It's no secret that Apple is actively trying to keep you inside its ecosystem of devices and services. Dating back to the launch of iTunes, the company has spun a sticky spider web designed to attract and ensnare happy customers. Apple's strategy is particularly evident when it comes to iMessage—a free messaging alternative exclusively for iDevices—but it's starting to look like the company may have inadvertently broken text messaging for good with no idea how to put it back together again.
Former Lifehacker editor-in-chief Adam Pash shared a blog post today detailing his efforts to fix his SMS after switching from an iPhone to Android. Like plenty of other people, the switch didn't go as smoothly as advertised even after following Apple's advice and switching off iMessage before swapping out his SIM. Messages sent to him from other people's iPhones were swallowed still up into what Pash calls "iMessage purgatory."
Personally, I'd say it feels more like a black hole, because I'm going through the same experience.
Eventually, Pash called Apple directly seeking help, and this is where it gets interesting. An Apple representative admitted that the company is aware of the problem, and while an engineering team is working on the issue they're pretty much"clueless" when it comes to how to finding a fix. For now, there's no reliable solution, though Pash notes you can fix the problem on an iPhone-by-iPhone basis.
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.
Last month I made the switch from my iPhone to an Android phone as well, partially because I wanted to try out Google's mobile OS for myself but also because I was anxious to upgrade to a bigger screen. Like Pash, and plenty of other people, I've run into similar iMessage issues. Some friends can't text me at all anymore. Others have to resend the message by SMS manually after it automatically tries, and fails, using Apple's service. It's not the end of the world, but it's still annoying and I'm a little scared to find out how many text messages I've actually missed in the past month or so.
So how can Apple fix its iMessage issue?
Well, if the company's own engineers can't figure it out I doubt I'll be able to solve the problem. I do have a few ideas though. Apple could simply give in and release an iMessage app for Android, which would pretty much take over Google's own options if it worked as a default SMS app as well. If iMessage is somehow tied to the iPhone's hardware this might not be possible. Another solution could be some sort of service where iPhone owners switching to Android can request Apple delete their iMessage accounts, though that only works if iMessage data is stored on central servers rather than individual phones. Maybe you could login to iCloud, for example, and remove iMessage entirely; that way you wouldn't have to call support.
If either of these solutions are possible Apple's probably already aware of them, though that doesn't mean it's necessarily hard at work on a fix. iMessage purgatory is a pretty clever way to keep customers from trading in their iPhones for Android, even if it means a bit of bad press for the company now and then.
Apple's messaging service is in desperate need of an update in general though (don't even get me started on what's wrong with group messaging) and if we're lucky that update will include a fix for the iMessage-Android issue as well.