Apple pitched a standardized version of iMessage to wireless carriers, but they didn't bit...

Posted:
in iOS edited October 2018
In an editorial bemoaning the lack of interoperability between Apple's iMessage and common SMS texting systems, former head of iOS development Scott Forstall reveals the company once tried to push wireless carriers toward its version of messaging.




According to Forstall, Apple created iMessage because it wanted "messaging to feel more like a conversation," reports The Wall Street Journal.

Apple included a number of enhancements to traditional text messaging in its first-party solution. Read receipts, dynamic typing indicators, rich photo and video support and other niceties came standard. More recently, the company built on the foundation by adding a dedicated App Store and, importantly, peer-to-peer Apple Pay payments.

The problem, as explained by reporter Joanna Stern, is that iMessage's major benefits are incompatible with traditional SMS and MMS technology in use by Android and other smartphone operating systems. Further, attempting to switch away from Apple's walled garden can cause a host of problems, from lost messages to broken group text threads.

Users of Apple's iOS products are likely familiar with SMS conversations -- the "green bubble" text threads in Messages -- and their inherent limitations.

Since its inception, iMessage has been viewed as yet another value-added feature designed to keep iOS users within the confines of Apple's walled garden, and to an extent that appears to be true. However, in researching today's editorial, Stern discovered Apple once attempted to push the wider industry toward a texting standard that shared features with its in-house platform.

"We approached the carriers to pursue adding features to the existing texting systems and removing the additional customer costs," Forstall said. "For various reasons, from the difficulty of extending the existing standards, to challenges with interoperability between texting systems and carriers, to the desire of carriers to protect a significant revenue stream, these explorations didn't pan out."

It is unclear when Apple proposed the enhancements, but carriers were reportedly surprised to see iMessage introduced as part of iOS 5 in 2011.

Indeed, telcos have been using the same SMS and MMS services for years. As Stern notes, hardware manufacturers are moving toward Rich Communications Services, or RCS, in an attempt to cross-platform features like read receipts and typing indicators, but the technology is not end-to-end encrypted. As such, Apple is unlikely to jump on board, which means iOS users will continue to see green bubbles when they chat with friends using non-iOS or Mac devices.

Though a number of alternative cross-platform, internet-based messaging options exist -- Facebook's WhatsApp or WeChat -- Stern says "the dream" is an Android version of iMessage. Apple was on multiple occasions rumored to release such a solution, bridging the gap between the world's mobile OS duopoly. The company supposedly went so far as to create mockups of a potential Android iteration using Google's Material Design.

For now, however, Apple seems content to build out its own platform and let others fend for themselves.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    If Apple bought a controlling stake in a cell service company, they could always influence those decisions which would best enhance their services. Soooo........
    claire1dysamoriawatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 17
    steven n.steven n. Posts: 1,124member
    I have a question for any Android fans on messaging. I have a friend using Android. When he sends an MMS (not SMS) using the default Samsung messaging app it will come into my iPhone in a variety of ways:

    1) Into iMessage (as an MMS) with <phonenumber>@random.com where the random is different every time but is generally some weird carrier name not even available in the area.
    2) Into email using my iCloud (@me) account from a <random>.<random>.com address. The "from" is just a 10 digit string of numbers and is different every time.
    3) Into email using my iCloud (@me) account from a <phonenumber>.<random>.com address. The "from" is just a 10 digit string of numbers and is different every time.
    4) Just like a normal MMS text message.

    Does anyone know why his phone is doing this? It drives me nuts.

    SMS always works just fine.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 17
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,178member
    Given they are still partners at some level, you would have thought Google & Apple would have found a way to interconnect messages/FaceTime & Allo/Duo.

    Surely Google’s new-found love of vertical integration  would fuel a meeting of minds, albeit design genius with evil intent.
    superklotonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 17
    claire1claire1 Posts: 510unconfirmed, member
    mcdave said:
    Given they are still partners at some level, you would have thought Google & Apple would have found a way to interconnect messages/FaceTime & Allo/Duo.

    Surely Google’s new-found love of vertical integration  would fuel a meeting of minds, albeit design genius with evil intent.
    no.
    philboogiewatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 5 of 17
    croprcropr Posts: 961member
    If Apple bought a controlling stake in a cell service company, they could always influence those decisions which would best enhance their services. Soooo........
     SMS is a world wide standard, so how many controlling stakes in telecom operators does Apple need to buy?  
    chabigradarthekatphilboogie
  • Reply 6 of 17
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,141member
    I thought a standard IP messaging system (and voice) was meant to be part of the LTE spec?

