The Real Social Platform for Teens Isn’t Snapchat or Facebook—It’s iMessage

Social media platforms represent a young, ever-changing environment—especially during teenage years where fads sometimes last as long as a housefly. Facebook appears to run the world for youth, with struggling Snapchat still chasing close behind.

But there may be another serious contender flying beneath the radar.

Recent data from financial firm Piper Jaffray shows that 76 per cent of teens in North America own an iPhone, up from 69 per cent in 2016. Indeed, that figure has risen every year since 2013, when it stood at 55 per cent.

Piper Jaffray’s data also shows that 81 per cent of teens expect their next phone to be an iPhone. Again, this number has consistently risen year-over-year since 2013.

IPhone-to-iPhone communication is overwhelmingly performed via iMessage, Apple’s proprietary instant messaging platform. More messages are sent per day through iMessage than Messenger or Snapchat, and this is especially true among teens—69 per cent of whom use Apple’s service, ahead of Facebook’s and Snap’s, according to data from eMarketer.

Giuseppe Stuto, cofounder of Fam and SmackHigh, believes it is a mistake to perceive iMessage as traditional SMS—even if that is how most of its own users look at it.

“After firsthand observing how teens use iMessage over the past few years it is clear that they treat it as much more than a basic text message delivery service,” he writes in a piece on Medium. “It’s the center of their mobile social life, whether they themselves realize that or not.”

This engagement is particularly impressive when you consider the fact that Apple only opened iMessage up to third party developers last year. That should be duly noted by rivals like Facebook and Snap, particularly when you factor in who owns iMessage: the world’s largest technology company by a sizeable margin, offering a tightly integrated ecosystem of software, hardware and services.

Apple is not a company one first thinks of when seeking out the social savvy. And maybe the success of iMessage among tomorrow’s generation was mostly a happy accident. Regardless, Apple now owns one of the world’s most significant social platforms, and everyone ought to be paying attention.

“To say that the stars sure seem to be aligning is an understatement,” offers Stuto, though he stops short of making any concrete predictions. “As a wise person always told me, time will tell.”