Things They Don't Tell iPhone Owners

Well, I just switched from my old iPhone 4 to a Droid Turbo**, a Motorola phone that runs Android rather than iOS.

Here is what they never tell you -- Apple has devised a very clever way to make leaving the iOS world really, really painful.  Specifically, when you send a text message on an iPhone, unless you fiddled with the default settings, it gets sent through iMessage and the Apple servers.  If it is going to another iPhone, it can actually bypass the carrier text messaging system altogether, a nice perk back when texts were not unlimited but useful today mainly for international travel.

But here is the rub -- when you switch you phone line away from an iPhone to an Android device, the Apple servers refuse to recognize this.  They will think you still have an iPhone and will still try to send you messages via the iMessage servers.  What this means in practice is that you can send messages from the new phone to other iPhones, but their texts back to you will not reach you.  They just sort of disappear into the ether, and will try forever to be delivered to your now non-existent iPhone.

This is as good a guide as I can find for the problem, and better than what any Apple employee will tell you.  There are two solutions for this.  Apparently, you can go to every one of your friends and tell them to delete every text they ever sent you and delete you from their phone books and apparently new texts they send you will then skip the iMessage system and get to your phone.  The only problem is that I can't replicate this.  I spent hours with my family's iPhones today removing every text message from my number and every reference to me in their phone books.  But no dice.  Their texts still do not reach me.  Sigh.

The second solution is to call Apple and ask to have your number removed from the iMessage servers.  This was not possible even a few months ago, but there is a large class action lawsuit against Apple on this topic so they seem to at least have trained their customer service staff on this issue, finally.  I called and they readily removed me from the server, but with this caveat -- it wouldn't take effect for 30 days.  I told the rep that this was patently absurd, and she agreed.  But 30 days it will be.  So no matter what I do, every single person in my contact list who has ever texted me from an iPhone is going to think they are texting me but in fact have their texts fly off into the ether.  For 30 days.

This is clearly absurd, and folks thinking of switching to Apple should understand just how hard it is to reverse that decision.

PS-  I have always been amazed at all the goodwill Apple gets for being somehow friendlier and more open to creative individuals than Microsoft.  To me, Apple's philosophy is to host a closed totalitarian world, while Microsoft and Google (admittedly full of foibles and their own issues) have far more open platforms.  Linux guys will laugh at that, but compared to Apple, Microsoft is free love in the park.

 

** reasons why:  I live in the Google world of Google Drive and Apps, so the OS choice is a natural.  I have never figured out iCloud.  I don't care about design elegance, which is good because this phone is as elegant as a brick.  It has a stupid large battery (it may be a tad heavy but it is way lighter than with all you guys that have mophie battery cases on your iphones).  It has fast-charging as well as wireless charging, a good screen, a decent camera, and a fast processor.  It also has a light touch on OS add-ons so it is close to stock android without all the overhead of custom skins and it will be among the first phones to get Android updates (solving the #1 problem of Android over iOS, which is the proliferation of versions across handsets and carriers that slows upgrades).  The only thing it is missing is a memory expansion card port, though you can get it in 64GB which always has been plenty for me.  The only question left is why carriers have to design their phones, these $600 devices that can't be dropped, with super-slick back covers.  The new HTC One M8 is like holding a bar of wet soap.  They all do this, except the Moto X which has a bamboo back that is awesome to hold.

  • Apple has always been like that, even way back in the early days of personal computers. If you bought an Apple ][ or a Mac, the only place that you could get components and software was from Apple. They were totally closed to third-party sourcing. And their computers came, by default, with all the bells & whistles, whether you wanted them or not. There was no way to customize your box. That's why I went with IBM/Intel way back when, and I have never looked back. As for cell phones... never had one, don't have one now, ain't getting one.

  • Or...

    Go into the settings app on the iPhone, scroll down to the settings for Messages and turn on the feature called "Send as SMS." Takes about 5 seconds.

  • "The only question left is why carriers have to design their phones, these $600 devices that can't be dropped, with super-slick back covers."

    Sale of new phones is the only reason I can imagine. Which is why I now carry the Galaxy S5 Active, which supposedly survives 5' drops and 3' dunks in the water...and does not have the super-slick back cover. We'll see.....

  • marque2

    When in had an Apple ][ you could easily upgrade with third party parts and there was a huge market for disk drives, serial cards, modems, memory cards ("The language card").

  • Matthew Slyfield

    "The only question left is why carriers have to design their phones, these
    $600 devices that can't be dropped, with super-slick back covers."

    I have a Samsung Rugby Pro (Android, though I don't know how stock it is). It is a rugged smart phone with a textured back.

  • Rusty - I once had a Mac Plus to which was added a third party memory upgrade, a third party accelerator card, a third party external monitor, a third party external hard drive and a third party networking solution. Damn that Apple and their closed systems.

  • Kyle Lyles

    Since 2004 I've used very thin covers for my smartphones (Treo 650 back then) and am meticulous about replacing any body part that is scratched. I recently sold my Treo 650 for $500 because it was just like new in looks, though I installed a custom ROM in it.

