Well, color me this! I was griping to myself last night about just how gosh dang hard it is to read text messages in Apple Messages. You know, not the blue bubbles that you get when messaging other iPhone users. Those are iMessages.
What I’m talking about are the green bubbles you get when messaging non-iPhone users. Those are standard text messages.
Let’s run the green through a contrast checker to see what’s up.
Oomph. Now I know why I always reach for my reading glasses when a text message pops up. That 2.17:1 ratio is below the WCAG 2.0 AA requirement of 4.5:1 and wayyyyy below the AAA level of 7:1.
Turns out I’m not the only one griping. A quick search turned up a little trove of news and blog posts — some as recent as last week — about the readability of those green text message bubbles.
- How iPhone Violates Apple’s Accessibility Guidelines (Kevin Voller)
- Apple Accused of Purposely Making Messages From Android Devices Hard to Read (Hypebeast)
- Text Messaging Wars: Apple Makes Android Green (Psychology Today)
- Apple Message Color Complaints Continue (Infopackets)
- Apple Using Green Color For Android Messages To Establish iPhone’s Dominance? (Gizbot)
- How To Make iPhone Green Messages Easier To Read (Inquier.net)
I’m no conspiracy theorist and like to give benefit to doubt. Buuuuut…
- iOS 6: Dark text on a green gradient background
- iOS 7: White text on a
#5AB539background (or something close to it)
- iOS 16.1: White text on a
That second one is based on old screenshots and might not be the most accurate color value. But still, the transition from iOS 6 with dark text to what we have today in iOS 16.1 shows a clear regression. I’d like think the design team checked the updated values against WCAG guidelines, sure, but at least against their own Human Interface Guidelines.
The current green background (
#65C466) appears to be different than what is listed as the green “system color” (
#30D158, converted from a RGB of 48, 209, 88) in the iOS palette listed in the guidelines. But it’s not like that gets us any closer to a passing WCAG AA or AAA rating.
I really wish the companies preaching accessibility and web performance best practices would follow their own advice. I’m looking at both Google and Apple on this one. For example, Google Search used to (and maybe still does?) suffer from annoying layout shifts caused by the “People also search for” feature. I think at some point I trained myself to ignore this, so I can’t tell if they fixed it or I just don’t notice it anymore.
Want accessible messages? By the recipient an iPhone.
Google also censors autogenerated captions, which is a big nono. Deaf and Hard of Hearing people are not children and should not be coddled as such
Talking about major accessibility issues in the iOS, recent update of macOS ventura(13.00) has been deployed. They’ve major UI changes to get used to with, but developer’s have made the UI more complex rather than the simpler one.
FWIW, Blue bubbles are also below recommendations, but still better than green at 3.2:1
I have a possible explanation:
With the arrival of iMessages, they needed to create a difference.
The new service gets the new colour, fine.
Hey guys, this blue we’re using is too close to the green in terms of contrast and many color-blind people might not see the difference! Okay, let’s downgrade the green to get more difference with the blue.
And they just stopped there.