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Apple's iMessage updates get lost in translation on Android

Most of the features work, but not to their full effect.

The iPhone SE in use Credit: / Chris Thomas

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Apple is about to release big changes to iMessage in its forthcoming iOS 10 update, which will take the platform far beyond texting with Snapchat-like drawing, stickers, effects, and more.

But all of these changes made us wonder, how will this overhaul affect Android users that text iPhone users?

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After all, almost every iPhone or Android user can tell you of the issues that abound when sending messages between these two ecosystems. Some users won’t receive messages, while others will experience broken group messages.

It’s a mess. So won’t further custom iMessage features make it worse?

As it turns out, it’s actually not much worse. When you start messaging an Android user and get the dreaded green text bubbles, you’ll still be able to send stickers and Digital Touch drawings and animations, use iMessage apps, react to message bubbles with stickers and symbols, and write handwritten notes.

iMessage reactions and Digital Touch drawings on Android
Credit: / Daniel Wroclawski

The new iMessage reactions appear as "Emphasized" messages on Android.

The only problem is that most of these features lose their full effect when they get sent to an Android phone. Animated stickers and Digital Touch drawings won’t appear animated on Android. The stickers will be static, while the Digital Touch drawings/animations will just show the final image (instead of drawing it out in real time).

Message bubble reactions—depending on whether you send a sticker or a symbol—either send the sticker separately (which actually isn’t a bad thing), or say “Emphasized [message].” And handwritten notes are sent as static images, instead of writing out the note.

iMessage stickers and handwritten notes on Android
Credit: / Daniel Wroclawski

iMessage stickers and handwritten notes seem to appear just fine on Android.

You’d think Apple could just convert these animated messages into GIFs and send them that way, but the company didn’t use my no-brainer of a solution.

Unfortunately, that’s where the cross-platform compatibility stops. Fun message effects like invisible ink or laser lights aren’t accessible when messaging an Android user. And rich links appear as regular URLs.

iMessage rich links and Digital Touch animations on Android
Credit: / Daniel Wroclawski

Rich links appear as regular URLs on Android, while Digital Touch animations load as static images.

All in all, most of the new iMessage features will come through on Android. They might not seem as elegant or entertaining, but folks using Android should still understand what you’re trying to say.

Back in June, I had hoped the announcement of iOS 10 would also see the release of an iMessage app for Android, allowing more people to use what’s become a fairly popular messaging client. But until that happens (if ever), Apple’s new iMessage updates might just alienate Android users instead of create iPhone envy.