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Apple pledges to fix longstanding iMessage bug in upcoming iOS update

post #1 of 85
Thread Starter 
While a bug preventing users from exiting the iMessage ecosystem has prevailed since iOS 5, Apple this week formally acknowledged the issue, and has said that a fix is in the works.

iMessage


Apple's iMessage system uses an iPhone owner's cell phone number as a form of identification, hijacking would-be text messages sent from another iOS device and turning them into proprietary iMessages. This allows Apple to send messages to non-smartphone devices, such as an iPad or Mac, and also to avoid carrier text messaging services, which can be costly and don't allow features like read receipts.

The problem, dating back to 2011, occurs when a user switches from an iPhone to a non-iOS device without formally disconnecting their phone number from the iMessage service. Users have discovered that people on iPhones attempting to send them a text message are still having the messages intercepted by Apple and sent as iMessages -- messages they cannot receive if they are on an Android phone, Windows Phone, or some other platform.

The problem became even worse recently with a server-side glitch, and last week Apple was hit with a lawsuit from a woman who said iPhone users are "penalized and injured" when switching away from iMessage. In the wake of that lawsuit, Apple issued a statement to Re/code this week, saying that the server-side iMessage bug has been fixed, while an iOS update is in the works to further address the issue.

iMessages


Apple didn't give a timetable as for when or how the problem will be resolved, but users affected by the bug were encouraged to contact AppleCare in an attempt to fix. And those switching away from the iPhone can plan ahead by turning off iMessage on the device, and deactivating their cell phone number from any Mac or iPad that might also be running iMessage.

Unlike Google Hangouts or BlackBerry's BBM, which can be accessed on competing devices via third-party applications, Apple's iMessage service remains exclusive to Apple devices, much like its FaceTime video chat standard and copyright protected video content from iTunes.
post #2 of 85
Sounds like a feature to me.
post #3 of 85
the biggest problem is not switching phones. the much bigger problem is when travelling internationally and turning off data roaming to avoid the high roaming charges. normal txt messages would still work, but iMessages get lost and are not delivered!
post #4 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

The problem, dating back to 2011, occurs when a user switches from an iPhone to a non-iOS device without formally disconnecting their phone number from the iMessage service. Users have discovered that people on iPhones attempting to send them a text message are still having the messages intercepted by Apple and sent as iMessages -- messages they cannot receive if they are on an Android phone, Windows Phone, or some other platform.

So, basically, it took Apple 3 years to see that Android and Windows Phone OS suck. Got it¡
post #5 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by sflagel View Post

the biggest problem is not switching phones. the much bigger problem is when travelling internationally and turning off data roaming to avoid the high roaming charges. normal txt messages would still work, but iMessages get lost and are not delivered!

With the setting enabled that will send it as a SMS if iMessage is unavailable?
post #6 of 85
Wait, I thought this was just something that had to be turned off in settings. So there actually is a problem that Apple needs to fix?
post #7 of 85
So, everyone that was saying that you just need to do this or that and it'll work were wrong. Apple has admitted that there is an issue just like all the other rational people were saying.
post #8 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by markbyrn View Post

Sounds like a feature to me.

 

It's a bug.

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post #9 of 85
Opening up iMessage and Facetime as 3rd party apps on non-iOS devices isn't a bad idea.
post #10 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prince Brian View Post

Opening up iMessage and Facetime as 3rd party apps on non-iOS devices isn't a bad idea.

 

Agreed. Hangouts works well across the platforms for my family, but I'd be happy to use iMessage and Facetime as well.

post #11 of 85
This is sooo Microsofty. Netscape anyone? lol.gif
 
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post #12 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post


With the setting enabled that will send it as a SMS if iMessage is unavailable?

