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iMessage Purgatory
May 15, 2014 4:54 AM   Subscribe

Switching away from iPhone can make text messages to you disappear.
posted by exogenous (96 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
:(
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:59 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


I had huge issues in my last band with this. I have never owned an apple iPhone, yet my 3 apple iPhone owning bandmates couldn't talk to me if I sent a group text.

iMessage plays poorly with others.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:00 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


I hate to say it, but this sounds like the makings of a very successful class-action lawsuit. I have a feeling Apple won't be making too much of an effort to fix it until it is either.
posted by jamincan at 5:01 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


Despite the assertion that this is somehow Apple's problem, functionally this is handled by the carriers. Perhaps they have set up some arrangement with Apple and are letting Apple have unnecessarily too much control over it, but number portability and SMS is a technical and legal responsibility of the carrier.
posted by odinsdream at 5:02 AM on May 15


From an update in the link:
Update: I was able to fix the problem on a per-phone basis by doing the following:

Open Settings > Messages.
Toggle iMessage to Off.
Send a text to the black-hole number. (It should send as SMS.)
Turn iMessage back on in Settings > Messages.
Of course, the only phone I have access to is Ellen’s, and I’m not about to ask all of my contacts to do this. At least now Ellen can text me, but that’s nothing close to a solution.
Yes, don't tell anyone who needs to text you how they can fix this, good idea.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:03 AM on May 15 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I agree that it's impractical to offer individual notices to your contacts as a solution, but does he want a solution or does he want convenience?

If it's that important, suck it up. (And do what ever person I know does when they lose their phone, get a new number, etc.: post a notice on Facebook.)
posted by oddman at 5:10 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


This is Apple's problem because the iPhone makes the decision of whether to send a text message or an iMessage. Not the carrier.

This is Apple's problem because they are the only ones who can fix this problem.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:15 AM on May 15 [48 favorites]


Yep, everyone but me can get group messages in my family. And I'm not the one with the Windows phone!

Dad can't even send me pictures anymore. :(
posted by tilde at 5:18 AM on May 15


You would think as an android user he would be smart enough to search Google and find an answer in seconds, but then he couldn't whine on the Internet about how unfair things are.

Note the date on that. The right way is to deactivate iMessages before you switch, that answer is how you fix it if you didn't.
posted by eriko at 5:19 AM on May 15 [14 favorites]


Despite the assertion that this is somehow Apple's problem, functionally this is handled by the carriers. Perhaps they have set up some arrangement with Apple and are letting Apple have unnecessarily too much control over it, but number portability and SMS is a technical and legal responsibility of the carrier.

The issue is at the device level. The carrier can't do jack if there's no SMS being sent.
posted by kmz at 5:20 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


I hate to say it, but this sounds like the makings of a very successful class-action lawsuit. I have a feeling Apple won't be making too much of an effort to fix it until it is either.

If the fix mentioned above is that simple, then Apple is most definitely working on an automatic one right now. To reiterate:
Go to: https://supportprofile.apple.com/MySupportProfile.do
Log in if not already logged in.
Click on "edit products"
Click on the "x" to the right of the product.
Click "unregister"
It's not in Apple's corporate spirit to inconvenience users (not least because the company generates such high profits from their loyal customers).
posted by Doktor Zed at 5:23 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


This can't be a completely universal problem, because I know plenty of people who have switched from Apple to Android (including myself at one point) without any issues.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:23 AM on May 15


I will note that he has tried the above fix to remove his device from My Support Profile, and states that this fix did not work for him. It sounds like whether or not this problem affects a given person, and whether or not various solutions work, is pretty idiosyncratic.
posted by pemberkins at 5:26 AM on May 15 [11 favorites]


You would think as an android user he would be smart enough to search Google and find an answer in seconds, but then he couldn't whine on the Internet about how unfair things are.

In that very thread are pages of people for whom the solution didn't work. And it takes seconds to see this page linked by the original post.
posted by kmz at 5:26 AM on May 15 [19 favorites]


Some Android users aren't able to participate in group texts?

brb switching to android
posted by Ian A.T. at 5:26 AM on May 15 [32 favorites]


"Dad can't even send me pictures anymore. :("

My son would consider that a feature, not a bug.
posted by HuronBob at 5:27 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


It's possible (?) that it has nothing to do with switching. I lost the ability to receive texts from certain people on my iPhone, I was told that it had something to do with iMessage, the fix was done through Verizon's tech support (but, they told me they had to contact apple for some reason)...

Bottom line, our telecommunication/text/phone/internet/itunes/facebook/SMS/skype/TV/cable/toaster collaboration/cooperation/confusion/interoperability system will soon be so convoluted that there will BE no fix for these problems.
posted by HuronBob at 5:31 AM on May 15


but number portability and SMS is a technical and legal responsibility of the carrier.

