Does Apple Use Green Bubbles to Make You Hate Android Users?
Apple’s iMessage is one of the best-loved features of its ecosystem. It’s a seamless experience that lets you message other Apple device users with far more features than SMS includes.
You’ve likely noticed that some message bubbles on your iPhone are blue, while others show in green. But why is this, and is it an intentional decision by Apple? Let’s take a look.
What Are Blue and Green Bubbles Used For?
Apple’s Messages app on the iPhone supports two types of messages: iMessage and SMS. When you send a message, you’ll see it as a blue bubble if it was sent using iMessage, or a green bubble if the message used SMS.
iMessage is Apple’s proprietary message service, and is similar to other messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram. It kicks in when you message someone who also uses an iPhone (or another Apple device) using the Messages app.
SMS, on the other hand, is the baseline texting technology that all phones support. If you’re texting someone without an iPhone, your message defaults to SMS. MMS, a companion technology, is used for texts with attachments and long messages.
See our comparison of iMessage and SMS for more info. We’ll talk more about the benefits of iMessage below.
People Hate Green Bubbles
Doing a search for “green bubbles” on any social media site will result in dozens of angry people talking about how much they dislike seeing green bubbles on the iPhone. We originally covered this phenomenon in 2015, and to this day, people continue to express their distaste for this shade of message bubble.
Take a look at the following examples:
But why do people dislike green bubbles so much? Is this hate justified?
Why Do People Hate Green Bubbles?
The reason why iPhone users don’t like green bubbles isn’t because of the color itself—it’s the experience that comes along with the hue.
iMessage Has Great Features
iMessage features all the modern features you’d expect from an app of its type. There’s a typing indicator and read receipts for knowing when the other person is getting back to you or has acknowledged what you said.
Another big pro is support for sending large media files. You can send a photo you took with your phone, or high-res video, and it will look great on the other person’s device.
iMessage goes over the internet, so as long as your device has a Wi-Fi or mobile data connection, you can chat. Importantly, these messages are end-to-end encrypted, protecting their contents from snoopers.
There are even more handy extras, like reacting to a message with a thumbs-up, location sharing to help friends know where you are, Animoji support, and apps inside iMessage.
SMS Is Vastly Inferior
You don’t get any of these features with SMS, however. SMS has been in use since the 1990s, and doesn’t include any of these conveniences. On an iPhone, texting someone over SMS is a basic experience with no encryption to protect your conversations, and no features like read receipts or reactions.
It sucks for the person receiving the SMS, too. Thanks to the low file size limit of MMS, videos sent outside of iMessage look terrible. Also, if an iPhone user reacts to a message, the other person will get a text that says “Liked a message: [message text]”, which is annoying.
There’s more to learn about the benefits of iMessage over SMS.
MMS Group Messages Are Terrible
We’ve focused on one-on-one messages, but green bubble group messages are a miserable experience on iPhone too. In addition to the problems mentioned above with reaction texts and blurry media being exacerbated, you can’t add and remove people like you can when everyone is using iMessage.
This results in people being stuck in groups they don’t want to be part of, where they either have to mute the chat or everyone else has to create a new group.
SMS doesn’t support replying to messages directly like iMessage does. And in iMessage group chats, you can @ mention people to tag them. Not having these features means MMS group chats can quickly get messy.
Green Bubble Contrast Issues
A final issue with green bubbles not mentioned as frequently is their contrast ratio. While this is subjective, some people claim that the white text in the Messages app is harder to see on the green bubble background than it is on the blue bubble.
Interestingly, this contrast breaks Apple’s own accessibility guidelines. A Medium post from Kevin Voller explains how the contrast on the green bubbles is not as clear as Apple’s own documentation calls for. However, you can make both blue and green bubbles easier to see by going to Settings > Accessibility > Display & Text Size and enabling Increase Contrast.
Does Apple Encourage Green Bubble Hating?
Since Apple designed iMessage, could it have planted the seed of green bubble hate in people’s minds? Looking back, the company hasn’t made many direct references to this phenomenon.
The iMessage page on Apple’s website used to say that people with non-Apple devices would be “green with envy,” but this is no longer present. At WWDC 2014 (37:24 in the below video), Craig Federighi took a jab at the “inferior devices” that result in green bubbles. But such quips are rare.
Before iMessage arrived with iOS 5 in 2011, all outgoing iPhone messages were green. Some people argue that the older design, pre-iOS 7, had a more pleasing green color. The icon for the Messages app itself is also green, not blue, so it’s not as if Apple wants to purge the color from the OS.
It’s unlikely that Apple intentionally planned these color differences to reference Android, since other types of phones can send SMS. Even an iPhone will send over SMS instead of iMessage if someone turns off iMessage or doesn’t have a network connection. Having the two types of messages appear in different colors is important, since iMessage and SMS are vastly different.
However, that doesn’t mean that Apple is ignoring this sensation. This feature markets itself, due to social pressure to switch to an iPhone so you’re not the only “green bubble” person in your friend group.
Are Green Bubbles Here to Stay?
Apple hasn’t made any major changes to the visual design of Messages since iOS 7, so it’s unlikely that anything will shift with this soon. However, in mid-2022, Google started another push, using #GetTheMessage to have Apple adopt the RCS standard, which adds modern features (like iMessage has) into texting.
RCS is supported on most Android devices through Google’s Messages app. Google wants Apple to use RCS instead of SMS for non-iMessage conversations to improve everyone’s experience.
While this would be great for both iPhone and Android users, it would make iMessage stand out less, so it’s likely not something Apple is going to do. Also, modern RCS is under Google’s control, meaning Apple won’t want to have a comparable service on its platform going through Google’s servers.
If you’re not in the US, you might find this all strange. In much of the world, WhatsApp became the messaging standard in the early 2010s, and SMS faded into insignificance. However, this wasn’t the case in the US, where texting was cheap enough on mobile plans that people didn’t look for an alternative messenger.
iPhone and Android users in the US could enjoy a modern experience together if everyone would switch to another messaging app like WhatsApp or Signal, but the majority of people never switch from the default messaging app included with their device.
Green Bubbles: An Endless Source of Woe
We’ve looked at the green bubble phenomenon, which has been going strong for years. In summary, iPhone users are justified in not wanting to use SMS, which is dated technology. And while Apple likely didn’t design green bubbles to be annoying, the resulting green bubble hate has become a great way to pressure more people to switch to an iPhone.
Ironically, the wealth of alternative messaging apps on Android makes it easy to tweak your bubble color. For anyone who hates green bubbles for their color and not the lack of features, moving to Android could be the right call.