back to article BEHOLD Apple's BENEVOLENCE! iMessage txt BLACK HOLE finally fixed

People ditching their iPhones until now faced a rather irritating problem: Apple's iMessage service assumes that all text messages to their phone numbers should use the company's over-the-top iMessage app. Thus, messages intended for an iPhone have failed to land when folks move to rival phones – as the SMSs disappeared into …

  1. eSeM


    More of I design feature I would have thought.

    1. Dieter Haussmann

      Re: Bug????

      If you turn on - use iMessage instead of SMS - it should be obvious you need to turn it back off. "If you still own an iPhone, all you need to do is turn off iMessage." However, if you lost your iPhone and say used a spare dumb phone/Android the a few years ago the iMessages would fail and would be resent as SMS so they would arrive albeit maybe a few hours late. More recently though, they would not.

      1. Lallabalalla

        Re: Bug????

        True, but people forget - there's so much else to worry about when changing ecosystems.

  2. badger31

    F#ck me!

    They've only just fixed this? They took their sweet time over that one.

    A couple of years ago I ditched (well, gave to the missus) my iphone 4 for an android phone. Thankfully I had long ago turned iMessage off, on the grounds that it was shit. Back then, at least, it would spend about an hour trying to send a message as an iMessage before giving up and sending it as a text message. SMS is and should be basically instant. Maybe if you have limited SMSs on your contract/PAYG iMessage would be tempting, but considering how much a contract on an iphone is already, a huge bundle of SMSs is practically nothing on top. I bet it wouldn't be hard, if not already done, to forward any SMSs to your other apple devices as an iMessage, if that's what you want.

    And yet despite all this, every now and then, I'm actually tempted by the iPhone 6. I went to look at one in an Apple store and it was very nice. They have finally made it rounded again, so it would no longer cut holes in all my trouser pockets. I can't see Steve Jobs letting them get away with a sticky out camera, though, that's far from perfect. Maybe the iPhone 6s ...

    1. Salts

      Re: F#ck me!

      I also looked at the iPhone 6 I don't like it, just too big, I will stick with the 5s it works for me.

      1. CheesyTheClown

        Re: F#ck me!

        Agreed. When I heard the 6 was coming, I decided to see what it would be like to have one. So, I walked around for two hours a day with a toaster held to the side of my head to try it.

        I came to the realization that no only did it look almost as stupid as using a tablet computer as a telephone (thing jumbo galaxy thing), but it was just plain uncomfortable.

        I decided to stay with the phone which actually fits in my pocket.

        1. karlp

          Re: F#ck me!

          I had been on an 4s and felt like needing an upgrade. When I saw the 6 was bigger than the 5s I was concerned.

          I pulled the dimensions of the device and made wood samples in the shop. The "+" model was out the door immediately, but the regular model didn't bother me after walking around with it for a day.

          I ended up with a 64GB version and while I quite fancy it now. I do truly hope that it doesn't get larger again.

          Karl P

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: F#ck me!

      I find iMessage confusing on iOS8: you can never quite tell when it has picked SMS or not - I have the impression that an iMessage sent without available bandwidth basically ends up sitting there now until it sees a data link.

      But hey, I use Threema now. I know when it gets there, it doesn't steal my address book like WhatsApp does (it hashes it so give you matches) and it's safe, even between iOS and Android. Suits me better, to be honest.

      1. Cliff

        Re: F#ck me!

        Goodness me - that's one of the most retarded bugs I've ever heard of. If it takes years it solve, thank the heavens I'm not in that ecosystem.

        1. Handy Plough

          Re: F#ck me!

          I'm not sure it took years to actually solve, more they just couldn't be arsed...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: F#ck me!

        "I find iMessage confusing on iOS8: you can never quite tell when it has picked SMS or not"

        iMessages are coloured blue, SMSes are coloured green. Doesn't seem that confusing to me.

      3. Lallabalalla

        Re: F#ck me!

        iMessages are still blue and text messages green though

    3. karlp

      Re: F#ck me!