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 17
    croprcropr Posts: 961member
    steven n. said:
    I have a question for any Android fans on messaging. I have a friend using Android. When he sends an MMS (not SMS) using the default Samsung messaging app it will come into my iPhone in a variety of ways:

    1) Into iMessage (as an MMS) with <phonenumber>@random.com where the random is different every time but is generally some weird carrier name not even available in the area.
    2) Into email using my iCloud (@me) account from a <random>.<random>.com address. The "from" is just a 10 digit string of numbers and is different every time.
    3) Into email using my iCloud (@me) account from a <phonenumber>.<random>.com address. The "from" is just a 10 digit string of numbers and is different every time.
    4) Just like a normal MMS text message.

    Does anyone know why his phone is doing this? It drives me nuts.

    SMS always works just fine.
    Your assumption is wrong that his phone is causing this behaviour.  MMS is an optional standard in mobile communication. It is the telecom operator equipment that decides how a message will be delivered.  Depending on the location of your friend this might be different equipment with different behaviour.   This is by the way one of the reason why MMS is not really a big success.    

    There is a new world wide telecom standard that most probably will replace SMS/MMS.   RCS (Rich Communication Service) is already endorsed by more than 60 telecom operators. It is supported in Android, and it is also available on some features phones (still very important in Africa).  Whether Apple will enhance iMessage with RCS is still an open question.  RCS should solve the issues you mentioned.
    edited October 2018 muthuk_vanalingamphilboogiedysamoria
  • Reply 8 of 17
    Go away Scott. iMessage & SMS work great together. FaceTime has been great too.
  • Reply 9 of 17
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 4,202member
    steven n. said:
    I have a question for any Android fans on messaging. I have a friend using Android. When he sends an MMS (not SMS) using the default Samsung messaging app it will come into my iPhone in a variety of ways:

    1) Into iMessage (as an MMS) with <phonenumber>@random.com where the random is different every time but is generally some weird carrier name not even available in the area.
    2) Into email using my iCloud (@me) account from a <random>.<random>.com address. The "from" is just a 10 digit string of numbers and is different every time.
    3) Into email using my iCloud (@me) account from a <phonenumber>.<random>.com address. The "from" is just a 10 digit string of numbers and is different every time.
    4) Just like a normal MMS text message.

    Does anyone know why his phone is doing this? It drives me nuts.

    SMS always works just fine.
    I can't answer that one I'm afraid. MMS have been used in scams and I (and most users I know) have them disabled at the carrier end.

    Here in Spain, WhatsApp is the de facto messaging app, even for iOS users, with telegram used as a fall back.

  • Reply 10 of 17
    irelandireland Posts: 17,671member
    Go away Scott. iMessage & SMS work great together. FaceTime has been great too.
    Scott led iPhone OS software. You wouldn't have an iPhone without him.
    dysamoriawatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 17
    steven n. said:
    I have a question for any Android fans on messaging. I have a friend using Android. When he sends an MMS (not SMS) using the default Samsung messaging app it will come into my iPhone in a variety of ways:

    1) Into iMessage (as an MMS) with <phonenumber>@random.com where the random is different every time but is generally some weird carrier name not even available in the area.
    2) Into email using my iCloud (@me) account from a <random>.<random>.com address. The "from" is just a 10 digit string of numbers and is different every time.
    3) Into email using my iCloud (@me) account from a <phonenumber>.<random>.com address. The "from" is just a 10 digit string of numbers and is different every time.
    4) Just like a normal MMS text message.

    Does anyone know why his phone is doing this? It drives me nuts.

    SMS always works just fine.
    I think I've maybe received two MMSes in my life and they were usually a mess. I've never figured out how to send one myself, I think my contract doesn't allow them.  Most people in continental Europe on Android and iOS use Whatsapp and/or Messenger instead. 
  • Reply 12 of 17
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,850member
    ireland said:
    Go away Scott. iMessage & SMS work great together. FaceTime has been great too.
    Scott led iPhone OS software. You wouldn't have an iPhone without him.
    Quite so. Cook removed a threat.
  • Reply 13 of 17
    thttht Posts: 3,249member
    ireland said:
    Go away Scott. iMessage & SMS work great together. FaceTime has been great too.
    Scott led iPhone OS software. You wouldn't have an iPhone without him.
    You maybe wouldn’t even have Apple without Forstall. He was the one that pushed Carbon. Carbon enabled MS and Adobe to support Max OS X. Without them, there’s a good chance Apple would have folded.

