A closer look at iMessage and its future in the messaging space

The Messenger
Subscribe to our weekly updates about messengers and chatbots.

Its been just over a week since Apple's announcements at WWDC and we can spot some trends in the direction iMessage might be taking. One that is similar to the move Facebook Messenger made almost a year ago. With the platform opening up to third party applications, could this mean Apple's messaging service will eventually be opening up to chatbot developers? And with this, how will iMessage compare with other messaging platforms?

The new iMessage features

Emoji's will change, users can add notes in their own handwriting and iMessage will also include animated media and other snazzy effects.

But what is even more eye opening is the announcement of an invitation for developers to create apps that can be used in iMessage. Apps add endless capabilities, from rich media, GIFs to making payments or ordering products.

The improved iMessage will go hand in hand with its own Messages App Store. This store will be a great addition for solving the discovery issue that other messaging platforms like Messenger are facing. But it does however seem like iMessage is a little late to the party... doesn't it?

Taking the same direction as Facebook Messenger

Around this time last year Facebook announced it was introducing GIF features on Messenger for the first time. Since then a plethora of new features have crept onto the platform, making it undoubtably one of the most interactive and media rich messaging platforms available. The direction that iMessage appears to be taking seems to be a year late copy-cat response to Facebook's features. The question on our minds now is...

Could it mean opening up the space for chatbots?

Like Telegram, LINE, KiK and now Facebook Messenger, will Apple's next move be to welcome chatbot possibilities? If so what could these look like?

• Shopping bots

The moment it becomes possible to make a payment via iMessage will be a game changer. This will allow for a complete shopping experience, rather than just browsing. However it feels very distant to be shopping within iMessage. Why is this? Perhaps because of the lack of advertisement in the space we don't associate iMessage with purchases as much as the likes of Facebook Messenger? Or maybe it is because iMessage has never been accessible through a webpage like Facebook- where we are accustomed to doing our online shopping.

• Banking bots

Currently many banks offer an SMS service for simple account updates or service messages. A banking bot within iMessage would open up possibilities for customers to further interact with their banks.

Because SMS is already proving to be useful within the banking space, banking bots within iMessage could be easily received and the likelihood for users who already use the SMS service to start interacting with a bot is high.

• Customer service bots

Like banking, iMessage bots for customer service is another concept that could easily be adapted by the consumer given we are already accustomed to receiving SMS for some customer service queries. However much of the messaging here is one way (business > consumer).

Offering customer service via messengers, with human to human interaction is the move that businesses are currently taking by opening up for a customer first interaction via messengers, and it is proving valuable!

The next step could be bots within iMessage to lessen the strain on human resources.

• Bots for fun

Like many of the bots available currently across all platforms- they have been made by developers as a fun experiment. Currently, viable business models for bots have been explored but are yet to be fully put into practice. For now, let's see how iMessage will compare with other messaging platforms.

How will iMessage compete on the messenger battlefield?

Giphy within a messenger?
Emoji's, stickers, animations and colours?
Share and listen to music in the same place too?

Tell us something new! As discussed, the latest improvements to iMessage are nothing we haven't seen before. But the key question is: Will these improvements put iMessage in the race for users time and use?

In comparison to some of the other messaging platforms available like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp the following points arise.

• Market dependant

iMessage use is dependant on iPhone accessibility and as it is, not everybody has 1. access to the technology or 2. can afford it. With far cheaper options out there in emerging markets the likelihood of iMessage popularity could rely solely on market behaviours because the technology is device specific unlike other messaging applications. Rumours were circulating that iMessage could be accessible from android devices but the possibility of this happening and furthermore gaining traction and use is slim.

A different story however in the US and Western countries where iPhones have encapsulated the market more so than the likes of India and Africa.

However worldwide, the device of choice is in fact a choice and not all users opt to purchase and use and iPhone.

-Lack of social aspect

Facebook hails the social strength. The social experience that Facebook Messenger provides makes messaging a richer experience. Content is readily available and easily shared between the app and the messenger. Users spend a lot of time scrolling their social networks too.

The social experience and time spent are two strengths that not only iMessage but all other platforms fail to replicate.

• Lower reach/ More complication

There are two sides of the coin for this point. First, as mentioned above, even if iMessage is made available for android users there is still a complication, there is still an added traction that other messengers don't face.

However for those native iPhone users (over a billion) iMessage is something that is already there, an app they don't need to download or even update. This is an exceptional advantage for Apple to leverage. Further, iMessage is something familiar and it is of course easy to use... but only if you and the person you are communicating with has access to it!

Chat with your customers through messengers:

Learn more »
Kristy Burden
Kristy Burden

Former Head of Marketing and Communication at oratio