      FYI: this certainly hasn't been affecting everyone, Out of my clients (with lots of Apple kit, and lots of people who swap sims about) only one has ever had this problem. 5 minutes on the phone sorted it (and this was quite some time ago).

      The website probably should have been there in the first place, granted, but whatever system they use to deal with it "automatically" seems to work in most all of the cases, and the customer support for fixing it when the website didn't exist seemed to be solid as well.

      Karl P

    4. Lallabalalla

      Re: F#ck me!

      I've never had a problem with iMessage except from occasionally in shopping centers for some reason, but the handy "send as text message" option always does the trick.

      I now have an iPhone 6 and it's a really nice jump up from the 4. Fast, slim, light, great battery, screen size and so on. I'm not worried about the sticky-out camera as I keep it in one of those leather flip cases that holds a couple of credit cards, and the leather's easily thick enough to protect it, as would any kind of bumper or skin be.

      Incidentally, I think there is one massive advantage to having the lens stick out a bit like that .... when using the camera with the phone in its case, when the flash is on, you don't get that truly awful lens flare that I used to get on the 4, which made taking flash photos impossible without wresting it out of the case first, which is always a PITA.

  3. returnmyjedi

    If the problem is that one cannot receive texts after away from the fruity church, how does a process that involves sending a text help solve the problem for those who have moved on due to their iDevice breaking or such? Or is the text that Apple sends automatically sent outside of the iMessage system? (Genuine question, not trolling).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The problem isn't that you can't receive texts after moving to a non-Apple phone - it's that messages to you from other Apple users continue to be sent by iMessage (hence you can't receive them), not by SMS. So yes, Apple send the code to you by SMS

    2. Gamberini

      The article did say ...

      The web-based tool is simplicity itself: iPhone refugees just give their phone number, then punch in the transfer code provided by TXT.

  4. an it guy

    hang on

    so a former user of apple has to tell apple they went elsewhere, and cupertino can keep stats of this? can you imagine coming back and they tell you that they give you a discount (ha ha) because you're a long lost soul?

    Since when is this a good use of personal data? And since when did this become acceptable.

    Apple got more creepy when they automatically sent an email to a long-dead email address* when I had to buy something in store based on recognising a credit card number and I'd last bought something off them over 5 years ago. Clever, yes. creepy? Yes as well

    * the email address was on the receipt.

    1. Handy Plough

      Re: hang on

      Love how you try and make this creepy. Your 'creepy' example isn't really either.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: hang on

      When you buy stuff in their retail store they ask for an email address for a receipt. It's not hard to look up this email address and see if you have an Apple account. If you don't they still associate the two pieces of info ready for when you do sign up for an account.

      It's not "creepy", your credit card number is already used as a "unique key" in supermarket data mining systems. They don't even need you to use a loyalty card to string all your purchases together.

    3. Lallabalalla

      Re: hang on

      You're complaining that a computer remembered your registered email address so that you didn't have to? I thought that was what computers (well, databases) were *for*?

  5. Slx

    Who said anything about "losing" them?

    They are basically just intercepting and capturing texts.

    I am surprised the carriers have been so laid back about it to be honest. I would expect Apple would go completely mental if a carrier were to intercept traffic to some iService in a similar manner.

    Siphoning off texts in a non-transparent manner isn't really something I think is very acceptable from a transparency or data protection point of view.

    When you send an SMS you expect it to go by SMS unless you instruct the device to do otherwise.

    iMesssge is handy and seamless but just very strangely implemented.

    Also why do Apple still remove functionality like delivery reports (a feature available for over 20 years) from SMS. Every other handset except iPhone supports this very basic and fundamental GSM feature that has been around since the dawn of the GSM system.

    1. Steve Todd

      Um, no

      The text app on an iPhone checks to see if the contact you are sending to is on iMessage and sends via TCP/IP if they are. If not then it goes the SMS route. Nothing is intercepted and you can still chose to override iMessage and send as SMS.

