back to article SO LONELY: Woman DARED to get rid of her iPHONE - Apple DUMPED all her TXTS

Apple faces a lawsuit after burying text messages sent to people who had the audacity to swap their iPhones for handsets from other makers than the fruity firm. The problem – now fixed – related to the company's iMessage app. US district judge Lucy Koh has ruled that the Cupertino giant will face charges of unfair competition …

Marketing Hack
Silver badge
Gimp

Oops!!

Lock-in much? Apple does like being vindictive towards former fanbois/fangirls who forswear the one true device in favor of the apostacy of other consumer electronics manufacturers.

ThomH
Silver badge

Re: Oops!!

I don't think you've understood the issue. The suit is for failure to disclose a policy. That is, failure at the time you become a customer. That's when the actionable offence allegedly occurs. It's nothing whatsoever to do with how Apple acts after you're gone and everything to do with how it acts when you're entering.

Mike Bell

Re: Oops!!

Lock in? I don't think that is a correct description at all. If you choose to configure your phone to receive iMessages, your chums start sending you iMessages (to your phone number), then you start using the same number on another phone, how is the iMessage delivery system then supposed to magically know what you've done unless you deactivate iMessage? As far as your chums are concerned, iMessage is still your preferred method of receiving messages.

If, as an iMessage user, you take out your SIM and just put it in, say, an Android phone, what is the iMessage delivery system supposed to do with the iMessages that your chums are still sending you? Answer: buffer them up. Not magically turn them into regular SMS and send them to the phone network. That's not a lock-in. It's a configuration issue.

Marketing Hack
Silver badge

Re: Oops!!

No, I understood that quite well. But this is part of Apple's attempt to lock-in and make it painful for customers to leave. I can understand positive reasons to lock in a customer (i.e. "Wouldn't you hate to lose iCloud?") but I have little sympathy for forcing customers to register to get something as basic to mobile telephony as SMS messages if they leave Apple.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Oops!!

Lock in? I don't think that is a correct description at all. If you choose to configure your phone to receive iMessages, your chums start sending you iMessages (to your phone number), then you start using the same number on another phone, how is the iMessage delivery system then supposed to magically know what you've done unless you deactivate iMessage? As far as your chums are concerned, iMessage is still your preferred method of receiving messages.

If, as an iMessage user, you take out your SIM and just put it in, say, an Android phone, what is the iMessage delivery system supposed to do with the iMessages that your chums are still sending you? Answer: buffer them up. Not magically turn them into regular SMS and send them to the phone network. That's not a lock-in. It's a configuration issue.

I thought Apple iMessage would send a message via SMS if it can't deliver it via iMessage, so how can it be clever enough to be able to switch when both users are using an iPhone, but not when one switches to Android?...

It wouldn't be that difficult to implement a way of working out when someone has switched phones. These things phone home all the time, so if the iTunes account / unique iPhone ID hasn't been phoning home for say 36 hours it should default to SMS and send the messages via that again??

Mike Bell

Re: Oops!!

I thought Apple iMessage would send a message via SMS if it can't deliver it via iMessage, so how can it be clever enough to be able to switch when both users are using an iPhone, but not when one switches to Android?...

The iPhone will do this. If you enable this option. Again, it's a configuration issue. It would be a very bad idea for the phone to ignore that setting after a dormant period, because it would expressly contravene the setting you've made. Also, people often use iMessage to send large attachments. A hefty MMS bill would not be welcome out of the blue. It's for exactly that reason why I have the alternate SMS delivery method turned off, myself.

P. Lee
Silver badge

Re: Oops!!

>what is the iMessage delivery system supposed to do with the iMessages that your chums are still sending you?

Well it magically knew to turn SMS into imessages, it can magically unknow it. You know, by checking to see if the message had been sent in X minutes via iMessage and dropping back to SMS if it hasn't.

Delivery-receipts - we've heard of them.

Mike Bell

Re: Oops!!

I really do wish some of you numpties would pay attention.

iMessage will default to SMS delivery on failure IF YOU FECKING WELL ENABLE THAT OPTION.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Oops!!

