iMessage is one of the new features of iOS 5, it’s designed to let you send messages across multiple Apple devices, such as the iPod, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPad using WiFi or 3G.
However, we’ve found – along with many of you according to message boards on the internet – that it doesn’t work quite as expected.
Reading about iMessage on the Apple website and is states: ‘If you have more than one iOS device, iMessage keeps the conversation going across all of them.’ Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as this. In fact whether this works as above actually depends on the type of message you use.
iMessage: the problem
We’ve been playing with iMessage for a few days on the iPhone 4, iPad 2 and now iPhone 4S and the problem seems to be that the method which you send the message determines what device it can be read on.
Send a message to a person’s email address and it will appear on the phone and iPad.
Send a message to a persons phone number and it will appear on the phone not the iPad.
The problem occurs if you start an iMessage chat using a phone number, then the person you can talking to swaps to an iPad.
For example: you can be having a conversation with a friend during which time they are using an iPhone and you are sending all messages to their phone number. However, if they then get home and swap to an iPad; the messages won’t be there.
The following is a conversation, between Hannah on an iPhone 4S and Dom on an iPhone 4 (left) and iPad 2 (right). As you can say, the entire message trail from Hannah is visible on Dom’s iPhone 4, however the iPad 2 conversation is missing elements.
Test 2: sent to phone number – appears on phone
Test 3 to More tests: sent to email – appears on both
TTT to Her row: sent to phone number – appears on phone
Back again to Trays: sent to email – appears on both
Obviously in this situation we’ve deliberately swapped between messages sent to a phone number and those sent to email, but you can see that the iPad 2 is missing a lot of messages.
iMessage: the Solution
Solving this issue is actually quite simple. Depending on your contacts, most people will have a phone number and email address. When you compose a message these contacts aren’t merged (see below) and when you come to send a message a blue chat bubble appears indicating the person is on iChat.
When you start a message, to guarantee it appears on the iPhone and iPad, you need to select an email address. Although, this isn’t the perfect answer. In fact we found that when we did this, we had two message feeds to the same person in our inbox. One for messages sent to the email address and one for regular text messages sent to the phone number. Which is very confusing.
Ultimately, we feel that Apple needs to change this with a firmware upgrade. Perhaps syncing multiple details from the same person into a universal address – possibly the recipients Apple ID? In addition, a single thread for all messages from the same person would be useful too.
At the moment, in our experience, iMessage isn’t the seamless service we were expecting.
Let us know below if you’ve experienced similar issues. Does having an @me.com Apple email help?