The Truth About iMessage in iOS 5: It’s Sublime

For years, I’ve been told about how cool BBM is on the BlackBerry. BlackBerry users tried to tell me why it was so cool, but they never succeeded. It always ended with a “You have to use it yourself, and then you’d understand.”

I knew the details about how BBM worked, but I didn’t understand.

I now understand. I have been using the (surprisingly stable) iOS 5 beta and beta 2 for the past two weeks or so, and of all the new features–notifications, widgets, photostream, geo-fenced reminders, etc,–iMessage is what impresses me the most.

Since I live in San Francisco, where 3 out of every 3 people have an iPhone, and every 2 out of those 3 people have dev accounts, I have been able to take advantage of this feature with several people. Ewan, and any other MIR readers who use a BlackBerry and BBM, probably get why it’s so cool.
But for you other iOS users wondering what all the hub-bub is about, let me attempt to explain.

1. It’s one app

Kurt Collins
Kurt Collins understands

In all of iOS 5, there is nary a mention of “iMessage”, save for one instance buried in the Settings>Messages>iMessage ON/OFF. You get your SMS and MMS messages in the Messages app, as you did before. Now you also get iMessages (both text and multimedia) in the same app, even over 3G or EDGE. You get notified the same way. You can’t distinguish between SMS and iMessages except for…

2.There are only very subtle ways you can tell iMessages from SMS
SInce it is all in one app, one of two ways you discern between iMessage and SMS is that the former’s “cartoon talk bubbles” are blue instead of the green of the latter. The other way to tell the two apart is even more subtle–the field where you enter text has “iMessage” in faint grey text (conversely, it says “Text Message” when you are about to enter what will be an SMS).

3. It checks every time to see if it can send an iMessage over an SMS
The way that the Messages app knows whether the person you are trying to contact should be sent a free iMessage rather than a costly SMS, is that it checks every contact as soon as you select it. Meaning, you go to someone’s contact info, select “Text Message” and it opens the Messages app with the default set to Text Message. Then you see a little spinning wheel next to their name in the To: field–this is your iPhone scanning to see if your contact has registered for iMessage. It does this every time you start a new conversation, just in case your friend got his or her act together and got on the iOS bandwagon since your last message.

4. iMessage conversations show up on your iPad

The settings menu

Conversations you start on your iPhone show up on your iPad, and vice versa. Also, new iMessage notifications that are sent to your iPad disappear if you have read them on your iPhone first (although the syncing between the two devices works inconsistently–probably a beta bug).

5. Just use it
Really. Just use it. I originally got all this information from watching the WWDC keynote, but it’s the difference between “knowing” and “understanding” now. I now understand why BlackBerry users love their BBM. I now understand why iMessages will soon be everyone’s favorite new feature when iOS is released.

Think about it–it will be even cooler by an order of magnitude when 3 out of every 3 San Franciscans have this on their iPhones.



19 replies on “The Truth About iMessage in iOS 5: It’s Sublime”

This was the stand-out here: “Conversations you start on your iPhone show up on your iPad, and vice
versa. Also, new iMessage notifications that are sent to your iPad
disappear if you have read them on your iPhone first”

There’s no reason at all why Android couldn’t sync IM & SMS across all devices including PC. My guess is the first app to do so seamlessly will make a killing. iMessage for the rest of the world.

“…rather than an costly SMS”? What plan do you have?  When was the last time you paid $.20 for an SMS?  While I’m sure iMessages is cool it is not going to save you money.  You are still going to have a text plan to text to those few friends on yours on Android or, shudder, feature phones.

What case? 😉   You still need an SMS plan, which will no doubt have a minimum spend. Unless *all* of your friends are on iMessage *all of the time*.

It’s a nice cross-platform re-packaging of what we’ve been able to do for a decade – SMS + IM.

It’s not bad news. It’s not good news either. It’s irrelevant news. Come on, it’s an SMS with a different color and that you can read on your other iOS (only) device.

This is not about sticking it to the carriers. This is not about taking communications to the next level. This is, just like Facetime, about locking users to a platform.

>  iMessage for the rest of the world.

AHA. But it ISN’T. Android numbers 100 million devices in use. There are now what, 4.5 billion phones in use?
So if your plan is implemented that is in fact iMessage for 2% of the world’s phone using population (roughly the same as what iMessage addresses).

2% as of course you’re aware is not “the rest of the world”. And therefore in a sense this makes both iMessage and your suggestion (good though it is as far as it goes) completely useless to 96% of the world. And I’m only including the people with phones. If I start sticking 7 billion people, the actual world population, into the figures, it looks much worse for iMessage and it’s clones. I said completely useless, I was slightly wrong. Apple’s main use by far on the world is the influence it has, on software and hardware product design. But as this service is proprietary it’s up to others to come up with something else.

Now, if I start plugging in the numbers for Java Mobile into the figures, things look MUCH better. Something implemented across that platform, all 3 billion devices, mean it would be of use to a whopping 66% of the world’s using phone population. Which is better than the 2% of iOS or Android. And before anyone corrects me, of course I’m being idealist with Java and of course data capable Java Mobile devices would number less than that, so actually the ideal of a universal iMessage clone is far from being met. But at least Java Mobile as a platform for something like this, is better. What we really need is a STANDARD across ALL platforms (someone will now hopefully reply with a link? I’m sure this must have been done). And what it needs is Apple and Google to implement and publicise that standard, rather than trying to be “competitive” by restricting usage to 2% of the phone-owning population.

And please no one tell me that in a couple of years the entire world will be using Android. That’s so far from being the truth it’s cringeworthy to read it.

Slow day, Alex?

Clearly I was not clear enough, let me elaborate: iMessage for the rest of the world ***that isn’t wealthy enough to be using a household suite of iProduct***  (which would be an infinitesimally small % by your above reckoning)

I’m amazed you didn’t mention S40 market share for good measure 😉


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