The setting "send as SMS" is for sending only:, if you are travelling and turned off data roaming, then you can write an iMessage and it will be sent as a sms. But if someone sends you an iMessage, Apple doesn't know you can't receive data and sends it to you as an iMessage. This means that your WiFi iPad lying in the hotel room will receive it, but your iPhone on the beach won't. The solution is not easy, as arguably, Apple should send both iMessage (for your iPad) and SMS (for your iPhone) when you are overseas and have data roaming off. Better, the phone operators should just stop robbing us blind for data when we travel.

post #13 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by sflagel View Post
 

Apple should send both iMessage (for your iPad) and SMS (for your iPhone) when you are overseas and have data roaming off. Better, the phone operators should just stop robbing us blind for data when we travel.

 

Yeah, the iMessage app on the phone could see two versions of the same message and exclude one, while maintaining history seamlessly.

post #14 of 85
Not that I plan on switching from an iPhone , but how does one "formally disconnecting their phone number from the iMessage service. " sounds more like a hassle then a problem
post #15 of 85

I'm still trying to figure out how that woman who filed the lawsuit was 'penalized and injured'. Did she text 911 saying she was having a heart attack and the whambulance never arrived? Or did her girlfriend not receive the "OMG, it is raining again today" message?

post #16 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by sflagel View Post

the biggest problem is not switching phones. the much bigger problem is when travelling internationally and turning off data roaming to avoid the high roaming charges. normal txt messages would still work, but iMessages get lost and are not delivered!

The "Send as SMS" option does what you want.

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post #17 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by SirLance99 View Post

So, everyone that was saying that you just need to do this or that and it'll work were wrong. Apple has admitted that there is an issue just like all the other rational people were saying.

They maybe both correct. e.g., The bug doesn't affect everyone, and perhaps not all the time.
Edited by patsu - 5/22/14 at 7:42am
post #18 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post

Wait, I thought this was just something that had to be turned off in settings. So there actually is a problem that Apple needs to fix?

Are you being serious?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SirLance99 View Post

So, everyone that was saying that you just need to do this or that and it'll work were wrong. Apple has admitted that there is an issue just like all the other rational people were saying.

Yes, all those "just do this..." and "she's an idiot and it's her fault for being a different phone" comments were all wrong.

I wonder what the fix will be. I am guessing the change will be mostly, if not entirely, hidden from the user. I don't expect the change to be for each user to more easily send an iMessage as an SMS to certain contacts as that doesn't fix the problem.

I suspect it will be along the lines of disabling iMessage either informing you that you phone number will no longer be a valid a iMessage address if you disable this service or asking you if still want your phone number to be a valid iMessage address or removed as a valid address from the server. I hope the latter since switching iPhones does happen for a variety of reasons: new phone, lost, stolen broken.

This is mostly a change on the back end on how these messages are handled which means it could make this update not happen as quickly as I'd like to.
Edited by SolipsismX - 5/22/14 at 7:52am

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post #19 of 85
I've actually seen this issue live and in the flesh. A friend decided to try an Android phone for a few days and then stuck with it for good. He had just flipped the sim over to the phone and didn't wipe his iPhone. He doesn't text a lot so he didn't notice the issue until about a week after that when he'd finally wiped his phone and sold it.

We wonder if the issue is that he never signed into his Apple ID. So when he took the sim out his iPhone turned into a kind of phantom. It didn't have the sim to report the phone number that should have come off the system with the wipe. If we are right then the answer might be that you have to sign into an Apple ID to use iMessage. That way all wipes can disconnect the ID and associated numbers, they can always be reset if you sign up the same or another device.

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post #20 of 85
I expect consumer law suits if Apple was aware of this for 3 years.
 
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post #21 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

We wonder if the issue is that he never signed into[sic] his Apple ID. So when he took the sim out his iPhone turned into a kind of phantom. It didn't have the sim to report the phone number that should have come off the system with the wipe. If we are right then the answer might be that you have to sign into an Apple ID to use iMessage. That way all wipes can disconnect the ID and associated numbers, they can always be reset if you sign up the same or another device.

As noted in the other thread signing out of Messages or wiping your phone before switching the SIM (or even getting a new SIM with that same number) is not a guaranteed method for having the iMessages server disassociate your phone number as a viable address.

The problem has shown to still be persistent even when taking all steps to tell the iMessage server that you aren't going to use that iPhone, but the problem still comes down to it having no way to know if you're disconnecting from that iPhone but will sign on another, or even just starting over from the same device.