And oh, this also has nothing to do with number portability.
posted by kmz at 5:32 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


This is Apple's problem because the iPhone makes the decision of whether to send a text message or an iMessage. Not the carrier.

The article was stating that the receiver stopped receiving messages because they switched from a iPhone to Android, which is only half-true. It's true they stopped receiving them, but it's not true that they were even SMSes in the first place, and it's a problem on the sender's side.
posted by odinsdream at 5:35 AM on May 15


I will note that he has tried the above fix to remove his device from My Support Profile, and states that this fix did not work for him.

If you read a few paragraphs down, you'll see he has fixed the problem.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:37 AM on May 15


Yes, he stopped receiving messages sent from iPhones.

At send time, the sending device decides whether the receiving device can accept iMessages. If so, it sends one. If not, it falls back on SMS.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:38 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


Why do people keep saying he's fixed the problem? He hasn't. Fixing it on a "per phone" basis is not fixing it; it's still a problem for all of the other phones in the world.

I love iMessage, but this does look like a serious problem for Apple to deal with that could potentially involve the federal courts. Most of the time you can do whatever you want, but if you mess with telephony in the US you run afoul of the FCC. Spoofing deliveries of SMS would constitute phreaking and land an individual hacker in jail, but of course Apple operates under different rules.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:41 AM on May 15 [11 favorites]


Still not forgiving Apple for making "Reply All" the default action for responding to a group MMS.
posted by schmod at 5:41 AM on May 15 [6 favorites]


He has fixed the problem on one device not his own. I'd go ballistic if I had to ask my 500+ contacts to jump through the same hoop.
posted by eamondaly at 5:43 AM on May 15 [5 favorites]


At send time, the sending device decides whether the receiving device can accept iMessages. If so, it sends one. If not, it falls back on SMS.

OTOH, check out this awesome iMessage fail. Someone without an iPhone sent me a text message. I responded, and it sent an iMessage, which then failed.
posted by smackfu at 5:45 AM on May 15


The right way is to deactivate iMessages before you switch

Sure. Unless you drop the phone in the toilet and decide to upgrade to something else at that point. This is a stupid bug and regardless of who's fault his particular problem is, if a phone provider decides to do an end-run around the carriers (even though in this case it was probably with the best of intentions), they've inserted themselves into the carrier service chain and have a responsibility to be a good citizen, which they are not.

Given the variations in handsets, carriers, plans, etc. I bet a lot of these blackholes exist: when we moved to Verizon I tried an Android phone for a couple of weeks and tied it to my Google Voice account for voicemail. When I switched back to an iPhone, it never occurred to me to shut that off first and I wound up being possibly the only person with a Verizon iPhone whose voicemail went to Google Voice since it was explicitly not allowed on their phones. Which would have been cooler if there was a way to hear the voicemails on the phone instead of having to hope the emailed transcription was intelligible enough to get the gist of the conversation.
posted by yerfatma at 5:46 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


Fixing it phone-by-phone is clearly unacceptible and the onus is clearly on Apple to fix this problem.

Member of a 100% Apple household here, since every thread like this seems to devolve into Sharks vs. Jets.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:47 AM on May 15 [16 favorites]


schmod: "Still not forgiving Apple for making "Reply All" the default action for responding to a group MMS."

I actually had no idea that there was such a thing as a group text. I'm kind of slow, I guess.
posted by octothorpe at 5:49 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


In a sad bit of Internet irony, apparently this book can't help him fix the problem. It's ok though because this guy is helping him.
posted by yerfatma at 5:50 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Man, I have only ever been an iPhone guy as far as smartphones go, but I have nothing but trouble with iMessage. There are people for whom my messages just disappear and are never delivered; people who have iOS devices but for whom my messages always fail as iMessages and have to be manually re-attempted as text; people with multiple iOS devices where the iMessages only ever show up on one (somehow always the least convenient one). Routing around the archaic mess that is SMS sounds nice in theory but in practice it's always been pretty flaky.
posted by enn at 5:52 AM on May 15 [7 favorites]


Text messages? Aren't those just for kids who can't spell?
posted by clvrmnky at 5:56 AM on May 15


> It's ok though because this guy is helping him.

"You should do x"
"I did x. Didn't work."
"It worked every time I did it."
"Yeah I'm learning that all these ad-hoc fixes work inconsistently. Your suggestion didn't work for me. Oh well."
"You should do it anyway."
"C'mon, guy. You're some random stranger on the internet telling me to do something I already did, and then exhorting me to do it harder somehow. This is kind of wasting my time."
"Oh yeah well fuck you and see if I ever help you again."


