If you use an iPhone, you might have noticed that SMS conversations (green-bubbles) are harder to read than iMessage conversations (blue bubbles). That’s not by accident — in fact, green bubbles weren’t always so difficult to read.
You’ve probably heard of the green and blue text message bubble colors inside the iOS Messages app. On an iPhone, normal SMS text messages are colored green, while iMessage (Apple’s iPhone-exclusive chat platform) conversations are colored blue. Many iPhone users shun the “green bubble” due to the fewer features provided by SMS. If you own an iPhone, you may feel the same frustration when trying to read a green-bubble chat, as they often feel harder to read than blue-bubble chats. That’s no accident.
To begin, we have to take a trip back to 2011. As you may know, iMessage, along with the signature blue bubble, didn’t exist until the release of iOS 5. Before iMessage was introduced, every message in the Messages app was green, as the only messaging supported at the time was SMS. Once they added iMessage to the Messages application on iOS, the blue bubbles came along with it to help differentiate between iMessage and SMS. Given that the Messages app has stuck with the same green bubble/blue bubble differentiation, it may sound like the hatred towards SMS isn’t related to the color at all. However, along the way from iOS 5 to now, a tiny design change opened a user-experience chasm between SMS conversations and iMessage ones. This isn’t a story about about the green or blue colors themselves — rather, it’s a story about contrast, and its astonishing impact on our perceptions.