      Messages sent via iMessage are shown in blue, SMS in green, so you know how the message was sent BTW.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They're not intercepting messages. iMessage is an instant message service that resorts to SMS for non-iOS users.

      When your friend sends a message using iMessage it checks Apple's records to see if you are an iOS user, if you are then it sends the message using iMessage servers. If they aren't it sends a text instead.

      You need to remove the record that says you are an iOS user from Apple's system to force it to send an SMS instead.

      1. Steve Todd

        Not quite true. Press and hold on a blue message that hasn't been received and it gives you the option to send as SMS.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No reason to have to carry on suffering iPhone now.

    You can easily switch to a premium Android handset and start enjoying the benefits and freedom.

    1. Handy Plough

      Re: No reason to have to carry on suffering iPhone now.

      Either way, we'll have to suffer your anonymous witticisms...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No reason to have to carry on suffering iPhone now.

      Plus the benefits of a godawful UI design.

  7. Fab De Marco

    Hangouts is Googles iMessage

    And I quite like the way they separate it. Before you type your message the input box has a greyed out message on it; either Send SMS to [phone number] or Send Hangouts message. you can change this by pressing on the icon in front of the message. Better yet. If the user on the other end of the conversation doesn't use hangouts. you can only send a text. It works. Plus it becomes your hub for video chat and VOIP too, though I haven't played with voice calls yet when my phone does a perfectly good job of that already.

    What I do't understand, and this is cross platform, why is there so much buzz about the ability to save your text messages when you switch devices? Or even make text messages an important part of a backup. This goes for iPhone and android users.

    If there is any important information sent to me via text then I wouldn't really like to keep it in such a fragile ecosystem. If you need the info then simply copy paste it, put it in notes, email it, dropbox, google drive. lots of other places but not you SMS inbox?!

    I suppose there is always the sentimental factor. Maybe it's because my wife and I no longer send soppy text messages to each other that I have become jaded to the whole thing.

    1. macjules

      Re: Hangouts is Googles iMessage

      Much more sensible option. I try to avoid using the iMessage app where possible and stick to using WhatsApp instead.

    2. M Gale

      Re: Hangouts is Googles iMessage

      Hangouts is part of G+ though. So thanks but no thanks.

      If I wanted a Facebook account, I'd have a Facebook account.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Even AIM was better than iMessage

    Its crazy crazy world when this messenger in the world has to resort to SMS for up to 90% of recipients.

    On a saner planet that apple would be considered a little rank and mouldy .

    Get the iMessage, nope I got an SMS.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hear also when you stop using Skype all your messages stay in Skype and do not magically transfer as SMS messages as Skype assume you are talking to other Skype users. The bastards. Same goes for Whats-app.

    Honestly El Reg - do you people actually attempt to comprehend how things work rather than just diving straight in with the anti-apple diatribe? If you don't want your messages going via iMessage, Settings -> Messages -> iMessage -> Off. Was that so hard?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Was that so hard?

      "If you don't want your messages going via iMessage, Settings -> Messages -> iMessage -> Off. Was that so hard?"

      I think it's you that are missing the point.

      It's difficult to adjust the settings if (for example) the iPhone was accidentally dropped overboard and replaced with a non-iPhone phone. And it's not 'going', it's the incoming messages from other iPhone users that are the issue.

      I can't explain it any simpler. Keep re-reading it until it clicks.

      1. Handy Plough

        Re: Was that so hard?

        So you resort to an edge case to patronise. Well played! The real issue here seems to be a bit of sloppy design on Apple's part (really, they should have thought it through more. Yes Apple, people do switch the other way!) and a bit of stupidity and laziness on the typical end users part. When I've swapped devices in the past, even iPhone to iPhone, I make sure that services are turned off and then I wipe the device. Not hard really. Did I say a bit? I meant a lot.

        1. Kristian Walsh

          Re: Was that so hard?

          "stupidity and laziness on the typical end users part"

          There is such a thing as user stupidity, but it's very rare. Mostly, problems are down to developer stupidity in assuming that everyone who will ever use your software actually gives a shit about software, or computers. They pay money to developers precisely because they don't want to give a shit about this stuff.

