With smartphones becoming the primary connected devices for many people around the world, the real battle among the various platforms is how to lock in users to their ecosystem. Which is what Microsoft is aiming to do with the Nokia X platform, asking users to shed their Google ties and get on board with Microsoft services.
But as one can imagine, this means that cross-platform support is woeful and often overlooked, such as in the case of Google ignoring Microsoft’s request for an official YouTube app on Windows Phone. This eventually hampers user experience, especially if the app is crucial, such as a messaging or email app.
And that’s exactly what’s happened to Apple with its iMessage app. iPhone owners are reportedly finding that they no longer receive text messages (SMS) after switching to an Android or other device. This is due to an old bug in Apple’s iMessage service. The problem is caused by the way Apple’s iMessage has been developed. It’s a separate messaging system unlike any other SMS app and Apple uses end-to-end encryption, which means it’s totally secure. When a user signs up for iMessage, their number is stored in a separate database that’s accessed when another iDevice wants to ping them with a message. So your contact’s device knows the other person is using iMessage and doesn’t send an SMS but an iMessage IM. For numbers not in the database, an SMS is sent, which would entail carrier charges.
However, the problem arises when switching to another device. When your contacts with iMessage send you a message, it keeps looking for your Apple device ID, as it had been registered in the past. So it keeps trying to send you an iMessage IM instead of an SMS. The SMS is never delivered and naturally, the iMessage isn’t either. As this post by Adam Pash says, after switching from iPhone, iMessage becomes a purgatory for all your incoming messages.
This has led to a new class action lawsuit in Federal District initiated by Adrienne Moore who switched from an iPhone to a new Samsung Galaxy S5. Moore’s suit sought class action status for all users who may be in a similar situation, which could end up running into thousands of potential ‘victims’. It asks for Apple to fix iMessage so that users can exit the ecosystem without any issues and has asked for punitive damages to the affected class members.
Official Apple support says the only effective way to fix this bug is have all your contacts who might send you text messages from an iPhone or iDevice, to delete and re-add your name to their contacts. Naturally, this is a ridiculous solution that poses more problems than it solves. Other home-brewed solutions exist, but they may or may not work, since the system takes a while to delete your number from the database. In a typical case, Apple advises you wait for 45 days, which is another preposterous suggestion.