -- warm and fuzzy PR is sometimes, but not often, a good reason -- or it's forced to by law, that is.

Just as Google may one day choose to (be forced to) relent after reading headlines such as this: "Google is manipulating browser extensions to stifle competitors, DuckDuckGo CEO says."

That doesn't sound too equitable, does it?

That's because tech companies -- all of them -- rarely are.

Editorial standards