iMessage – the makings of a great idea but still needs some work

This content is 13 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my experiences with iCloud and photostreams. Well, now I’d like to touch on another iOS-related topic: iMessage.

Released to much fanfare about how it will save us all money because we won’t have to pay carriers for SMS, over here in the UK most packages include so many text messages that SMS is pretty close to free anyway…

But iMessage has a problem. It actually gets in the way of message transmission.

Last week I wanted to send a message to my Manager. SMS was fine – I just needed to say I was running a few minutes late for our meeting and I would call him shortly. That’s what SMS is good for, right? Except that we’re both iPhone users, so iOS tried to send the message via iMessage. For some reason it couldn’t do that so, after five minutes, it timed out and and sent the message as an SMS instead. Except by then it was too late – SMS is an unreliable transport (i.e. there is no guarantee of delivery) but it’s generally immediate (as long as the device is in range and switched on). Unfortunately, iMessage’s delay meant that my Manager didn’t get my “running late” message until it was, literally, too late.

Send As SMS is an option in iOS, but it’s only a fallback when iMessage is enabled [later iOS updates allow you to elect to send as text message]. Meanwhile iMessage has lots of potential for group collaboration and asynchronous conversations. I actually think Apple is onto something with a unified client for various message transports (now they need to add email, social networks, etc. into the mix) but it needs a manual override option too…

[Updated 5/2/15 to comment re: later iOS releases allowing “send as text message”]

6 thoughts on “iMessage – the makings of a great idea but still needs some work

  1. You aren’t kidding… But for more troublesome reasons than that… The number of arguments I have had with my partner through :
    I’ll be late home for dinner…
    Can you do….
    While you are at the shops can you buy …

    And obviously, even if they do send (which they won’t when you are on the phone I have noticed, so no good for when you are on a call and messaging someone to say “I’ll call you back I am on the phone”, to the fact that they also arrive somewhat randomly too…

    I mean SMS’s are the IT equivalent of UDP… However SMS’s [iMessages] are the IT equivalent of I dunno, trying to push a square peg into a round black hole…

    Humm – going to twitter / FB that…



  2. I guessed that – I’ve edited your comment to say what you meant to say.

    Good point about not being able to iMessage mid-call (due to restrictions of using data networks in parallel with voice)… and you’re right about the comparison of SMS with UDP – I nearly included that in my original post – wish I had now!

  3. Guess what, I’m going to blow Windows Phone 7’s trumpet again ;)
    With the 7.5 update, the changed the SMS feature to “threads”.
    Threads are a combination of SMS, Messenger chat and Facebook chat.
    It sounds a bit confusing at first but it has been working out really well for me.
    If a user is on facebook (or signed in to messenger) it will direct the message there and if they are “offline” it will send an SMS. At any time you can use the “switch” button to change instantly to a different delivery method. There’s a short and not very useful demo on the Windows Phone YouTube Channel (

    It’s transparent, integrated and works!

  4. I switched iMessage off after I discovered it was the iPhone’s default and couldn’t be changed on the fly. I never asked to use it, I don’t want to have to plough through all the T&Cs to find out whether Apple keeps and analyses my messages and I don’t like the fact that you can’t change it at the time you’re typing. Sometimes, as you said in an earlier comment, Apple over-simplifies their UI resulting in a perceived lack of fine control for the user.

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