    Besides, I don’t get the complaint. Forstall has made zero comments about Apple since he was fired. Zero. He’s maybe made 2 comments regarding Steve Jobs or Apple history panels. That’s about it. When Cook realigned management in 2012, it’s arguable that Apple hasn’t recovered from it until maybe now, where Federighi may have finally found the right balance between features and bugs for annual cycles.
    philboogiewatto_cobramainyehc
  • Reply 14 of 17
    I know iMessage is popular in the States, but elsewhere it’s all WhatsApp. In Europe ≈ 95%

    iMessage is a failed product since it isn’t cross-platform. 
    avon b7
  • Reply 15 of 17
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 2,283member
    tht said:
    ireland said:
    Go away Scott. iMessage & SMS work great together. FaceTime has been great too.
    Scott led iPhone OS software. You wouldn't have an iPhone without him.
    You maybe wouldn’t even have Apple without Forstall. He was the one that pushed Carbon. Carbon enabled MS and Adobe to support Max OS X. Without them, there’s a good chance Apple would have folded.

    Besides, I don’t get the complaint. Forstall has made zero comments about Apple since he was fired. Zero. He’s maybe made 2 comments regarding Steve Jobs or Apple history panels. That’s about it. When Cook realigned management in 2012, it’s arguable that Apple hasn’t recovered from it until maybe now, where Federighi may have finally found the right balance between features and bugs for annual cycles.
    Balance between features and bugs? You mean, they fix only as many bugs as the number of new features added? That would seem about right, especially since new features end up resulting in new bugs. The bug situation is appalling. There are multiple OLD bugs that I’ve been reporting for years that were caused by iOS 7, and none of them have been fixed in SIX major releases (most annoying of all are the Safari text edit field bugs).
    mainyehc
  • Reply 16 of 17
    cropr said:
    There is a new world wide telecom standard that most probably will replace SMS/MMS.   RCS (Rich Communication Service) is already endorsed by more than 60 telecom operators. It is supported in Android, and it is also available on some features phones (still very important in Africa).  Whether Apple will enhance iMessage with RCS is still an open question.  RCS should solve the issues you mentioned.
    not a reply, gratitude for this post. the sms standard is such that all phones in the world except for apples would break if it were to “evolve” into imessages. thats perfect for companies who thrive on planned obsolescence always dimming it “perceived”, but in practice defending Apple in this situation, and many for much longer than i hoped for now, is like defending “my child marching so perfectly alone when all the others are marching in the wrong direction”. lets hope Apple gains the forefront of freedom it launched with 1984, and includes the best implementation of RCS ever soon.
  • Reply 17 of 17
    thttht Posts: 3,249member
    dysamoria said:
    tht said:
    ireland said:
    Go away Scott. iMessage & SMS work great together. FaceTime has been great too.
    Scott led iPhone OS software. You wouldn't have an iPhone without him.
    You maybe wouldn’t even have Apple without Forstall. He was the one that pushed Carbon. Carbon enabled MS and Adobe to support Max OS X. Without them, there’s a good chance Apple would have folded.

    Besides, I don’t get the complaint. Forstall has made zero comments about Apple since he was fired. Zero. He’s maybe made 2 comments regarding Steve Jobs or Apple history panels. That’s about it. When Cook realigned management in 2012, it’s arguable that Apple hasn’t recovered from it until maybe now, where Federighi may have finally found the right balance between features and bugs for annual cycles.
    Balance between features and bugs? You mean, they fix only as many bugs as the number of new features added? That would seem about right, especially since new features end up resulting in new bugs. The bug situation is appalling. There are multiple OLD bugs that I’ve been reporting for years that were caused by iOS 7, and none of them have been fixed in SIX major releases (most annoying of all are the Safari text edit field bugs).
    Yeah, the text box scrolling and text box cursor movement bugs are horrible and long running. Definitely empathize. It makes using iPads a bit frustrating at times.

    I mean they were letting too many system destabilizing bugs through and they were promising too many changes for the given amount of time they had. The autocorrect code must have been refactored for servers a couple of years back for server syncing or using neural networks to identify most typed words, and that just went nuts for a bit. I still get nonsensical autocorrect suggestions every once in awhile. Someone was promising features they thought was great and didn’t understand the ramifications of what they were doing.

    If rumors were true, it finally came to a head last year, resulted in a more solid iOS 12 release. Hopefully it continues.
    mainyehc
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