Divorcing iMessage

2014/03/16

It turns out, a lot of people want to leave iMessage.

In my case, I wanted to experiment with the forbidden fruit of Android. Google and Sprint have a partnership that allows you to connect your phone number to Google voice without violating your cell contract and incurring an early termination fee. I thought I'd take advantage of that. My plan was to keep my iPhone, but forward calls and SMS to my new Moto X, allowing me to carry whichever phone struck my fancy on a given day. I figured the risk was pretty low.

About a week before my new Android phone arrived, I decided to start weening myself off of Apple services slowly. I migrated my Tweetbot tweet syncing from iCloud to Tweet Marker, my emails from iCloud to Gmail, my podcasts to pocket casts. It all went pretty smooth. Until it came time to turn off iMessage. After a quick search, the most prominent answer seemed to be that I simply needed to turn off iMessage in my iPhones settings. So that's what I did.

Afterwords, I went back to the messages app and sent a friend an SMS. 'Test' it read. It sent just fine, so I assumed all was well. I pocketed my phone and went on with my day. Later, I met my friend for lunch and asked after the text message I had sent. "Oh yeah, I responded. Didn't you get it?" Uh oh. I asked to see his iPhone, and navigated to his messages app. 'It's working' he had replied. The reassuring delivered text sat beneath the message.

Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.

Needless to say I was pretty upset. If my wife or parents had tried to contact me for some sort of emergency, I never would have gotten that message. Not only that, but they would have thought everything was hunky dory. It says 'delivered' right there!

I began the search for a solution online. Some people suggested logging into the Apple support profile website, and deregistering devices (if you had even bothered registering) for AppleCare and Apple support. Some suggested calling up AppleCare and talking to a representative to try and resolve the issue.

A few people mentioned that you need to log out of iMessage on every device that had previously been set up to send and receive iMessages from your phone number. Needless to say, this is a terribly flawed system. I logged out on my Mac which I had access to, but my iPad was at home. I worried about all the past devices I had sold or recycled that had been signed in. My iPhone 4, my 3GS. If the phone number belongs to the phone, why can I continue to use it as an iMessage handle on other devices? What if my contract with Sprint lapsed, and they assigned my number to someone else? Would I still receive iMessage at that number if I failed to sign out my iPad? Why hadn't my phone told me that I'd need to sign out other devices?

I complained about this to my coworkers for the better part of an hour, as I am wont to do. After a while, someone suggested changing the password on my iCloud account. The solution seemed so simple, I almost felt stupid. I went to icloud.com, and set a new password there. All of my devices were logged out of iCloud, and I was immediately able to send and receive SMS like normal on my iPhone.

I can't fathom why someone decided it should work this way. I don't know why there isn't better messaging in the UI. I don't understand how a support article was written that didn't explain the need to log out of all devices. My mind is absolutely blown that a solution as simple as changing the password wasn't the first hit on Google search. I wonder how many people attempt to get out of iMessage and fail, or worse don't realize they aren't receiving messages.

I'm not bitter though.