Half the time when I send imessages and the recipient isn't in a 3g area it tells me it has been sent as a txt message instead......so it must know

VinceH
Silver badge

Re: Oops!!

To be fair, users of phones other than Apple's iShiny can only know how it works by reading reports on the subject - and El Reg's doesn't really make it clear, with the only attempt at an explanation of how it works in this article being:

"Texts sent between iOS devices are routed over Apple's iMessage service across the internet; if someone stops using an iPhone and starts using, say, a Samsung Galaxy handset but keeps the same cell number, messages sent to that person via iMessage will never be delivered to the Android phone – until the ex-iPhone user de-registers from the service."

That makes it sound like iPhone users are automagically opted in to the service, but need to manually opt out (with an inference being that it wasn't easy or obvious, before - further down in the article, it says - Apple put up a web page to do so).

Although, given what AC immediately above says - that when the recipient isn't in a 3G area, it automatically sends via SMS, from which we can infer that the system is aware when messages can't be delivered via the iMessage service - there is still something amiss. (Which may or may not be something else that just hasn't been explained - or, equally, may or may not be Apple being rotten.)

Dan 55
Silver badge
Gimp

Re: Oops!!

I think after 48 hours it's reasonable to assume that either the receiver's got connectivity problems (maybe their data bundle has been used up, maybe abroad, maybe the phone has been returned for repair and they're using a temporary phone) or is never coming back to iMessage.

There's no charge for the receiver to receive a SMS/MMS and in the case that the sender will be charged for sending the message I assume it isn't beyond Apple's engineers to display a dialog box warning the sender that the receiver hasn't been online for a long time so the iMessage option is unavailable - they can either cancel or send that message by SMS/MMS.

It's a bad original design decision, the fix (having to use a web interface) is also bad design, and finally it's a bad idea to forgive Apple when they screw up like this.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Oops!!

It's a bad original design decision,

It is an arrogant original design decision. Designed that way, because they foolishly believed their product was so good that they wouldn't lose any users to the Android ecosystem.

I'd imagine for 60% - 70% of iPhone users they are tied into the ecosystem due to the sheer number of apps and media content they've purchased and the fact they have iPads also, so for the vast majority this isn't a problem. But from my personal experience people who don't use a lot of pay apps or get their music through iTunes they don't care about the software that their phone runs and will happily switch.

Around 2 years ago myself and quite a few other people I knew switched from iPhone to Samsung. Small screen sizes were the main gripe and ironically now they seem to be floating back to Apple as their contracts come up for renewal.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Oops!! @ Mike Bell

If memory serve me correctly, the problem was that this configuration change had to be done on the senders' side not the receiver's. So there was nothing that the 'receiver' could do, instead each person who wished to send her an SMS from an iPhone would have to reconfigure their phone not to send an SMS to her using iMessage. Otherwise those the SMS don't get delivered.

Note, the lawsuit is based on the iPhone 4, not the newer version that seem to have addressed the problem... I think.

P.S. forgive my EngRish, English isn't my first language

ThomH
Silver badge

Re: Oops!! (@Marketing Hack)

Apple doesn't "force customers to register to get something as basic to mobile telephony as SMS messages if they leave Apple". See my other message below. I'm a recent departee. I haven't registered. I still have other Apple devices which receive iMessages sent to my email account. I've had no interruption in texts from my Apple-owning friends.

Though with further hindsight I can only assume that's because I wiped the phone before handing it back (it was a work phone so will now be somebody else's; contrast with if I'd broken it and bought something else or just put it into a drawer). Otherwise how could Apple know?

ThomH
Silver badge

Re: Oops!! @"if it doesn't send, then Apple could try SMS"

The multitude of people to have suggested that appear not to use the service. iMesages are more like Google Hangouts than text messages. If you own the connected phone then you can add a phone number as one of your addresses but after that you'll receive all messages sent to you via your phone, your iPad, your Mac, etc. It's multi-client instant chat. The issue is that your Apple friends end up sending you chat messages when they want to send you text messages, which makes a difference only once your phone can't receive them.

You most likely still receive them on your iPad, Mac, etc. They're still received. There are still receipts being returned.

