When Apple Damns Your Texts to iMessage Purgatory

I recently switched from an iPhone to Android, and discovered shortly thereafter that my phone number was still associated with iMessage, meaning that any time someone with an iPhone tried texting me, I'd receive nothing, and they'd get a "Delivered" receipt in their Messages app as though everything were working as expected.

I spent the better part of a day trying to fix the problem on my own (mostly because Apple's support tries to extort $20 from you unless you have a device with an active support plan), and eventually succeeded in getting my phone number removed from my Apple ID.

Great! But not, because it didn't change anything. I'm still not receiving text messages from anyone with an iPhone.

So I called up Apple tech support again, using Ellen's new iPhone 5c as my supported device (if she can't text me, it's a tech support problem for her, too, I guess). After 10 minutes walking through various steps I'd already taken and others that were completely impractical (Apple Support: "Can you try deleting the contact from your new iPhone and re-adding it?" Me: "I can't tell everyone I know to delete and re-add me as a contact."), my tech support person told me that I was breaking up, and that she needed to call me back.

I hung up; she called me back, then explained:

  1. This is a problem a lot of people are facing.
  2. The engineering team is working on it but is apparently clueless as to how to fix it.
  3. There are no reliable solutions right now — for some people the standard fixes work immediately; many others are in my boat.

In the meantime, Apple has completely hijacked my text messaging and my phone number portability (portability between devices, not networks). No one can fix this but Apple because it's a problem at the device level, which means people in my position have no recourse but to wait for Apple to figure out what the problem is. But Apple isn't offering any public support on the issue that I've been able to find (and it's worth repeating that proper support is behind a $20 paywall for most people who've switched devices, who would also be the most commonly affected by this problem).

I thought iMessage was pretty novel when Apple launched it. Providers were charging an absurd mark-up on SMS delivery, and the switch between iMessage and SMS was seamless enough to be almost invisible to the user, save the green vs. blue bubbles, which are in their own way a sort of weird social/status indicator ("omg why doesn't Nathan have an iPhone?").

But if it breaks, which it apparently has, it means Apple has crippled an entire medium for communication. Most of my friends have iPhones. My phone number hasn't changed. But my number is now a black hole for text messages.


This post has been republished with permission from Adam Pash, who you can follow on his website here or on Twitter here.