Whatsapp Message HeroSource: Luke Filipowicz/iMore

What you need to know

  • WhatsApp head Will Cathcart has said it is in Apple's strategic interests to not have people use the service.
  • He made the remarks in the context of discussing Apple and competition in the messaging sphere.
  • Cathcart also spoke about flaws in Apple's new privacy nutrition labels.

WhatsApp head Will Cathcart has told the Big Technology Podcast that Apple has a strategic interest in users not using WhatsApp because it doesn't want people to use Android phones.

In an episode last week, Cathcart spoke to host Alex Kantrowitz about WhatsApp, its new privacy changes, and competition with Apple.

Cathcart commented on Apple's recent new privacy nutrition labels that app developers now have to add to their apps to show users how their data is being used. Asked if the new labels were a "direct attack against Facebook", Cathcart said, "from the WhatsApp perspective we've been critical of the labels". He said WhatsApp thought it was good for people to talk about what data they have and that WhatsApp itself took the data it uses really seriously, striving to collect a "minimal" amount of data it thinks necessary to provide a great service at scale. Noting the information comes from developers, rather than Apple, Cathcart said:

The thing that I think's been unfortunate about Apple's labels, is I think the way they've designed them they've ended up being pretty confusing. In part because any app can put whatever they want for the labels.

Noting how people often compare WhatsApp to Telegram, Cathcart said that Telegram doesn't have end-to-end encryption by default, or at all for groups, but that whilst Telegram does have the messages you send, and WhatsApp doesn't have your messages at all, there's no way to tell how you would know this from the new labels. Cathcart also said that regardless of whatever the purpose of the labels was, WhatsApp competes with Apple in the US and abroad, but that no one can see the label for iMessage because you don't download the app, it comes pre-installed on iOS. He did note Apple's website listings for privacy regarding its own software, but again highlighted inconsistencies, such as how both Apple and WhatsApp can process payments through their platforms, but that WhatsApp lists payment information in its label whilst Apple doesn't.

You can send a friend money through iMessage. Our label says we have payment information, iMessage's doesn't, what's the difference?

Kantrowitz noted that Mark Zuckerberg has stated that Apple is Facebook's biggest competitor in messaging, to which Cathcart said that it was "obviously" in Apple's interest to have everyone using an iPhone. Noting that in the U.S. most people have an iPhone and that the messaging experience works better on iMessage "if everyone else has an iPhone", and that on services like WhatsApp it was easier for people to switch between iPhone and Android. WhatsApps cross-compatibility is one of the reasons why WhatsApp is favored by many outside the US and why it's considered one of the best messaging apps for iPhone.

I use an Android. When people put me in their iMessage group it kind of breaks, it's kind of a weird experience.

He continued:

I think it's certainly in their strategic interest to have people not use something like WhatsApp because they want people to not use an Android phone.

Cathcart also commented on how Apple's iMessage works on special APIs in ways other apps don't, and that whether or not they intend it changes they make affect the whole ecosystem.

Cathcart went on to discuss privacy, WhatsApps recent changes to its policy and content moderation as well as advertising, and new laws in India. You can listen in full here.