    Currently my burgundy Galaxy S4 looks like the day I bought it two years ago. I have a clear Spigen back cover and a Gorilla Glass screen protector. I will soon replace it with a Note 4, and will be able to sell the S4 for a reasonable amount to recover enough of the original cost to make me happy.

    As for iPhones? I have never wanted one, and used to make fun of new iPhone users in airports when there were few to none travel apps for iPhones. My Palm always beat everyone to the punch regarding flight info, etc.

  • Thirty days for the change to take effect? DAYS???? Not milliseconds?
    That's not, by any stretch of the imagination, a technical issue. It's Apple holding your communications hostage, as an intentional business practice.

    I kept my HTC Incredible in a little snap-on bumper shell for a little bit of protection. After four years of riding around in my shirt pocket all day (and occasionally falling out, generally into a flowerbed), it was getting outdated (only a 3G radio, and not enough horsepower to run the latest games), the battery would hold barely enough charge for a day's use, and it was developing a bad case of software rot... but the screen remained unscratched, and all else little-worn.
    The replacement is a Droid Maxx (4G, bigger screen, faster processor, modern firmware). I got a bumper shell for it, too, but haven't been using it; the phone's case has a slightly rubbery feel, not at all slippery, so I haven't been worried about dropping it.

  • Berourke

    had the same issue, apple customer service had me change the email address attached to my account and it started working again

  • mesocyclone

    Apple II was as open as a PC. It had a peripheral bus with a publicly available hardware interface. Not so the Macs. I am perfectly happy with my Mac Mini, and, with my Android.

  • Sam L.

    Apple be a devil with smiling face, a whirlpool of quicksand with a sign saying "Come on in, the water's fine!"

    I be not enveigled.

  • MrDamage

    That doesn't help much when the person texting you doesn't know they now have to do that.

  • Perhaps - but it's a useful tip for someone who is spending time deleting every text from friend's and family's phones and getting on the phone with Apple trying to get themselves expunged from the Messages database. Not to mention the time spent writing about it!

    A person switching from iPhone to Android could send one quick group message notifying those with whom they text, Problem solved!

    I'm here to help!

  • I use Google voice and for all people offer my Google voice phone number not the wireless number that comes from the carrier. I presume this is a solution for me but perhaps not for you.

  • marque2

    Macs went back and forth. Early Macs, (pre 90's) had no expandability beyond the ports offered in the box. Then for about 10 years they had NuBus slots where you could expand based on an open standard, and SCSI ports as well for communication/storage peripherals. There were plenty of ATI and NVidia graphic cards available. Apple also created Firewire, which allowed things like movie cameras to be attached to the Mac. It wasn't until the mid 1990's that Apple started closing the Macs to peripherals again.

  • Bram

    I'll consider an iPhone when they start providing expansion memory ports and replaceable batteries. Until then, absolutely not.

  • Phillip

    When I had an iPhone 4s I kept it in the slip case from my previous Blackberry - worked very well. I have just upgraded to an iPhone 6 Plus and am very happy with it apart from its super slippery feeling, so I had to get a case.

  • TM

    I suspect the 30 day thing is a "maximum time" thing, just like when you swap phones they tell you up to 72 hours for your number to transfer (or if you're a web person, 72 hours for a DNS change to propagate). The basic problem at hand is as noted, iOS devices will prefer to communicate via iMessage rather than text messages when the option is available. To my understanding the way that this works is that your device when activated registers it's phone number with iMessage as a valid iMessage destination. Other iOS devices will, when first sending a message to you query apple's servers for whether you can be reached via iMessage or if you must be reached by text. Like most computer devices, your iOS device will cache this information and not re-query it from Apple every time you try to send a message. My guess is that the re-query time is somewhere around 30 days (as people don't exactly change their phones or carriers that frequently) and so until someone tries to text you again, after their cache has expired, their phone will continue to send via iMessage. This is also probably why having the other person delete all of their messaging history with you works, because once all the message history is deleted, there's no cached conversation information and a re-query to Apple's servers is performed.

    Now, theoretically, Apple could change the technology to either query at a more frequent interval, which would likely be the best solution but still require some time interval before changes propagate, or they could push account change information to other devices. The problem with the second solution is in order to do that, Apple would have to log everyone you communicate with in a given time period in order to push updates about your account status to their devices.

    So it's annoying, and could stand to be improved, but hardly nefarious.

  • Ammy

    This exhibits a patent misunderstanding of SMS. They don't transfer from device to device if it is just an SMS. If it transfers, that's the carrier keeping a memory of your texts, nothing inherent to the system. I'd sooner Apple has my data than Verizon or AT&T. At least Apple has a passing consideration for consumer privacy and security. AT&T and Verizon will turn your shit over to anyone.

  • ErikTheRed

    Apparently Apple has heard the angry mutterings and created a web-based tool to deal with the problem:

    https://selfsolve.apple.com/deregister-imessage

  • bobhouk

    It may be too late, but Apple has apparently just released a new tool that is intended to solve this problem. Since the article says, "The new web tool lets you instantly deregister your phone number from Apple's iMessage system," I assume that they have eliminated the thirty-day thing.

    http://www.theverge.com/2014/11/9/7183507/apple-tool-deregister-imessage-phone-numbers-released

    Oops .. I see that Erik has already posted about this.