          To you and me, it's obvious that you need to explicitly disconnect the iMessage service, because you and I understand how it's likely to work, and can then ask ourselves "what would happen if my number is still in the lookup tables when I no longer have this phone?".

          Apple's software should have automatically de-registered the device from iMessage when the holder of that device does a system wipe, or when the SIM in the device changes (I suspect it does the latter already, so why not the former?). Then, somewhere in Cupertino, a database process would spot that a given subscriber number no longer has any iDevice UIDs attached to it, and thus delete the iMessage record. That would be the simple, obvious and transparent process. Personally, I'd also age the records used to determine if a number is still in the service, so that a UID mapping for a device that hasn't checked in in a long time would be suspended until it reappears: that would [eventually] fix the problem of a phone falling overboard.

          Apple's solution is a kludge, but its one that benefits them by making the problem look like it's not theirs ("Hey I can't believe your crappy LG/Lumia/Samsung can't even receive SMS - look at these I sent you yesterday, and you never got any of them. Man, you should have stayed with Apple")

          1. Handy Plough

            Re: Was that so hard?

            In this day and age, I'd argue that it's a matter of common sense to turn services off and wipe the device. I attribute the lack of people doing this to laziness rather than stupidity.

    2. ACcc

      "If you don't want your messages going via iMessage, Settings -> Messages -> iMessage -> Off. Was that so hard?"

      If they don't know the phone is doing this (and from the class action suit it would appear many people don't) and is doing this by default then for most non-technical users (and let's be honest that covers 90+% of people with any type of phone) they may wonder why the messages are different colours, but most won't realise this 'feature' exists until they try to change phones.

      Honestly - I don't own an iPhone, but my wife does, and the only reason I know that this happens is through news on El Reg. I suspect the majority of (non-techie) users assume that if they respond to a text message in what appears to be a text messaging app it will reply with a text message.

      Would be interesting to run a survey to see how many (average/non-reg-reading) iDevice users are aware of this functionality, and more importantly are aware of the pit-falls.

  10. Humpty McNumpty


    This is a lame cludge tho' surely. Most users who this affects, will still be unaware as to why text from their friends fail to arrive so won't know they need to use this tool. To my mind the fix needs to be automated so that iMessage "de-registers" numbers automatically if they have not signed into the service recently.

    I do know someone who will be very happy this fix exists however.

  11. ponceyMinge

    You guys...

    are so fucking witty.

  12. Yugguy

    Was it really crying out to be messed about with?

    The world of tech is completely filled with stuff like this, that used to work absolutely fine thanks and is now far more complicated than it needed to be and was in no way crying out to be fucked about with.

    Bit like the indicators on a Vauxhall Vectra.

  13. Slx

    I'd still call this intercepting SMS messages as it's not transparent at all.

    Many users don't realise they're sending iMessages and think they're SMS.

  14. Randy Hudson

    A PROPER fix

    …would be:

    [If recipient is an active* iMessage user]

    1) Sender's iPhone sends the message to Apple

    2) Apple always dispatches the messages to the PHONE over SMS, but would still use TCP/IP to push messages to non-phone clients like OS X, iPad, etc.

    AFAIK, it is trivial for Apple to spoof an SMS to a phone and make it look like it originated from the sender's phone. The receiving phone could still color the bubble blue based on the sender being an "active iMessage user".

    *within some timeout period.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I must be just lucky, but ...

    All these problems! I've got an iPhone. I've passed one on to someone else. Various family members have changed from iPhone to Android and to Windows. Others, friends and colleagues have moved in both directions. None of us seem to get this problem, in two different couintries. I even notice that, when iPhone correspondents go out of wifi range, messages suddenly seem to have gone over SMS, including when abroad.

    As for using Whatsapp as an alternative - just post your details on Facebook or Twitter to cut out the middle man. Oh, you use Google tools. Carry on.

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