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Yeah, Apple Is Being Sued Over How Annoying Green Text Messages Are
March 31, 2024

Yeah, Apple Is Being Sued Over How Annoying Green Text Messages Are

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Justice Department’s Latest Lawsuit Might Solve a Great Rift in Our Society: Green Text Messages, Finally!, Apple really is being sued over how annoying green text messages are.

The Justice Department brought a sprawling antitrust lawsuit against Apple on Thursday, arguing that the omnipresent tech giant has played dirty in establishing a smartphone monopoly via the iPhone. The feds say that Apple’s ‘broad-based, exclusionary conduct’ has a wide range of victims: Americans who might want to switch phones, app developers trying to build businesses, and competitors who want people to have easy access to their products without paying a toll to one of the most powerful companies in the world.

It’s not the first time the federal government has gone after Apple. A decade ago, Apple lost a case over conspiring with publishers to raise e-book prices. But it does seem like the biggest body blow the United States has ever tried to land against arguably the most ubiquitous American company. E-book reading, after all, is not Apple’s golden goose, the iPhone is. The Justice Department’s argument that the company breaks the law to make it so will bring both parties into the courtroom for years, most likely.

The whole thing could feel abstract as it winds its way through the judiciary. But United States (and 16 state attorneys general) v. Apple is already the most digestible, understandable antitrust suit ever filed, because it deals with a social dynamic that every single person with a phone will understand instantly: The U.S. government has made a literal federal case out of green text messages.

To wit, Attorney General Merrick Garland has asked a question that no one has asked before: What if the greatest menace in our society is not the person who disrupts your group chat by sending non-iMessage texts, but the behemoth company that marginalizes those non-iPhone texts to be incompatible with iMessage and, god forbid, green?

In the 88-page suit, the U.S. lists more than 200 specific data points for why Apple is violating antitrust law. One of those points is that Apple intentionally hobbles third-party messaging apps to make them less attractive than the phone’s default Messages app. But then comes the real haymaker: Not only is Apple unfairly messing with apps like WhatsApp, but with anyone who sends texts from non-iPhones, period.

The DOJ notes the most famous distinction—that texts from non-Apple phones to iPhones appear in green bubbles, rather than blue—and then goes on to explain all of the other ways in which texting between iPhones and non-iPhones makes for a noticeably shittier experience for all: ‘The conversation is not encrypted, videos are pixelated and grainy, and users cannot edit messages or see typing indicators,’ say the feds, as virtually anyone who’s had a phone in the past 15 years can easily attest. ‘This signals to users that rival smartphones are lower quality because the experience of messaging friends and family who do not own iPhones is worse—even though Apple, not the rival smartphone, is the cause of that degraded user experience.’

And then the federal complaint includes a line that must have been written by an attorney who uses an Android. This attorney has found herself pushed to society’s margins, and she is sick of it. And here, in her job at the holy goddamn Department of Justice, she has an opportunity to tell the world—with the force of the American government behind her—what it’s like not to have an iPhone:

Anyone who participates in a group chat—which is now everyone—knows the green-text blame game. Alphabet has been arguing about this point for years, and occasionally, a corporate tech giant gets to be both populist and correct. (Usually that happens when another tech giant engages in bad behavior—the shoe was recently on the other foot for Apple, when it got to present itself as a guardian of privacy in opposition to Meta.)

Here, the Android maker is exactly right. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’ve allowed friendships to degrade because of this issue. Last year, I attended a bachelor party wherein one of the groom’s closest friends was kept out of the planning process because his green text messages would upset the balance of an extensive group chat. Just days ago, I was planning a Southern California vacation with some friends from the East Coast. There will be five of us on the trip, but only four of us got to be involved in picking what we’ll do with our Saturday. As I asked of my three fellow iPhone users: ‘When you guys are here, want to spend a day pretending we are on the MTV show Laguna Beach and then go to a baseball game in anaheim? (will text E on the side because he has green texts).’

I still haven’t gotten around to texting E. I simply forgot. Because his texts are green, he still has no idea that he’ll be spending a Saturday in Orange County. Depending on how the next hour goes, MediaDownloader’s readership might find out before he does. Apple’s functionality decisions have fractured my community. And if I treat one of my best friends with such callousness because of these design decisions, imagine how hairy the situation can get for children whose social standing is now determined in large part by which group chats they get to be in. (Talk to a current high school junior if you want to be horrified about modern texting etiquette. It’s a pressure cooker!)

Apple might argue that none of this is technically its fault. It’s not like the company doesn’t deliver other phones’ texts, it just … makes them green. Perhaps I could just put up with janky messaging. But a much easier solution is for Apple to take steps so that green texters stop being treated like second-class citizens. For $1,500 a phone, a bit of corporate social responsibility seems like a fair ask.


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