The green bubble problem will only get worse

Apple has spent years slowly making green bubbles seem like a worse kind of message — no typing indicators, tiny photos, no end-to-end encryption — but those limitations have always been limited to conversations in Messages; Use any other app on your iPhone, and it’s generally on par with Android. But with iOS 17 later this year, Apple will extend those platform differences to phone calls, adding a big, prominent sign that your friend or family member bought the wrong phone.

The biggest change is thanks to Apple’s new contact poster feature for phone calls, one of Apple’s banner improvements for iOS 17. When you set up a contact poster, you choose a photo of yourself that fills the entire screen of an iPhone, and the font, which will show your contact poster Name. The atmosphere is very similar to the customizable lock screens added with iOS 16. Then when you call someone, your personalized contact card will take over their phone’s screen instead of the big blank page they see today. (In particular, you can restrict sharing to contacts only, or require iOS to ask you if you want to share.)

Your contact posters can also include your Memoji. Image: Apple

Sounds useful right? It’s like having a nice profile picture on a social network, which can actually be quite important. I suspect that you generally don’t trust people without a profile picture on Twitter or Instagram. And since Contact Posters are compatible with Apple’s CallKit developer tools, it probably won’t just be Apple’s phone app that uses them.

However, there is no indication that this feature is offered cross-platform. So, if you don’t see a function when someone calls you, that’s an immediate indication that the person might be a random person, a spammer, or – wheeze! – do not use an iPhone. (However, if someone doesn’t have a contact poster that you think they need to have, you can create contact posters for other people in your contacts.)

Contact posters also appear when you share contact information between iPhones using the new NameDrop feature. Granted, it’s not clear if anyone will actually use NameDrop, but if it catches on, you’ll look pretty uncool at the bar if you don’t have a phone that can use it.

Bump is back! Image: Apple

In this way, Apple expands the green bubble problem beyond the typical green bubbles. But iOS 17 will also make iMessages even worse for Android users. We already know that iPhones will have better group chat tools that Android users don’t (yet) have. But Apple is also working on a secret weapon that could turn into a tool for Ultra iPhone FOMO: stickers.

Yes I know. Who Uses Stickers? I don’t, but with iOS 17 I could. I really like that you can place any regular emoji as a sticker, which means you can use a lot more emoji as reactions. (Finally!) And with the ability to create custom stickers from photos, I can imagine group chats filling up with their own meme and funny stickers, much like you might already be seeing with custom emoji in Slack and Discord.

Maybe these changes won’t make a difference. Who is still on the phone? And as enthusiastic as I am about stickers, I’m not convinced they will catch on. But if iPhone users enjoy these new features, Apple will put even more distance between iPhone users and Android users.