Unlike the average tech blogger, normal people are perfectly happy to mix and match brands, including to wander in and out of iPhone ownership over the years.

An iPhone will resend as SMS if it can't send as an iMessage but that's mainly about non-data mobile connections still being more widely available than data connections per the frequencies at play. It's a failure-to-send fallback.

baseh

Re: Oops!!

Answer to Mike Bell's "I really do wish some of you numpties would pay attention. iMessage will default to SMS delivery on failure IF YOU FECKING WELL ENABLE THAT OPTION."

Sorry Mike Bell it is you who does not understand!

The average Apple customer is not tech-savy and expects from Apple a ready-for-use gadget with no fiddling.

All settings should be automatic. not requiring the user to configure etc! In worst case, the user should be informed of the problem and guided how to solve it.

Leaving the user in limbo because he didn't read his contract 5 years ago i s a kind of lock-up,

Annihilator

Re: Oops!!

"I thought Apple iMessage would send a message via SMS if it can't deliver it via iMessage, so how can it be clever enough to be able to switch when both users are using an iPhone, but not when one switches to Android?..."

You can configure the sending device to do that, or not. But it's up to the sender whether they want to use SMS as a fall-back (given there are potentially carrier charges involved).

I have my set to "no" as I message a number of people in Australia and wouldn't want it to send SMS without my knowledge.

Anonymous Coward
Holmes

Tim Cook...

...morphing into Bill Gates right before our eyes...

Fluffy Bunny

Re: Tim Cook...

To be honest, Microsoft has been behaving itself much better since the antitrust trials.

Turtle

Re: Tim Cook...

"Tim Cook... morphing into Bill Gates right before our eyes..."

You know, I'm trying to think of anything Microsoft has ever done that's similar to this and I can't. Could you refresh my memory?

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Tim Cook...

Well you could take Office (Word), the docx format, and their abuse of odf formats for starters.

Then there's email compatibility / formatting, coercing devs to build websites that work well only with IE, etc etc, the list goes on.

Essentially what this boils down to is a company locking users to their own platforms to use technology that is supposed to be open and work equally well on any platform. Microsoft have plenty of expertise here and are far from saints.

Anonymous Coward
Thumb Up

Teach 'em good

Having never used an iPhone, it took me a while to realize why I started getting unreadable MMS messages toward the beginning of this year. Only workaround is to reply "didn't get that.. please turn off iMessage and try again". Arrrgh.

Google should take note as well - Android phones do something similar but only when texting to multiple recipients... so it's even harder to guess why.

tempemeaty

I find this side of Apple extremely distasteful.

It's disappointing to see Apple engage In such petty pedestrian back stabbing behavior against customers.

How is this going to look to potential customers who may have wanted to buy a future Apple product?

ThomH
Silver badge

Re: I find this side of Apple extremely distasteful.

It'll look appropriately awful. But I think the issue may already be technically fixed. I switched away a couple of months ago and all of my Apple-toting friends' messages are now just arriving by regular text message. I didn't inform Apple, I still use some non-phone iMessage-enabled devices, I kept the same number with no discontinuity of service. I don't know what the applied logic is but I appeared not to lose anything in the switchover.

Fluffy Bunny
Megaphone

Never buy

anything from a corporate bully.

Haku
Silver badge

Re: Never buy

corporate

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Never buy

Good luck finding a mobile phone not built/sold by a corporation

Haku
Silver badge

Re: Good luck finding a mobile phone not built/sold by a corporation

Ben Heck's DIY Cell Phone Part 1 (YouTube)

Mobile phone technology is so prevailant that you can now buy modules to roll your own.Though getting it to do more than initiate/receive phone calls needs a whole new level of tech know-how.

jelabarre59
Silver badge

Re: Good luck finding a mobile phone not built/sold by a corporation

>Though getting it to do more than initiate/receive phone calls needs a

> whole new level of tech know-how

Well, seeing as the only thing I need a cellphone to do is initiate/receive phone calls, what else would I need? I have a computer to do everything else (and I can see the damned screen on the computer).

Jean-Paul

User error

In my opinion part of this is user error. There is nothing stopping anyone from disabling iMessage, or just disable it for your phone number and leave the email addresses attached to it.

