iOS 7: Apple Removed Text Message Options in Messages

iOS 7: Apple Removes Text Messaging Options in Messages

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No Text Messages For iDevices! iMessage or the Highway!

There are numerous stories reporting on an iMessage bug or outage that meant that iMessages failed to send or took a long time to send. In iOS 6, this wasn’t too big a problem, because users could pretty easily just resend that failed message as a text message. Not in iOS 7, at least based on my own iPhone 4S.

When iMessage failed in iOS 6, resending a message as text message could be done two ways. One way to invoke that was to long-press on a sending message, then tap "Send as Text Message" from the context menu. That was also an option when an iMessage failed to send. Tapping on the red exclamation point next to the failed iMessage would bring up a dialog box with the option to "Send as Text Message".

Neither of those options seem to be available anymore. So, Apple has stripped away the abilty to choose to use normal text messaging between Apple’s devices (iPhone, iPads, Macs?) when iMessage fails. The only way to send text messages between two "i-devices" is when one of them has iMessage turned off in Settings > Messages.

Sending messages to those without iMessage (so, all non-Apple phones) continues to be available as it should be.

iMessage Bug/Outage Outs Removal of Text Messaging Options

Making this removal of text messaging options in Apple’s iOS 7 more obviously problematic is a bug or outage with iMessage in which iMessages fail to send or take a long time to send. This makes the lack of text messaging to use as an alternative much more critical.

That bug or outage seems to have popped up or been exacerbated by the second update in as many weeks published by Apple since iOS 7’s release two weeks ago (so, iOS 7.0.2), as several reports seem to note (see related stories below).

The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple issued a statement saying, "We are aware of an issue that affects a fraction of a percent of our iMessage users, and we will have a fix available in an upcoming software update." Apple reports that it only affects "a fraction of a percent"; well, count me in that fraction.

To rub salt in that wound, not only do they seem to have removed the option to send text messages when iMessage fails, Messages seems to segregate iMessage conversations from text conversations, or something like that.

When I turn off iMessage, and then go into a conversation with a friend who has an iPhone, type a message and try to send it, I get this message: "Cannot Send Message. iMessage needs to be enabled to send this message." Then send it as a text message and keep it in this conversation, you stupid iOS 7.0.2 application!

I can start a new conversation with that contact, and Messages will display it as a separate conversation. This is a separation that should not be happening, degrading as it does the demonstrated usability offered by unifying conversations on a per-contact basis (seen first in PalmOS on the Handspring Treo 600, continued and improved upon in webOS’ Messages app with Synergy, which unified IM and and text messaging by contact).

As a designer, I prefer to support flexibility on the technology side in intelligently bending and re-organizing to help users in their goals. It seems to me that, at some point in their work with iMessage, Apple’s Messages designers lost sight of users’ goals here being TO SEND A MESSAGE, not TO USE iMESSAGE!!

iMessage should piggyback seamlessly on users’ text messaging workflow, offering seamless and automatic enhancements (like progressive enhancements in web design), not interrupt or dictate the technology used to send users’ messages. Apple should use iMessage to add features and benefits—be a superior default—with an OPTION to use text messaging instead or as a fall-back, rather than steal users’ freedom to use that standard technology.

Fixing the iMessage Sending Bug, Maybe…

If you run into the problem of iMessage failing,

The simplest and most often-suggested work-around by users is to restart the device. Another option being suggested is to disable iMessage, reset the Network Settings, and then turn iMessage back on. (To reset the settings, go to Settings → General Reset → Reset Network Settings.)

from International Business Times’ Apple iOS 7 Problems: How To Fix The iMessage Bug Right Now Before The Release Of iOS 7.0.3

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Related Stories (on The iMessage Sending Bug)

(none of which note the stripping of the ability to send as a text message in certain circumstances)

Updates

  1. 10/29/2013: Apple released iOS v7.0.3 on October 22, and along with the other fixes to iMessage, they have brought back the ability to send a message as a text message. This now works as it did in iOS v6. While a message is being sent (as indicated by the progress bar at the top of the conversation), users can once again long press on the sending message to call up a context menu that includes "Send as Text Message" and select that to send it as a text message rather than an iMessage. This is handy in a place where you know data reception is not very good and anticipate iMessage failing. Also, if iMessage does fail, it signals that next to the message with a red exclamation point. With iOS v7.0.3 installed, tapping on that exclamation point will call up a menu that, just as in iOS v6 (but not iOS v7.0 or v7.0.2), includes an option to "Send as Text Message." Text messaging is once again available as a backup and choice for users when iMessage is not meeting their needs.

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