The Internet, ladies and gentlemen.
posted by ardgedee at 6:00 AM on May 15 [47 favorites]


I'm a little amused because apparently I don't text enough to have noticed if this was a problem when I made my iPhone/Android switch. One of the major things I like about having a smartphone is not having to text people. As long as I still have the ability to use Trillian to switch back and forth between phone and computer(s), that's going to be my preferred mode of communciation.
posted by Sequence at 6:24 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


I know a lot of people who have smartphones and still send SMS messages instead of using Hangouts or whatever. I'm not sure why they do this, though. I will say that Hangouts now does a pretty good job of reminding you which you are using at that moment.
posted by selfnoise at 6:35 AM on May 15


At send time, the sending device decides whether the receiving device can accept iMessages. If so, it sends one. If not, it falls back on SMS.

Except for some reason, some iPhones do not have that set to the default. My wife's iPhone 5 did not.

I ended up only missing a few texts, because I deregistered my phone and deactivated iMessage on my old phone. But since I did it same day as switching, it didn't quite catch up. And for some reason, it still doesn't work occasionally for people who don't have the "fall back to SMS" turned on.
posted by spaltavian at 6:41 AM on May 15


Apple apologists are the same everywhere. If the Verge or cnet did an article about this, you'd find the same kinds of responses: "Just suck it up and do it the Apple way. You're the one that has the problem. There couldn't possibly be anything that Apple is doing wrong."

I have an iPhone and iPad mini but I think some of the Apple way of doing things, like having to connect to iTunes to move songs around, is pretty stupid and obviously a method of locking people into Apple's proprietary system for everything, making it hard to leave the ecosystem without lots of annoyances and hassles.
posted by ChuckRamone at 6:42 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


eriko: "You would think as an android user he would be smart enough to search Google and find an answer in seconds, but then he couldn't whine on the Internet about how unfair things are. Note the date on that. The right way is to deactivate iMessages before you switch, that answer is how you fix it if you didn't."

If you RTFA you'd see that he'd tried that and it didn't work, but thanks for the gratuitous Android slur.
posted by exogenous at 6:44 AM on May 15 [11 favorites]


I've only ever had android phones but have periodically been associated with iMessage on other people's phones -- probably through a butt-dial mechanism -- and it's a huge pain.
posted by jeather at 6:49 AM on May 15


And I don't switch to hangouts because I don't like the way it works for chat, and I don't feel like fooling around to see if I can get it to work for SMS when messaging already works just fine.
posted by jeather at 6:50 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


I'm curios to know from people who use iMessage - why? I have an iPhone (yay?) but one of the first things I did was turn off iMesage. I'm pretty sure I did it because I'm an accidental pseudo-luddite that didn't want Apple to touch all my texts on their servers unless I had no other choice, but honestly I can't remember. What's the benefit to having iMessage turned on that I'm missing out on? Would people be angry if Apple solved this by just nuking iMessage?
posted by stoneweaver at 6:55 AM on May 15


I'm curios to know from people who use iMessage - why? I have an iPhone (yay?) but one of the first things I did was turn off iMesage.

I would suspect most iPhone users are unaware that there's any difference between iMessage and standard SMS messaging. "iMessage" is seen as merely Apple's app for sending texts, and not as a completely different messaging system or protocol.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:03 AM on May 15 [6 favorites]


Honestly, I should probably turn it off too.

Free is meaningless since I have unlimited texting anyway.
Getting messages on my Mac is not actually something I ever want.
We usually use Facebook for group texting now.
posted by smackfu at 7:07 AM on May 15


So, Apple took a working system, extended it to include unnecessary functionality and in the process totally broke interoperability.

Color me surprised.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:07 AM on May 15 [7 favorites]


What's the benefit to having iMessage turned on that I'm missing out on?

iMessage goes on your data plan and not on your texting plan, so doesn't count against [X texts per month] if you're not unlimited. Also, I believe it's not limited to 140 characters the way SMS is. But for me it's fundamentally the same thing. I use the same app, just when I text one set of friends, it's blue (iMessage), and the other set is green (SMS).

Someone with better technical knowledge can correct me, but my understanding is that SMS takes up unused bandwidth in the data spectrum for voice calls. If that's correct, it's a doomed protocol anyway, because the carriers are all going to VOIP anyway, even for (surviving) landlines.
posted by immlass at 7:10 AM on May 15


I'm not a fan of lock-into-ecosystem messaging integreation. Even as an Android user I don't like Google's integration of the default "Messaging" app into the "Hangouts" app. Although now you can clearly delineate between GTalk/Hangouts messaging and SMS/MMS.

At least I can install a 3rd-party messaging app and use that instead as the system default.
posted by mrbill at 7:12 AM on May 15


What's the benefit to having iMessage turned on that I'm missing out on?

