iMessage, the Surprising Social Networking Platform for Teens

Sep 20, 2017

76 percent of U.S. teens own iPhones, making it the most popular smartphone with the 18 and under set.

Given these statistics, and the fact that texting reigns supreme with younger smartphone users, it stands to reason that teens use iMessage more than any other app on the market. In fact, Hackernoon, goes so far as to say that iMessage isn’t just their go-to texting app, but that “iMessage IS a social platform for teens. It’s currently the center of their immediate, social universe.”

Apple's Popularity

I remember being at a party the day after Apple’s much anticipated and groundbreaking iPhone launch, with a group of us huddled our friend as he showed us what his phone -- a phone he waited hours in line to pay a small fortune for -- could do. I was impressed, but not impressed enough to spend that kind of money on a cell phone. I was not a devoted Apple user at the time, nor did I have any idea how that palm-sized phone would irrevocably change people’s lives.

Each day, while I’m researching, writing and editing on my MacBook, I field incoming text messages and phone calls right from my laptop. We are an Apple family, which means every digital device we own is in the Apple product line -- MacBook, iPhone, iPad -- and all of our devices are synced. We share iCloud, so our photos and videos are easily accessed by all, and if my son sneakily downloads a new app on his iPad, I know immediately. And as I write this, I’m just days away from receiving my new iPhone 8 Plus, happy to have more storage available on my phone. Apple makes it easy to be brand loyal.

Why iPhone?

Apart from marketing, design and, of course, user loyalty, iPhone’s features -- such as iTunes, iMessage and iOS -- make it the most popular smartphone in the U.S. Users like iPhone for its clean, modern design, simplicity, ease of use, and, whether they realize it or not, the iOS platform.

iOS is the real game-changer with iPhones, because Apple keeps their iOS regularly updated with security fixes and new features, which makes it more appealing to consumers. Developers love iOS because they make more money on the platform (compared to Android). Because developers are able to make more money from the iOS platform, they tend to release exclusive apps for iPhone (great for both the developer and the consumer), or release their apps for iPhone first, and then develop an Android version later. In this sense, iPhone users have the best apps to choose from, checking another mark in the pro-iPhone column.

iMessage as a Social Networking Platform

If the iPhone is the most popular smartphone among teens, and if, as Hackernoon puts it, messaging is the core level of activity amongst teens, then it’s no surprise that teens use iMessage more than any other app. I reached out to some teens to gather their thoughts about iMessage, and to better understand the ways in which they use the app.

Fourteen-year- old Zoe K., of Virginia, says that she uses iMessage more than phone calls. Says Zoe, “I don’t have to respond right away, so I can think about what I want to say. For babysitting jobs, I can go back and look at the text to see time and dates.” Not only is iMessage a way to thoughtfully and thoroughly communicate, but it also provides a bookmark for important information.

Eighteen-year- old Caitlin R., of New Jersey, likes iMessage for the convenience aspect. Says Caitlin, “...it’s easier and more convenient [to use] when I’m in class, walking to class, and even in my dorm, especially when everyone is around.” So iMessage also provides a way for teens to communicate privately in public situations.

Interestingly, the group chat aspect of iMessage provides opportunity for socializing, as well as taking care of necessary details. Nineteen-year- old Erika B., of Pennsylvania, says that she uses iMessage group chats all of the time “to receive and send information to friends,” as well as to connect with family “more efficiently, rather than a single text to each.”

Zoe uses iMessage group chats daily with her friends, saying “We use group texts to plan when we want to hang out, questions about homework, and just girl talk when we can’t hang out face- to-face.” Caitlin also uses group chats to make plans with friends, as well as to “make sure everyone is on the same page about group work, team practices, etc.”

The convenience factor, the popularity of iPhone with teens, and the use of iMessage to connect and coordinate means iMessage’s popularity will likely continue to increase among teen users. And iMessage developers realize this, which is why they continue to add features, geared toward keeping users on the platform. Group video chats, games, preloaded GIFs, emojis, voice recordings -- iMessage has it all, and gives users little reason to leave the platform.