iMessage: Paper Cuts

With the release several months ago of iOS 5, Apple brought  a slew of new features to their users.  Among some of the more popular features, you’ll find Reminders, Wireless Syncing, improvided notifications and of course, iMessage.  I personally have used iMessage since the beta and think it’s a great addition to the iOS repertoire.  Many people view iMessage as a killer of rivals such as Blackberry Messenger, and while this may prove true, there are still plenty of things that need to be fixed.  Based on my experiences, I’ll list a few and implore you to leave me some comments or further suggestions.  Something else to consider, is the possibility that making some (all?) of my suggested improvements could lead to Apple creating their very own social network!  It could happen…and if it does, you read it here first.  Let’s face it, we all know the executives in Cupertino read my posts!

Multiple Message Threads

When iMessage first came out, there were people who began using it without changing their Caller ID from their actual phone number and subsequently broadcast personal contact data to people they didn’t even know!  After a short time in the betas, people realized they should add email addresses as ways to send & receive iMessages to other users.  This is great…however, what happens when people text your phone number?  You get multiple message threads; obviously if I compose a message and you reply it will come to whatever my Caller ID is set.  However, if you send me a message, I’m subject to receiving at whatever method you’ve selected.  For me, this is a problem because I save my conversations to easily reference past discussions.  No one wants to to switch between conversations in order to communicate!

AIM Killer

This is something that sort of amuses me; the notion that you can use an always-on communication type as a way to eliminate networks like AIM, Gtalk or other instant messaging services.  I see similarities between the two types of communication:

  1. iMessage allows you to send & receive files across devices.  Other than pictures, currently, on an iPhone, you really can’t send much.
  2. iMessage lets you set your status oh wait, no it doesn’t.  I guess this is where the similarities end.

I see potential here – I don’t, yet anyway, see this as a viable alternative to instant messaging.  For one thing, not everyone has an iDevice, so you’d still have to use other services to chat with people.  Oh wait, this is where you tell me:

Yeah, but Liv, Apple can integrate those things in Messages.app!

To that I’d respond simply: Why?  Apple won’t integrate those things because it would likely affect (negatively?) the UX by confusing users of their devices.  Further, I doubt that Apple would include some of the richer features & benefits of using third-party apps which would, for me anyway, leave me wanting more.

Address filtering

Having just said that iMessage isn’t an AIM killer, one thing that might change my mind (and make me incredibly happy!) would be to tweak iMessage so that I can use dedicated messaging ID’s for certain contacts. Read: if I start a conversation using one Caller ID, don’t require everyone else I text to see that ID.  I’d like to be able to text people I work with and not have them see my personal email address.  I’d like to text Twitter friends without them necessarily having my phone number.  I’d like to communicate with you guys, my readers, with a dedicated iMessage ID…and I think this could, SHOULD, be in a single Messages.app.  Make that one happen Phil!

Apple ID Restoring to Other Devices

I’ve heard, and experienced myself, of people complaining that when someone restores an iPhone that had previously been linked to your Apple ID, it has automatically put the iMessage ID in the settings.  This presents obvious security problems because people potentially have access to your private conversations.

Always On

Apps like Tweetbot and Path offer the ability to enter a “sleep” mode so that you’re not receiving notifications or being disrupted while asleep.  I’d like to have people able to iMessage me, but turn off the notifications easily during a block of time.  This, probably of all my concerns, may be the easiest to fix.  Also, it’d be nice if I could set an Away message for an auto-response or to update people.

In closing, these things would greatly improve iMessage over its current offering.  With over 200 Million iDevices sold since 2007, improving something like iMessage and offering things like Away Statuses, Address filtering and consolidating message threads, why wouldn’t Apple be able to kill AIM, BBM and others, all while creating their own social network?  I know, I know…that is fairly grandiose.  For now though, maybe they can at least fix a few of these paper cuts.  Tell me below what you think…

Liv