Cross-device syncing. It isn't perfect, but I can start a conversation with my boyfriend on my phone while on the bus, continue it from my MacBook at my desk at work, and continue further with my iPad while in a meeting. Unfortunately the syncing isn't great, and I've had do do some wonky logging in and out to get it to work properly at times.

At the same time, Google chat/hangouts just cannot seem to sync read state across devices so Every Single Time I google chat with someone at my desk, if I'm not the last person to say something, I get a notification bubble on my phone that there's a new message. Even though it's actually just the last thing the other person said in the conversation I was participating in.
posted by misskaz at 7:15 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


But don't most people have limited data, too? I know in theory 200 characters of text is essentially zero data, but in practice does it not use more? What happens if someone is out of the country and you turn off data roaming?
posted by jeather at 7:15 AM on May 15


But don't most people have limited data, too?

They do. In my experience, it's become far more common for plans to have unlimited texting, somewhat negating the advantage of systems like iMessage.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:18 AM on May 15


We encountered this when switching a family member from an iPhone to Android temporarily, while waiting for a replacement. Can confrim that , while updating the setting in https://supportprofile.apple.com may work for some, it fails for many.

Taking action on a per-phone basis for each potential sender seems to be the only completely reliable solution. Of course, this has several problems: receivers with large lists of potential senders, receivers who use SMS to communicate with business contacts (imagine asking a large list of professional contacts to each take a complicated action to work around your technology issues) and receivers who may get messages from new contacts with iDevices.

Somewhere, Apple and/or the carriers are maintaining a list of phone numbers that should be contacted via iMessage instead of SMS. They manage to get new customers onto the list quickly enough when someone moves to an iPhone. They fact that they don't put the same effort into ensuring they can remove people in a timely fashion is uncompetitive and unconscionable.
posted by CHoldredge at 7:25 AM on May 15 [8 favorites]


> Apple apologists are the same everywhere.

That's a bit tautological. Apologists advocate for their platform, whatever platform.

There are a lot of people in this thread chiming in with "I have a bunch of Apple stuff, and this is not awesome," so I don't think there's a lot of excuse-making going on.

I suspect the problem isn't a deliberate lock-in, it's probably a consequence of something like the following:
  1. Apple coordinates with carriers to create a database of phone number / UDID (telephone device ID) relationships.
  2. When a new phone is registered on a carrier's network, the phone number is registered as an Apple device (if it's not registered, it's not an iPhone).
  3. When an iPhone user sends an iMessage, the target phone number is looked up as being an iPhone or not. If the number is on the list, it's sent as an iMessage. If not, it's sent as SMS/MMS.
Note that step 3 is a shortcut: The UDID isn't looked up, because that is gonna be a lot of added overhead (looking up account data on multiple databases held by two, possibly three or more, independent corporations, which holds up the whole process until complete) on the infrastructure every time a message is sent. So there's no sanity-check on the current state of that phone number. Since Apple is the only handset manufacturer (that I know of) that requires manufacturer registration when their devices are purchased, this would means that when an iPhone is replaced with a non-iPhone, there's no inverse of step 2 to deregister a phone number. And thus messages fall in a black hole.

Whether that step has to be taken by the carrier or Apple is hard to tell. Probably both, given how inconsistently various fixes have succeeded. Which is gonna be a nightmare.

> iMessage goes on your data plan and not on your texting plan, so doesn't count against [X texts per month] if you're not unlimited. Also, I believe it's not limited to 140 characters the way SMS is.

Correct and correct.

I have unlimited data (grandfathering ftw) but still pay cash per SMS sent or received. Since well over 99% of my messaging is with my spouse who also has an iPhone, the current setup is optimal for me. Aside from the unlimited message lengths, though, the current iMessage system probably less than optimal for most people.
posted by ardgedee at 7:29 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


I know iMessage will default to SMS if it can't get an iMessage through under certain circumstances. I don't know the trigger, but I've seen it happen. That's what's weird to me about this lockout problem: why doesn't that kick in? I've seen it happen for iMessages sent to an iPhone that didn't deliver. You get a bunch of message exchanged in blue, then one or two in green.

And yeah, the device sync is great for moving between phone/tablet/computer. My husband can "text" me from work and it shows up on my laptop with my IMs of various sorts.

Unhooking your number from iMessage before changing phones seems like basic phone hygiene, but Apple really needs to have a reliable kill switch for people who can't or don't.
posted by immlass at 7:30 AM on May 15


It's not in Apple's corporate spirit to inconvenience users

As someone who needs to replace yet another fucking MagSafe adapter, which has broken in exactly the same manner as every other MagSafe adapter she's ever owned, because they suffer a known issue (hi, class-action lawsuit) that could be easily fixed, I'm gonna say that Apple's "corporate spirit" definitely includes inconveniencing users.

Also: pentalobe. So.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 7:37 AM on May 15 [13 favorites]


Apple took a working system, extended it to include unnecessary functionality and in the process totally broke interoperability.

