I got a new phone over the summer, and it took me a while to realize that it couldn’t receive some text messages. It seemed to randomly fail; sometimes it would work, sometimes it wouldn’t. Eventually I found out that iPhone users couldn’t text me if they had texted me before. The problem was that I no longer had an iPhone; I had switched to Android. Apple’s iMessage was intercepting my texts because I didn’t know to turn off iMessage on my old phone before wiping and selling it. That was an unexpected pain when switching from an iPhone to a competitor’s phone.
I found an Apple knowledgebase article about the issue, which instructed me to call Apple support. To my surprise, the only option for support was to pay a pretty hefty service fee – which was thankfully waived after I explained the iMessage bug. Apple explained that it was a known issue, and they then instructed me to contact everyone I knew who had texted me from their iPhone to tell them to delete all the threads that I had been a part of. (I almost fell out of my chair when I heard that.) They also said that my contacts could also turn off iMessage entirely to avoid the problem for me and any other contacts that might switch from an iPhone (e.g. my wife) – which I recommended to everyone I talked to.
Those were incredibly awkward conversations to have, particularly because several iPhone users seemed to think that I was contacting them because of a text messaging bug in Android. (Keep in mind that most non-technical users don’t know the difference between an iMessage text message and an SMS text message.) I’m sure that a few still think that Android is buggy and are now afraid to switch away from Apple products in fear that they won’t receive any text messages. It’s not hard to think of a few reasons that Apple would take years to fix this problem.
To be clear, iMessage was a problem for me even when I used an iPhone daily. The service has had a surprising number of issues that have prevented users from receiving messages, though most of those were fixed in a relatively-timely manner. For example, I had serveral problems with multi-person threads. Ironically, I wouldn’t receive any messages from the other iPhone users on the thread, but the Android users would get messages just fine. The iMessages went into oblivion, and I would just get a confusing half of a conversation from the Android user who was obviously responding to something that had been said. That happened multiple times over a period of months; it wasn’t just a couple of forgivable, short service disruptions.
It’s still my recommendation to turn iMessage off, especially if you have free text messages as a part of your phone service. All it takes is a trip to “Settings.”