I'm not quite sure how Apple technically should automatically and magically notice this.

I've switched three times (and gone back again) and never lost anything. The only times that I noticed I didn't get anything was when other users were actually messaging my iMessage linked email address instead of my phone number.

Granted the new website makes it easier to deregister for when you no longer have your iPhone, but lock-in it hardly was...

MacroRodent
Silver badge

Re: User error

It depends if iMessages were the default (are they? I have no idea, not owning an iPhone). Most users don't try to change settings, if the defaults appear to work. So any problems caused by them cannot be called a user error, when talking about a consumer product.

Roj Blake
Silver badge

Re: User error

You're forgetting that most users have no idea how their phones work.

Intractable Potsherd

Re: User error

I thought people bought iThings because "they just work", which I don't really have a problem with. However, if the user needs to change default settings in order to send SMS, then "it doesn't just work". If the default messaging system is Apple's proprietary thing, and it borks messages sent to other things unless settings are played with (which many buyers have expressed a desire not to do by buying something that "just works"), then it starts to look as if Apple have been as spiteful as people claim they are, and that it is a form of lock-in due to difficulty in changing platforms.

Steve Evans

@Roj Blake

Hit the nail on the head there Roj.

Few know what iMessage is. Fewer know what it does, and even fewer know how it could affect them.

TBH, I really don't know what Apple were trying to do. Hijacking an industry standard such as SMS. Worse still having the remote contact remember you as an iMessage user, and default to that route for all future communications, with no apparent "I've not had you pick up an iMessages for a couple of days, I'll drop back to SMS and tell all your contacts" fail back on the server - Although even a couple of days would be pretty unacceptable.

Tim Bates

Re: @Roj Blake

"Although even a couple of days would be pretty unacceptable."

It's done over the intertubes - surely it should be able to guess fairly reliably within seconds that the recipient is not available via iMessage. Keep track of failures over a few days, and prompt the sender if there's a run of failures during say 7 days.

Not exactly a hard thing to work around.

danbi

Re: User error

iMessage is the only way to send/receive a SMS on an iPhone.

The system is very well designed and works well 'automagically'.

Of course, it does all you guys want it to do, such as switches to SMS when you no longer use iMessages with that id (phone number). For example, my wife rarely switches on 3G on her iPhone (old habbits) and when I try to send her an iMessage, it almost always goes out via SMS (iMessages indicates what you send, by the color. So this works even with an iPhone at the receiving side.

Nothing usual for the user to do.

I guess, that lady apparently had done some weird configuration, that prevented the SMS "fallback" from functioning. What it was, we could only guess. But could be another iOS deice set up to receive with that number as ID.

All this case demonstrates is the twisted US legal system and the arrogance of the US judge. Don't they at least hire experts on these cases?

danbi

Re: @Roj Blake

"surely it should be able to guess fairly reliably within seconds that the recipient is not available via iMessage"

This is exactly what iMessage does.

It is amazing how people will believe anything...

Alan Denman

Lock In

Well maybe now you have Message you know it has lock in, locking the other 90% of non Apple users into a non standard deviation.

There is a solution, use a cross platform app, do not accept 2nd best.

Velv
Silver badge

Never mind failed messages after leaving Apple, when iMessage first appeared I found regular delays and failed messages. Rarely did it "fall back to SMS".

iMessage was disabled pretty sharpish and has never been turned on since.

danbi

"iMessage was disabled pretty sharpish and has never been turned on since."

And, without iMessage how were you able to send SMS from the iPhone?

Share with us this secret technology, so that we too, could ditch iMessage :)

ukgnome
Silver badge
Trollface

Excuse me but....

Why would I want to continue text messaging someone that doesn't have an iPhone.

MrZoolook
Coffee/keyboard

This is the same Lucy Koh who allowed Apple a settlement for patent infringement regarding public domain software solutions, such as swiping to unlock?

My, how the mighty have fallen. If I was a gambling man and you'd have asked, I would have guessed she would award Apple money on the grounds of "failing to disclose termination of a service, thus costing Apple storage fees for undeliverable messages." or something.

b166er

I remember this story when it first came up.