That is both the least charitable interpretation possible and overblown. They didn't break interoperability, they left a blindspot this guy fell into. What's the unnecessary functionality we're talking about and for whom (or do we use you as the yardstick for everything now)? Not being charged for SMS is still a huge benefit for a certain portion of customers in the US at least. iMessage was announced in mid-2011 which means it was probably originally conceived of in 2010 if not earlier. At that point most carriers were charging ridiculous texting fees in the US.
posted by yerfatma at 7:38 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


> I suspect the problem isn't a deliberate lock-in

To elaborate on that: Apple's deliberate lock-in is to make iMessage so awesome that people prefer it over SMS/MMS, and coerce all their friends and family to buy iPhones and use them forever. The non-deliberate (and inadvertently stronger) lock-in is the lack of a deregistration process. Because, I guess, people were going to use iPhones forever. The oversight is hubristic.

If Apple wanted a real lock-in, they could've done it. iOS would have had separate apps for Messages (with a better UI) and SMS/MMS. They would have made the threshold of effort for sending an SMS greater. Instead, iOS has a single app and single UI (which is now unified with the OS X app) that fluidly switches based on context, built on the assumption that users shouldn't have to notice what channel they're using unless they want to know.
posted by ardgedee at 7:46 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


I know iMessage will default to SMS if it can't get an iMessage through under certain circumstances. I don't know the trigger, but I've seen it happen. That's what's weird to me about this lockout problem: why doesn't that kick in?

That kick-in has to be activated on the sender's iPhone. My wife's iPhone 5 did not have that turned on by default, though my old iPhone 4s did. Though sometimes it doesn't seem to do it even then.
posted by spaltavian at 7:50 AM on May 15


iMessage will not send an SMS to someone that you have previously sent an iMessage to unless you find that setting in the settings app and turn it on.

Also, this wouldn't have been a problem if Apple had opened up the API or released Windows+Android clients like they implied they were going to when iMessage launched.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:55 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Oh, the scoldy thinkpieces from tech columnists if Android or Amazon devices were doing this to converts to Apple. OH, THE SCOLDY THINKPIECES.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 7:55 AM on May 15 [14 favorites]


They didn't break interoperability, they left a blindspot this guy fell into.

Is this a definition of interoperability I am not conversant with ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:00 AM on May 15 [5 favorites]


users shouldn't have to notice what channel they're using unless they want to know

Which they might. As an Android user, I'm periodically gifted with text messages from iPhone-using friends that consist entirely of five to ten little rectangles. Which emoticons those rectangles might represent is left as an exercise for the reader.

I hope I'm safe in assuming that those messages are more "heart, heart, heart, beer, penguin, wink," than, say, "knife, bleeding heart, cop car, ambulance, headstone."
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:06 AM on May 15 [10 favorites]


My contacts in Apple assure me that in all cases like this the fault lies with human error- error in using a non Apple.system. They are working hard to fix this problem, and assure me that once humanity is Upgraded, their problems will cease.
posted by happyroach at 8:21 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


This is not a new problem; here's a user report from 2012 and an article from 2013. This new article is getting a lot of pick-up so maybe it will finally shame Apple into fixing their product design problem.

I like iMessage. I particularly like the way it can route messages to my desktop computer or iPad or whatever. When it works it works well. But they absolutely need to account for the case a user no longer can receive iMessages. It feels like the real bug is in the iPhones's SMS app, which is not smart enough to fall back to SMS if the iMessage won't get through. A related problem is the iPhone SMS app has been terribly unreliable since launch, it's very hard to know whether a message actually went through.

iMessage and IM protocols like Google Talk and MSN Messinger should all be open interoperable standards. It's just terrible that they are proprietary, closed ecosystems. As crappy as SMS is, at least it works well across devices.
posted by Nelson at 8:26 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


It appears that the problem is that each iMessage user has a list of which contacts to use iMessage with, implicitly and hidden. When that user tries to message another user who isn't on iMessage, iMessage appears to check its central name service to see if the recipient is on iMessage, and if the recipient is on iMessage, the recipient is added to the local list.

There seem to be several distinct problems:
- there's no way to remove yourself from the iMessage name service if you don't still have an Apple device.
- there's no way to reliably remove yourself from the iMessage name service if you do have an Apple device.
-removing yourself from the iMessage name service does not force other iMessage users to remove you from the list of iMessage users.
- failing to deliver an iMessage does not force the iMessage user to fall back to SMS, or to remove you from the list of iMessage users.
- the only way to explicitly be removed from an iMessage user's list is for them to jump through ridiculous hoops.

In Apple's defense, I don't think this was intended as lock in.