The system also shouldn't remove your phone number from the iMessage server simply because you disconnected iMessage on your iPhone as you could get lost messages that way, too. The only viable solution is to ask the user and let them choose, and then have a secondary option in case they forget to do it properly, like through icloud.com.

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post #22 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post


The "Send as SMS" option does what you want.

Unfortunately, it doesn't. The function SENDS sms. The problem is RECEIVING iMessages when data roaming is turned off. Apple doesn't know that data roaming is turned off, and sends you an iMessage which then is not delivered to the iPhone. The only way to get iMessages on your iPhone as sms when traveling overseas, it to detach your phone number from iMessages on ALL your devices. It can't even be called a bug. Its a functionality that was not thought through, or assumed that travellers will keep their data plans on when overseas (and pay thousands of dollars per week on roaming charges).

post #23 of 85
The biggest bug in iMessage is still the "Messages (saved)" bug that takes up 4GB of space on my iPhone and cannot be deleted. Hoping for a fix in iOS 7.1.x ...
post #24 of 85
I hope Apple see this as an opportunity. Seamless data roaming + "any" device messaging sounds like a good package if they can enhance iMessage to handle all these edge cases and extended use cases.
Edited by patsu - 5/22/14 at 8:25am
post #25 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


The problem, dating back to 2011, occurs when a user switches from an iPhone to a non-iOS device without formally disconnecting their phone number from the iMessage service... 
 

 

...in settings.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post

Wait, I thought this was just something that had to be turned off in settings. So there actually is a problem that Apple needs to fix?

 

Not if you turn it off in settings, as the article says.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SirLance99 View Post

So, everyone that was saying that you just need to do this or that and it'll work were wrong. Apple has admitted that there is an issue just like all the other rational people were saying.

 

Nope, as you can see in the article it only becomes a problem when not turned off in settings.

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post #26 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by wubbus View Post

The biggest bug in iMessage is still the "Messages (saved)" bug that takes up 4GB of space on my iPhone and cannot be deleted. Hoping for a fix in iOS 7.1.x ...

Dude, you should log a report or see a Genius so Apple know about it.

Or restore your phone to get back 4GB.

Waiting for a fix without doing anything won't help you.
post #27 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by pazuzu View Post

I expect consumer law suits if Apple was aware of this for 3 years.

They will get a lawsuit either way.
post #28 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by sflagel View Post

Unfortunately, it doesn't. The function SENDS sms. The problem is RECEIVING iMessages when data roaming is turned off. Apple doesn't know that data roaming is turned off, and sends you an iMessage which then is not delivered to the iPhone. The only way to get iMessages on your iPhone as sms when traveling overseas, it to detach your phone number from iMessages on ALL your devices. It can't even be called a bug. Its a functionality that was not thought through, or assumed that travellers will keep their data plans on when overseas (and pay thousands of dollars per week on roaming charges).

Ah, I stand corrected. Yes, iMessage doesn't work that way. Your iMessage senders would know that you did not read the message, and you will eventually see those message when you are connected to iCloud again, but while you are data roaming, you won't receive them. The only way to receive SMS is to ask your senders to use SMS, which is inconvenient. iMessage should make it easier for you to indicate your data roaming status.

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post #29 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by patsu View Post

Dude, you should log a report or see a Genius so Apple know about it.

Or restore your phone to get back 4GB.

Waiting for a fix without doing anything won't help you.

Unfortunately a restore doesn't work. Some fairly lengthy complaints about this on the Apple boards as well. Admittedly I have not made a genius appointment to see if they have any ideas so perhaps I should do that.
post #30 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post


Ah, I stand corrected. Yes, iMessage doesn't work that way. Your iMessage senders would know that you did not read the message, and you will eventually see those message when you are connected to iCloud again, but while you are data roaming, you won't receive them. The only way to receive SMS is to ask your senders to use SMS, which is inconvenient. iMessage should make it easier for you to indicate your data roaming status.

