The iPhone — iMessage and Keyboard

Gabriel Peal
4 min readMar 9

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This is part 3 of my detailed breakdown of Android and iOS in 2023. To return to the beginning, click here.

iMessage/SMS

Many iPhone vs Android discussions start and end with iMessage. It’s a very valid reason to stick with the iPhone but it makes for a very uninteresting comparison. As a result, I’m going to touch on it but then move on to more interesting things.

I live in the United States and therefore most of my friends own iPhones and use iMessage. You can imagine the joy they felt seeing my bubble turn blue for the first time.

I wanted to get the full iPhone experience so I switched most of my day-to-day conversations to iMessage. After a few months of using it, pretty much nothing in my life changed. It’s a messaging platform and works almost exactly the same as every other messaging platform and there really isn’t much more to say about it.

Degraded green bubble experience

While iMessage is wholly unremarkable on its own, what is notable is that the experience for everybody involved gets dramatically worse with the presence of a single Android user. While this is unfortunate, it is the reality that we live in. Ironically, Google now parses the “Gabriel liked…” messages and renders the proper reactions so the experience on Android in these situations is actually slightly better than on iOS. However, other things degrade as well, such as the quality of shared photos.

When I use Android most of my chats are done via Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. I don’t use other Facebook products anymore but Messenger and WhatsApp continue to work great for me.

That being said, it’s nice to be able to text people, get full-resolution images, and not mess up other people’s chats.

Texting from macOS

A frequent argument for the iPhone that I hear is that you can text from your computer. On Android, I’ve been using Pushbullet for years. It’s trivial to set up and has been absolutely rock-solid. The Android Messages app has its own web messaging client as well.

iMessage aside, Google’s Messages app has a few notable features that I have missed since switching to the iPhone.

Spam filtering

Since switching to iPhone, I have received way more spam. Not only do I get SMS spam, I now get an entirely new class of spam — iMessage spam sent from emails to my iMessage inbox.

On Android, you get the same SMS spam. However, Google automatically filters them into a spam folder just like your email and it works great.

Business and personal categories

Google will automatically categorize all incoming messages as either personal or business and will group them accordingly. This prevents OTP codes, shipping notifications, and more from cluttering your day-to-day conversations.

Automatically delete two-factor codes

Google Messages will also automatically delete two-factor codes after 24 hours, further reducing the clutter.

Smart replies

In Google Messages as well as its notifications, Google will provide a few quick “smart replies” based on the previous few messages. In my experience, when my reply is a short acknowledgment, the reply I want is usually there. Given how good natural language models are getting, I expect these to only get better over time.

Keyboard

Autocorrect

I personally find the iOS keyboard’s autocorrect to be fine. However, it’s leagues behind Gboard (Google Keyboard) and SwiftKey on Android. Although both are available on iOS, neither are viable options due to the inability to use password managers such as 1Password with them.

In my experience, GBoard and SwiftKey quickly adapt to my personal phrase usage and pick up things like emails, names, addresses, and phrases that I frequently type whereas iOS hasn’t adapted much (if at all) to my personal style. GBoard and SwiftKey can also predict multiple words at once.

I’m not the only one who believes this. There was recently a popular Hacker News post that highlights the same shortcomings (plus plenty more).

Autocorrect is missing sometimes

On Android, the autocorrect bar is there nearly all of the time. On iOS, it seems to be disabled much more frequently. One such example is the URL/search bar in Safari. I almost always want autocorrect here.

Gif search in keyboard

Let’s say you’re in Slack and you want to send a gif. As far as I can tell, there is no way to do that on iOS (without using a limited /giphy Slackbot app). The same goes for other apps that don’t have a gif picker built in. On Gboard, the keyboard has a gif search built right in. It lets you search for and insert gifs into any text field.

If this piece resonated with you or you have any thoughts or questions, you can find me on Twitter @gpeal8.

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Gabriel Peal

Open source maintainer of Lottie and Mavericks. Full stack at Watershed. Formerly Android at Tonal, Airbnb, and Android Auto at Google.