The underlying problem seems to be that Apple is absolutely shit when it comes to making reliable network ecosystems; be it the very local iOS sync and backup over the network, the remote control application and remote iTunes interaction, iCloud or iMessage.

Apple suffers from a noxious mix of hubris, stubbornness and incompetence means that their networked services some times magically work, and some times just as magically fail to work.
posted by wotsac at 8:28 AM on May 15 [5 favorites]


Steve would have never gone for the Beats thing. Now this.

I miss Apple.
posted by four panels at 8:28 AM on May 15


That kick-in has to be activated on the sender's iPhone.

I have that activated on my phone (it's not that hard to find; it's in the Messages settings) but I can't tell why sometimes a message to my husband fails to send and sometimes kicks over to SMS and sometimes apparently doesn't even so. Context: "texting" my husband to come out for lunch from in front of his office. Complication: corporate wifi networks (including testing networks) in the vicinity that may have the same name/ID as networks my phone automatically logs into elsewhere.
posted by immlass at 8:29 AM on May 15


I prefer Brand X.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:31 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Wait, does this mean that my iphone using friends who swear over and over that they have texted others and have been denounced as liars are now owed an apology?

what a terrible day this is
posted by elizardbits at 8:43 AM on May 15 [5 favorites]


Also, this wouldn't have been a problem if Apple had opened up the API or released Windows+Android clients like they implied they were going to when iMessage launched.

This. The thing iMessage does very well is synch conversations across devices. It's kind of magical to be texting with someone and arrive at your computer and have the entire conversation appear in your desktop messaging app as if you were IMing with them all along. I use Hangouts for SMS on my android phone, and Google doesn't even try to do this. It recently rolled out a new version of Hangouts for the phone that integrates SMS and G+ conversations with the same user so that you can't really tell whether a given message is a chat or an SMS on the phone, but it does not even try to route that to the desktop -- in fact it says it's not going to try when you turn the feature on. So that's something hugely in iMessage's favor.

But of course, it only works inside the little Apple-verse and as such it is mostly useless. And in fact, it's worse that useless, because if you use a global IM service like Trillian to unify your desktop IM, Apple is deliberately telling you to go fuck yourself by refusing to open the iMessage API, so you can't integrate iMessage chats into the one window you use for messaging.

And now it turns out that if you leave the Apple-verse, they add a little extra helping of fuck you.

Like others in this thread, color me disappointed, but not especially surprised. I love Apple's products and use many of them -- but wow their corporate culture has been made entirely of fail lately.
posted by The Bellman at 8:45 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


iMessage and IM protocols like Google Talk and MSN Messinger should all be open interoperable standards. It's just terrible that they are proprietary, closed ecosystems. As crappy as SMS is, at least it works well across devices.

The young folk often wonder why we olds stick with crappy things like email. As pointed out a few days ago, it's insecure, crufty and has many warts. But shit like this, not to point fingers particularly at Apple here either, this is why.

I've survived AIM, MSN, IRC, and now fight with people who want to use Facebook or iMessage or Office Communicator as their primary communication tools. I continue to insist that everything be done as email. I can still use my mbox archive from more than two decades ago. I can't say the same about the chat logs I used to have.
posted by bonehead at 9:01 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


It's an interesting puzzle for Apple: if a formerly active iPhone has been deactivated they should be able to detect that when attempting to deliver a message. The question is whether they have implemented that, and whether it should fail to SMS automatically, possibly incurring charges that one or both users did not intend and aren't expecting.

If the recipient has ever used the iMessage desktop app, then as far as Apple's concerned there's still a valid and free channel to deliver messages on, so failing to SMS might not be indicated.

In the case where the iPhone is deactivated and no iMessage desktop use has ever occurred, then failing automatically to SMS would be reasonable.

But the sender might be surprised by the charge and complain that "I only message this person because I thought it was free; it always was before. Why didn't Apple notify me that there would suddenly be a charge from my carrier?"

The problem is that Apple didn't think it through. What the industry needs is to settle on an open standard for internet-based texting with SMS fallback. But given that the carriers in the US spent ten years trying to restrict SMS to their own walled gardens which prevented us from participating in the steamy wet texting orgy that the rest of the world was enjoying, I'm not going to hold my breath.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:03 AM on May 15


Apple's nearly as bad as 90s Microsoft when it comes to being anti-standards.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:05 AM on May 15


if a formerly active iPhone has been deactivated they should be able to detect that when attempting to deliver a message

In general, iMessage is really bad at detecting whether a message was successfully delivered. It's a remarkably unreliable messaging service. To some extent its competitors are also bad, but I think iMessage is even more complex because it's common for a user to have multiple devices the iMessage could have been delivered to.
posted by Nelson at 9:32 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Now where's that checklist of Characteristics Associated with Cultic Groups? Ah, there it is, the last item:

- Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:43 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


People who denounce Apple loyalists as cultists are just as bad as Apple loyalists, if not worse.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:47 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


yerfatma: "They didn't break interoperability, they left a blindspot this guy fell into"

It's a completely moronic blind spot. It's not as if presence monitoring is a thing that is difficult to achieve even at large scale. You turn your iPhone on, it pings an iMessage server saying "hey, I'm here and my phone number is whatever!" You turn it off, it pings an iMessage server saying "hey, I'm going away" right before it sends a similar message to the carrier's network. (this is why, generally, if you turn off your phone correctly rather than just battery pulling or letting it die your calls will go immediately to voicemail instead of ringing for a while).

