Goodbye, green bubble? Justice Department sues Apple over iPhone monopoly

The days of green bubbles for non-iPhone users in iMessage may be numbered. According to The New York Times, "The Justice Department joined 16 states and the District of Columbia to file an antitrust lawsuit against Apple on Thursday, the federal government's most significant challenge to the reach and influence of the company that has put iPhones in the hands of more than a billion people."

Here's some of what US Attorney General Merrick Garland had to say about the reasons for the antitrust lawsuit add a press conference today:

Apple's anti competitive conduct also includes making it more difficult for iPhone users to message with users of non-Apple products. It does this by diminishing the functionality of its own messaging app and by diminishing the functionality of third-party messaging apps. By doing so, Apple knowingly and deliberately degrades quality, privacy, and security for its users.

For example, if an iPhone user messages a non-iPhone user in Apple Messages, the text appears not only as a green bubble, but incorporates limited functionality. The conversation is not encrypted, videos are pixelated and grainy, and users cannot edit messages or see typing indicators.

As a result, iPhone users perceive rival smartphones as being lower quality because the experience of messaging friends and family who do not own iPhones is worse, even though Apple is the one responsible for breaking cross-platform messaging.

In the 88-page lawsuit, the government argues that "Apple had violated antitrust laws with practices that were intended to keep customers reliant on their iPhones and less likely to switch to a competing device," as reported by the Times. The lawsuit alleges that Apple's policies have resulted in "higher prices and less innovation" for consumers and smaller companies.

The Times notes that the lawsuit specifically targets Apple's practices, such as "undermining the ability of iPhone users to message with owners of other types of smartphones, like those running the Android operating system," making it "difficult for the iPhone to work with smartwatches other than its own Apple Watch," and not allowing "other companies to build their own digital wallets."

Apple is none too pleased by the lawsuit. "This lawsuit threatens who we are and the principles that set Apple products apart in fiercely competitive markets," an Apple spokeswoman told the Times in response to the filing. "If successful, it would hinder our ability to create the kind of technology people expect from Apple — where hardware, software, and services intersect."

See also: Apple intentionally made the green chat bubbles of Android text messages look gross