Apple pledges to fix longstanding iMessage bug in upcoming iOS update

Posted:
in iPhone edited November 2014
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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 86
    markbyrnmarkbyrn Posts: 605member
    Sounds like a feature to me.
  • Reply 2 of 86
    sflagelsflagel Posts: 585member
    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!
  • Reply 3 of 86
    philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,438member
    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¡
  • Reply 4 of 86
    philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,438member
    sflagel wrote: »
    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?
  • Reply 5 of 86
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    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?
  • Reply 6 of 86
    sirlance99sirlance99 Posts: 1,142member
    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.
  • Reply 7 of 86
    irelandireland Posts: 17,547member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by markbyrn View Post



    Sounds like a feature to me.

     

    It's a bug.

  • Reply 8 of 86
    Opening up iMessage and Facetime as 3rd party apps on non-iOS devices isn't a bad idea.
  • Reply 9 of 86
    waterrocketswaterrockets Posts: 1,231member
    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.

  • Reply 10 of 86
    pazuzupazuzu Posts: 1,728member
    This is sooo Microsofty. Netscape anyone? :lol:
  • Reply 11 of 86
    sflagelsflagel Posts: 585member
    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.

  • Reply 12 of 86
    waterrocketswaterrockets Posts: 1,231member
    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.

  • Reply 13 of 86
    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
  • Reply 14 of 86
    davendaven Posts: 505member

    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?

  • Reply 15 of 86
    suddenly newtonsuddenly newton Posts: 13,739member
    sflagel wrote: »
    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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  • Reply 16 of 86
    patsupatsu Posts: 429member
    sirlance99 wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 17 of 86
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    rogifan wrote: »
    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?

    sirlance99 wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 18 of 86
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,205member
    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.
  • Reply 19 of 86
    pazuzupazuzu Posts: 1,728member
    I expect consumer law suits if Apple was aware of this for 3 years.
  • Reply 20 of 86
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    charlituna wrote: »
    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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