Then, those iMessage servers can say "hmm, Joe's phone hasn't logged on in a while, guess they're SMS-only for now!"

This is not hard stuff. Every (other) IM client does it. Every cell network does it. Fuck, many broadband connections work in broadly similar terms as far as keeping track of who is connected to what and how.
posted by wierdo at 10:17 AM on May 15


Huh, one of my coworkers had the same problem, except she had just switched from an iphone to a new iphone. Presumably in that case Apple actually cared enough to fix things, but I haven't followed up. All I know is it screwed us out of bonus points on the teambuilding scavenger hunt we were doing.
posted by ckape at 10:37 AM on May 15


the only dog i have in this fight is my iPhone 4 and the awe at the passion these threads inspire
posted by angrycat at 10:44 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


I wonder if Adam actually has a different problem from the one people are assuming (the phone number capture.)

In the early iMessage, it was idiotic about what it would use as your Caller ID, and often plumped for your apple ID - an email address - rather than your phone number. Then iPhones you contacted would use that to contact you, rather than your phone number.

If this is right, he probably *has* successfully removed his phone number from iMessage, but what's happening is one of these three:

1. Contact opens existing conversation with Adam and sends him a message. iPhone sends that to his apple ID email address and happily reports delivery. Never even checks phone number to see if it has iMessage.

2. Contact starts new conversation with Adam using contact card. iPhone checks contact card, finds email address that is activated for iMessage, uses that. SMS number never checked.

3. Contact types in phone number in new conversation. iPhone looks up number, finds card in address book, spots active iMessage email, sends to that instead of iPhone.

I've dropped him a note suggesting this might be it. God knows how you fix it, short of deleting your Apple ID, which is near-impossible. The only other way to force the device to look him up again is to cycle iMessage, which is obviously unworkable.
posted by bonaldi at 10:51 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Just for an anecdote:

I switched from an iPhone to an Android back in December. I assumed there would be problems and so did a bunch of internet reading and even asked you fine folks what I needed to be mindful of. I had iMessage turned off well before activating my new phone. I STILL occasionally have iMessage-related problems. My mom and my brother (who both have iPhones) both have to have iMessage turned off in order to group text with me, and even then sometimes one or the other of their phones will just stop messaging me so I only get 2/3rds of the conversation. If my brother sends two photos of his puppy in the same message, I don't get any photos of the puppy. It's annoying.

tl;dr Even when you do it "right" and take all of the correct steps, iMessage still blows turds.
posted by phunniemee at 11:23 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


I know at least three people that have had this exact problem. I've seen it myself in sending what I thought were iMessages to a friend that I didn't know switched to Android, which he never got. I swear I saw a nearly identical write-up of this last summer on a tumblr blog somewhere and it made the rounds and I assumed it must have been fixed by Apple. Strangely, it doesn't seem to be the case, since this is still a problem. Apple needs to fix this.
posted by mathowie at 12:06 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


So, Apple took a working system, extended it to include unnecessary functionality and in the process totally broke interoperability.

So iMessage is the 2010's version of Internet Explorer 6?
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:06 PM on May 15


What the industry needs is to settle on an open standard for internet-based texting with SMS fallback.

Didn't iMessage support XMPP at one point (but no longer)? Or am I thinking of iChat/Messages?
posted by mrbill at 1:12 PM on May 15


What I find the most interesting is that everyone is complaining about the surface level annoyance of this problem, but no one is really bothering to look into the details of just how insane this problem actually is, if you get beyond trying to blame Apple for deciding to try and offer a service to their users utilizing a unique subset of communication protocols.

