Apple’s iMessage system is a model of convenience when connecting between iPhones. But trying to leave the ecosystem is the very definition of horror.
The Internet is filled with tales of frustration from those who have traded in their iPhone for an Android phone only to find their text messages trapped within Apple’s cloud. The issue arises when an iPhone customer trades in his or her phone for, say, a Galaxy S5, but keeps the same phone number that Apple’s messaging system recognizes as an iPhone.
A recent server glitch made the problem worse, rendering moot one of Apple’s key methods for trying to remedy the issue.
The iMessage problem is now the subject of legal action by a California woman seeking class-action status for a suit against Apple. She charges that Apple’s message-grabbing ways are depriving former customers of the ability to get full value from their wireless service after they give up their iPhone. The suit, filed last week, claims Apple’s actions violate California’s unfair competition law and also interfere with a wireless carrier’s abilities to deliver its promised service to consumers.
Apple declined to comment on the litigation. It is, however, well aware of the challenges customers have faced when seeking to exit the iMessage universe.
The issue dates back to 2011, when iMessage was introduced with Apple’s iOS 5 smartphone operating system.
iMessage relies on Apple’s messaging system to intercept a text message sent to another iOS device and re-routes it through its servers rather than sending it via the wireless carriers as a standard SMS or MMS message.
The benefits of iMessage include bypassing a wireless carrier’s text messaging charges, enabling the ability to tell when a message is read or delivered and to send a message simultaneously to all of one’s iOS and Mac devices. However, Apple’s system has proved problematic in that in order to work properly, it needs to have an accurate knowledge of which phone numbers are actually associated with iPhones.
And for those who leave, what was once a series of added features turns into a headache.
While it isn’t going into details on when or how the upcoming iOS release will improve things, Apple is certainly hoping to have a solution once that is in place.
Until then, users can avoid problems if they turn off iMessage on their iPhone and uncheck the phone numbers from any other Apple devices on which they are using iMessage before switching to a new non-Apple device. However, this requires some planning and still may not a guarantee a smooth transition.
Apple also has a means to try to remove users from its iMessage system after they have switched off their iPhones, but this process has a more spotty track record. The recent server bug worsened things significantly, leaving Apple’s support staff temporarily unable to use their standard methods for trying to deal with iMessage problems.
“We recently fixed a server-side iMessage bug which was causing an issue for some users, and we have an additional bug fix in a future software update,” Apple told Re/code in a statement. “For users still experiencing an issue, please contact AppleCare.”