Correct. I spend about a quarter of my life traveling. My wife also has an iPhone, and does not want to constantly change her settings between iMessage (for her friends and family in the UK) and SMS (to reach me). Not to mention people that do not know that I am traveling. Very very annoying. And very expensive because I end up just having data roaming ON all the time.....

post #31 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by wubbus View Post


Unfortunately a restore doesn't work. Some fairly lengthy complaints about this on the Apple boards as well. Admittedly I have not made a genius appointment to see if they have any ideas so perhaps I should do that.

I've done a restore and got the space back, people send one too many gif's now. 

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post #32 of 85
I had essentially the same problem with texts being lost when switching carriers. The old carrier still captured my texts and didn't route them properly. It was a PIA so I feel bad for the people who are suffering a similar fate with switching away from Apple. The root cause of these issues is tied to the ability to customize and personalize the fundamental message routing model with non-standard behaviors. Of course all of this non-standard behavior is intended to provide a better quality of service to a segment of the market. If you are in that segment life is good, but if you wander too far afield these features can turn out to be pain points.

But rest assured that Apple will fix this problem in due time. In the meantime - deal with it.
post #33 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


Are you being serious?
Yes, all those "just do this..." and "she's an idiot and it's her fault for being a different phone" comments were all wrong.

I wonder what the fix will be. I am guessing the change will be mostly, if not entirely, hidden from the user. I don't expect the change to be for each user to more easily send an iMessage as an SMS to certain contacts as that doesn't fix the problem.

I suspect it will be along the lines of disabling iMessage either informing you that you phone number will no longer be a valid a iMessage address if you disable this service or asking you if still want your phone number to be a valid iMessage address or removed as a valid address from the server. I hope the latter since switching iPhones does happen for a variety of reasons: new phone, lost, stolen broken.

This is mostly a change on the back end on how these messages are handled which means it could make this update not happen as quickly as I'd like to.

This problem happens for my daughter, too, when she goes over her data plan quota and her phone becomes just a phone when not in WiFi.

 

I think that the solution should be that Apple attempts to send via iMessage (as usual), checks for successful delivery, and then resends the text as SMS if the delivery fails.  They already do something like this now, but whatever they are doing has two issues:  (1) it doesn't always do it, and (2) even when it does, it sometimes takes way too long.  Apple should be able to implement a system that checks for the iMessage delivery over data channels, and if the delivery doesn't happen in X seconds, pings for the presence of the phone over the same channels, and then if the phone is not found in Y seconds (or minutes) just sends the SMS version.  This all should take place relatively rapidly, say within a couple of minutes.  Problem solved for my daughter, international travelers, and Android users.

post #34 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by pazuzu View Post

I expect consumer law suits if Apple was aware of this for 3 years.

 

A consumer lawsuit is what finally got Apple to address the problem after three years.

 

http://appleinsider.com/articles/14/05/16/apple-sued-over-text-messaging-issues-related-to-switching-away-from-iphone

post #35 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by hill60 View Post
 

 

...in settings.

 

Not if you turn it off in settings, as the article says.

 

 

Nope, as you can see in the article it only becomes a problem when not turned off in settings.

So the people that did turn it off in setting before switching and still have issues must all be wrong? Also, the various other articles stating that people did so the right procedure and still have issues must all be wrong right? Only AI is right 100% of the time.

post #36 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by DewMe View Post

But rest assured that Apple will fix this problem in due time. In the meantime - deal with it.

 

LOL, it's been 3 years already! 

post #37 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by thompr View Post

This problem happens for my daughter, too, when she goes over her data plan quota and her phone becomes just a phone when not in WiFi.

I think that the solution should be that Apple attempts to send via iMessage (as usual), checks for successful delivery, and then resends the text as SMS if the delivery fails.  They already do something like this now, but whatever they are doing has two issues:  (1) it doesn't always do it, and (2) even when it does, it sometimes takes way too long.  Apple should be able to implement a system that checks for the iMessage delivery over data channels, and if the delivery doesn't happen in X seconds, pings for the presence of the phone over the same channels, and then if the phone is not found in Y seconds (or minutes) just sends the SMS version.  This all should take place relatively rapidly, say within a couple of minutes.  Problem solved for my daughter, international travelers, and Android users.