SMS is fucking horrifically complicated, in and of itself. I really do not think it was ever designed or engineered to be as heavily used as most consumers have ended up utilizing it. From the Wikipedia article itself:

Unlike dedicated texting systems like the Simple Network Paging Protocol and Motorola's ReFLEX protocol,[51] SMS message delivery is not guaranteed, and many implementations provide no mechanism through which a sender can determine whether an SMS message has been delivered in a timely manner.[52] SMS messages are generally treated as lower-priority traffic than voice, and various studies have shown that around 1% to 5% of messages are lost entirely, even during normal operation conditions,[53] and others may not be delivered until long after their relevance has passed.[54] The use of SMS as an emergency notification service in particular has been starkly criticized.[55]

So, while it works most of the time (greater than 95%), you still have that small percentage of lost messages, no matter what your phone is, iPhone or otherwise. The fact that iMessages tries to route around SMS and utilize a more robust and actually functional internet protocol versus SMS, should really be lauded. But much like the AIM/MSN wars of old, and the current GTalk, Facebook Messaging, every other internet start-up trying to get bought by facebook or yahoo or google blah blah blah; we are stuck waiting for one company to actually provide a better mobile phone short messaging standard that has real interoperability with every handset available on the market. Sadly, SMS is the current dinosaur, and since the back-end that actually makes it function is managed and controlled by the mobile telephone companies, good luck seeing any kind of forward motion there.

As HuronBob notes above, in order for his problem to be fixed, he had to contact Verizon tech support, and they had to contact Apple, which probably means that there is an issue between the gateways that allow iMessages servers to send SMS messages over the SMS system. I can remember in the mid-2000's having to try and troubleshoot an e-mail to SMS gateway for a corporate client and the utter nightmare of how bad the software and systems used were. I can't imagine how much the iMessages programmers must love being called stupid when they have to integrate a messaging protocol that requires AT Hayes Command codes when most modern devices don't have a way for AT commands to access the devices memory.
posted by daq at 2:01 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Stuck in the iMessage abyss? Here’s how to get your texts back: new GigaOm story that seems to have actual useful new technical info. Summary: i you still have the Apple devices, remove every single one from the iMessage service. If you don't, hope anyone trying to message you does complex things or else wait 90 days for a timeout. Also contains a link to Apple's official support document which basically requires you still have your devices.

Also related: Facebook Acquiring WhatsApp for $19 Billion. One way to work around proprietary vendor message services is to convince all your friends to use yet another one. A valuable idea, at least once.
posted by Nelson at 2:15 PM on May 15


SMS is fucking horrifically complicated, in and of itself. I really do not think it was ever designed or engineered to be as heavily used as most consumers have ended up utilizing it. From the Wikipedia article itself:

But this problem doesn't have anything to do with SMS? The issue is that iPhones are sending messages via iMessage to numbers that are no longer iPhones.
posted by zixyer at 2:21 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]


People who denounce Apple loyalists as cultists are just as bad as Apple loyalists, if not worse.

The important thing is that you've found a way to feel superior to both.
posted by kafziel at 6:29 PM on May 15 [7 favorites]


The real salient aspect of that particular xkcd is how it manages to do the same thing it's declaiming.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:29 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


The real salient aspect of that particular xkcd is how it manages to do the same thing it's declaiming.

Always read the alt text.
posted by grouse at 9:40 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Maybe his friends stopped texting him since he switched away from iPhone.
posted by mangasm at 5:32 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


actually, this may explain why i'm not getting my mom's texts. hmm.
posted by angrycat at 8:05 AM on May 16


> Didn't iMessage support XMPP at one point (but no longer)? Or am I thinking of iChat/Messages?

iChat/iMessages/Messages still allows users to set up accounts on Jabber/XMPP.

Google Talk dropped XMPP support last year.
posted by ardgedee at 8:24 AM on May 16


daq: "SMS is fucking horrifically complicated, in and of itself. I really do not think it was ever designed or engineered to be as heavily used as most consumers have ended up utilizing it. From the Wikipedia article itself:"

Funny, I get delivery reports for every message I send, so I know if it went through or not. Ironic that at&t's SMS gateway will happily send back delivery reports for users on other networks that request it even though it strips the delivery report flag from outgoing messages from at&t users, but that's how it is.

Now, those CDMA providers that have some fake not-SMS text messaging thing that happens to sometimes interoperate with SMS, those guys may just be as fucked up as you claim. Those of us with phones that work on networks that aren't broken, though, don't really have issues with it.

(MMS, on the other hand, is something of a poorly engineered piece of shit; it's just too bad SMS doesn't support multiple recipients)
posted by wierdo at 9:03 AM on May 16


Class action lawsuit filed against Apple over lost iMessages
posted by Nelson at 1:52 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]


The lawsuits have begun.
posted by Poldo at 1:54 PM on May 16


Interestingly, the apple page for this issue now explicitly says that unregistering on https://supportprofile.apple.com/MySupportProfile.do will not cure the problem
posted by CHoldredge at 3:55 PM on May 16


Apple acknowledges iMessage bug and indicates that a fix will be released in the future
posted by exogenous at 8:36 AM on May 22


4 Myths About Apple Design, From An Ex-Apple Designer: What's life really like designing for Apple? An alum shares what he learned during his seven years in Cupertino.
posted by homunculus at 2:24 PM on May 23


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