Mark Zuckerberg says iMessage is less secure than WhatsApp

Why is it important: The heads of WhatsApp and parent company Meta have launched another round of verbal competition over who has the best and most secure messaging service. As before, the main concerns are cloud backup security and cross-platform compatibility.

The new WhatsApp ad this week is the latest blow to Apple for refusing to bring encrypted messaging and other features to non-Apple platforms. On social media, Mark Zuckerberg and WhatsApp boss Will Cathcart compared the app’s latest features to iMessage.

Advertising above the entrance to the Pennsylvania Station. shows three message bubbles of different colors. One is green to represent SMS or MMS messages appearing on iPhone and the other is blue to represent iMessage. The third one is white and labeled “Private Bubble” to characterize WhatsApp and its privacy features. The ads imply that the limitation of iMessage for iPhone makes it less secure than WhatsApp.

Apple Messaging uses end-to-end encryption when all users in a conversation are using Apple devices. However, iPhones come back for unencrypted SMS or MMS text messages with Android phones. On Instagram and Twitter, Zuckerberg and Cathcart mentioned WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption, which extends to cross-platform conversations.

Google criticized Apple’s policy earlier this year encouraging the company to allow RCS messaging on the iPhone. Last year, Google implemented RCS on Android, which also provides end-to-end encryption. The company has since complained that Apple is blocking users in its ecosystem by only allowing encryption and other advanced features through iMessage.

During its legal battle with Apple last year, Epic Games pointed out that Apple would not be bringing iMessage to Android because it would simply encourage iPhone-owning parents to buy Android phones for their children. During last month’s Vox panel, Apple CEO Tim Cook directly said it would rather transfer users to the iPhone than allow RCS messages between iPhone and Android users.

Zuckerberg and Cathcart also dedicated WhatsApp cloud backups with end-to-end encryption. The couple said that Apple doesn’t support this feature, but it’s a bit more complicated.

Apple encrypts iCloud iMessage backups as well saves keys to these backups. This policy makes it easier for users to recover their messages if they lose their passwords, but gives Apple an encryption key for their messages. Cathcart tweeted that Apple can’t open encrypted WhatsApp backups in iCloud, but didn’t say if WhatsApp or Meta can.

WhatsApp has also recently been heavily criticized by a competitor due to security issues. Earlier this month, Telegram founder Pavel Durov, using WhatsApp security guidelines published last month, called the service fundamentally unsafe. He called WhatsApp’s vulnerabilities “embedded backdoors” and called the app a surveillance tool.

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