Apple probably do that already. I suspect some of the problems may lie with the telcos. Their SMS systems, especially in countries with lax regulations, don't always acknowledge a delivery under heavy load. Apple won't be able to know for sure that the SMS went through.

Whatever their fix is or will be, it may require tighter telco cooperation.
post #38 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by patsu View Post


Apple probably do that already. I suspect some of the problems may lie with the telcos. Their SMS systems, especially in countries with lax regulations, don't always acknowledge a delivery under heavy load. Apple won't be able to know for sure that the SMS went through.

Whatever their fix is or will be, it may require tighter telco cooperation.

 

Yes, as I said in one of my sentences, they already do something like this, but it is very very crappy.  They should do a better job.

 

And this doesn't have anything to do with the SMS system and telcos... the failure happens when they are checking for delivery of the iMessage over data channels.  They should be able to do this far more reliably and quickly than they are doing it now.  

 

Thompson

post #39 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by thompr View Post

This problem happens for my daughter, too, when she goes over her data plan quota and her phone becomes just a phone when not in WiFi.

I think that the solution should be that Apple attempts to send via iMessage (as usual), checks for successful delivery, and then resends the text as SMS if the delivery fails.  They already do something like this now, but whatever they are doing has two issues:  (1) it doesn't always do it, and (2) even when it does, it sometimes takes way too long.  Apple should be able to implement a system that checks for the iMessage delivery over data channels, and if the delivery doesn't happen in X seconds, pings for the presence of the phone over the same channels, and then if the phone is not found in Y seconds (or minutes) just sends the SMS version.  This all should take place relatively rapidly, say within a couple of minutes.  Problem solved for my daughter, international travelers, and Android users.

That's another issue Apple needs to address but I have doubts your daughter's usage habits will be addressed with this update. The issue I see with your solution is that the iMessage server stores the messages (just like an SMS server) and then forwards them on when there is a connection to another device. This relay isn't always instant as there are times when an iPhone might be turned off (dead battery), in AirPlane mode (at movie theater), or just no signal (at state park).

For your system to work Apple needs to add a timer which will then get back to the sender to inform them that the message was received by their server but not pulled by the recipient from the server within a certain time frame, then ask them if the want to instead send the message as an SMS. To me that sounds more complicated and a separate issue of what I presume will be their resolution of simply having the receiver tell the iMessage server that they no longer want their phone number associated with the iMessage server.

I'd think your daughter's situation requires an additional switch in the iMessage settings that will only allow iMessages to be sent/received over WiFi, which I don't think will ever happen.

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post #40 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


That's another issue Apple needs to address but I have doubts your daughter's usage habits will be addressed with this update. The issue I see with your solution is that the iMessage server stores the messages (just like an SMS server) and then forwards them on when there is a connection to another device. This relay isn't always instant as there are times when an iPhone might be turned off (dead battery), in AirPlane mode (at movie theater), or just no signal (at state park).

For your system to work Apple needs to add a timer which will then get back to the sender to inform them that the message was received by their server but not pulled by the recipient from the server within a certain time frame, then ask them if the want to instead send the message as an SMS. To me that sounds more complicated and a separate issue of what I presume will be their resolution of simply having the receiver tell the iMessage server that they no longer want their phone number associated with the iMessage server.

I'd think your daughter's situation requires an additional switch in the iMessage settings that will only allow iMessages to be sent/received over WiFi, which I don't think will ever happen.

I am fine with Apple continuing to try doing what they are currently doing with their iMessage, but I think they should fire off an SMS version relatively quickly to all unconfirmed iPhone endpoints (the ones they couldn't confirm delivery to) associated with an iCloud account.  Worse case scenario, your iPhone may occasionally receive both versions.  (Note that iOS could even suppress the second one received if iCloud associates a tag with the iMessage once it goes out.)  But even if the user ends up getting both versions, that is far better than not receiving any, which is what happens now.

 

Thompson

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