I hope Apple get whipped for this. It's blackmail and deceitful.

Martin-73
Silver badge

Sounds like typical jobsian and post jobsian era apple.

Take a standard or standards, (SMS, and MMS), screw with them a bit so nothing can interwork with them properly, then tell your customers it's the same service, but better. Which is demonstrably a lie, and thus the reason for this lawsuit.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Sounds like typical jobsian and post jobsian era apple.

The phrase you're looking for is Embrace, Extend, Extinguish.

Apple will no doubt respond that iMessage is baked into the OS and couldn't possibly be removed or changed too much without breaking things. The judge should then say 'Oh, just like IE on Windows? Court finds Bullshit.' And force them to unbundle it. Apple will take the piss, aaaand the courts will impose a harsher sanction.

Henry Wertz 1
Gold badge

"Excuse me but....Why would I want to continue text messaging someone that doesn't have an iPhone." I had to quote this, it made me smile 8-)

"Apple has set up a website to deactivate iMessage, but that is not enough, it seems." Yeah, but this was set up recently, and this problem has been ongoing for years.

Anyway, despite Mike Bell's protestations that you're using it wrong... it does sound like this service has significant design flaws, designed to lock people into the service. No, Mike and other Apple fanbois, it is not reasonable to have a default that *never* fails to text. This is lock-in pure and simple. If texting fees were a concern, I think a sensible compromise would be "We haven't been able to send you imessages for a while. Reply w/ 12345 to disable imessage or 23456 to disable imessage and send your waiting imessages as texts."

danbi

"it does sound like this service has significant design flaws, designed to lock people into the service"

When was it you were using an iPhone, and consequently iMessage and know any of this first hand?

By the way, iMessage is indeed a messaging service designed to lock you in. Just as Skype, ICQ and about any other messaging service is designed to lock you in. To be fair to Apple, their SMS interface of the service however does not lock you in, any way. No matter what some American wanna-be-rich lady or an US judge might say.

This is just another iteration of the cat and the microwave oven.

apraetor

the website is new

The issue here isn't that Apple's iMessage-deactivation site isn't *enough*, it's that Apple didn't provide that website for deauthorizing iMessage until *after* they lost their motion to dismiss the lawsuit. At that point they realized that they weren't going to skate on deceptive business practices and unfair, anti-competitive behavior.

Jayden

I think this is somewhat typical of the American consumer to expect from a company. I don't see why she doesn't bring an action against her energy company for charging her for heating when she is not at home!

As a reasonable person, if you register for anything be it a service or a website you don't expect to be de-registered for it unless you do so yourself. When this lady left Apple for a Samsung device she should have done what is so easy and what she would have done in the first place to turn it on and go to Settings > iMessage and TURN IT OFF. In my view, Apple havn't done much wrong, if I wanted to de-register myself from iMessage I would turn it off. In the same way if I moved phone networks and got a new number, I wouldn't sue the other phone network because they didn't forward calls to my new number! Judge Koh is setting somewhat of an interesting precedent by this case and I think can possibly open the floodgates in the US to all different cases involving user oversight because lets be honest this is user oversight.

I would like to see someone outside the US bring a similar action as I could see it getting dismissed promptly. Whilst Apple may or may not be deceptive with their policies (I havn't read through the book that could be made from them), Microsoft, Google, WhatsApp amongst others have similar policies for different products which 99% of us DO NOT READ.

Reading briefly through the case notes, the problem with older iOS version and even current ones is sometimes you have to delete a conversation & re-create it for it to update the contact info. I have had this numerous times where a friend or colleague has updated their phone number and my phone hasn't recogised them as having iMessage. Did I sue Apple? No I did what a reasonable person would do and troubleshooted it. Furthermore, why contact Verizon about an Apple problem. Maybe give Google a call and ask them?

I would be interested to see what others think as this is not in my view unfair competition, as there was no heckling involved trying to get her back. There will always be certain errs in technology, it is like sending an email to someone who has just updated their NS records - it may fail for a couple of hours until the changes have been picked up but you don't see people going ape over that!

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