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

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”]