messages

Adam Pash, former lead editor of Lifehacker, reports that Apple has acknowledged a problem we’ve heard reported before: text messages continue to be converted to iMessages and forwarded to an Apple ID even when that ID is no longer in use. This means that any text messages sent from an iPhone are reported as delivered while actually disappearing into the ether.

[The AppleCare rep] 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 …

For Pash, the problem began when he switched from an iPhone to an Android handset. When his friends texted him, they received a ‘Delivered’ flag while no text message arrived on his new phone….or anywhere else.

When you add a contact and place their phone number in the iPhone field, the Messages app converts what would otherwise be a text message into an iMessage. While this typically saves money for anyone paying per text message, it can result in lost messages when someone stops using the associated Apple ID.

Apple suggested that he ask all his contacts to remove him as a contact and re-add him, selecting Mobile rather than iPhone as the field for his telephone number, a solution that would require contacting everyone who has him listed in their iPhone.

We’ve asked Apple to comment and will report back on any response.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

69 Responses to “Apple reportedly acknowledges hijacked text message problem”

  1. Chris Licata says:

    Title is misleading. It’s not a hijack, it just gets lost. The reality is much less scary than what you’ve made it sound like.

    • Ben Lovejoy says:

      Hijacked = grabbed by the Messages app and diverted

      • ericpruss says:

        How about misdirected? Hijacked just seems to imply malicious intent, at least in common modern day vernacular.

        After all, the problem is evidently on the SENDER’S side, not the recipient. The senders iPhone/iPad/Mac thinks the recipient device is still active and thus the message is going to it, but it may or may not be listening. Back in 2011, when this first came up, wasn’t it the case that when someone got a used iPhone, they were receiving texts directed to the prior owner, despite the phone number being different?

        Of course, the obvious solution for the people who used iMessage on an iPhone is to not be a fool and switch some piece of crap Android phone! :)

      • I personally love Apple’s hardware and Operating Systems, but this is an absurd issue (if it is truly an “issue” at all) for a multi-billion dollar corporation to have. I believe that this can quite possibly be an intentional scheme to gain an unfair market advantage. This is why I the term “Hijack” seems like the correct term to use.

        I’ve been dealing with this for quite some time, yet I am still appalled at the fully manual process that this requires to rectify. I’ve missed several important SMS messages due to this, and still am. This is a person’s reputation at stake.

        I prefer not to have my intellectual property be at the mercy of a brand. It’s unfortunate that this testimonial, and those like it will never get the proper publicity that they require. Other than being massively unethical, this is truly unacceptable.

    • I would have to agree Ben. Hijacked typically means that it is in the hands of someone else, typically wanting to do harm with it.

      Misleading indeed and click bait.

      • Ben Lovejoy says:

        “seize, take over, take possession of”

      • crichton007 says:

        I agree too: the work hijack is misleading. Technically speaking the messages app may be hijacking the message but in contemporary conversation the word is not used in this manner. It would fit if this was a malicious attack by a person but when it is a flaw in the system then another term would be more appropriate.

      • s19742014 says:

        Maybe “kidnapped” is a better term because it reflects the fact that you have to pay Apple’s $20 ransom fee to release your number from the iMessage system.

    • Abraham Song says:

      Yes, because “it just gets lost” is so much better. /s

      • herb02135go says:

        Larger with the readers. Why not just say “lost”? Most people associate a hijacking with a third party taking control. That is not yet known to be the case here.

        As for switching to Android- everytime I’ve been in a store and see people looking at the new Samsung Galaxy S 5, I ask their current phone. All of them had iPhone. All bought the S5.

    • MY PHONE CHOOSES IMESSAGES INSTEAD OF TEXT MESSAGE- IT IS DRIVING ME CRAZY… HOW CAN I FIX THIS??? THE RECIPIENTS DONT SEE IT RIGHT AWAY WHEN ITS A IMESSAGE….

  2. I can’t see that it would be hard for Apple to implement a system where they can remove the Apple ID from the iMessage database.

  3. PMZanetti says:

    “For Pash, the problem began when he switched from an iPhone to an Android handset.”

    Hahaha. Maybe shouldn’t a done that.

  4. Surely putting the SIM into an iPhone allow it to activate then turn off iMessage in Settings should fix this problem.

    • There is a good chance the sim card size will be different between handsets,
      Meaning a trip to your carriers store to “replace” your sim card then “replace” it back again to the correct size.

    • natevancouver says:

      It should, but speaking from personal experience, it does not always work.

      For my own phone (I sometimes switch between an iPhone and an Android phone) it actually works fine. For some other people I know, no matter what we’ve tried, they are unable to receive text messages from iPhone users. They’ve tried everything and I’ve worked with them and *nothing* works.

  5. I’ve found if you know you are having this issue as soon as you’ve sent the message, press and gold the message as if to copy it and an option to send as text will appear that then gets around it. I have never had to try it in iOS 7.1, but it certainly worked in iOS 7.

  6. likearabbit says:

    Does this not work? http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5538

    I’ve recommended the “unlink a phone number” actions to friends that have switched to Android and they haven’t had any issues. The only time an issue arose was when a friend had already switched but didn’t realize iMessage was an Apple only feature. He had traded in his iPhone without first signing out of iMessage.

  7. Your conversation with the Apple Care rep is in a block quote, with a quotation mark watermark in the box, and yet I’m pretty sure you’re paraphrasing. Or did the rep really say the engineering team is “apparently clueless”?

  8. thejuanald says:

    I received that for a long time when I got my Note 3 and people with iMessage were trying to text me. What I was told by Apple was that they were rerouting iMessage texts through their servers and that I would just need to deactivate iMessages on my old iPhone. I did and a few days later it worked. It would be difficult for people who return their phones when they’re done with them. You’d have to call Apple to fix it.

    It’s kind of a ridiculous thing, but oh well.

  9. Scott Rose says:

    This is how Apple keeps you in their ecosystem! ;)

  10. Going through the same issue right now! Apparently, according to Apple, the solution is to contact support and have them remove the certificate associated with your old iPhone from the APNS (Apple Push Notification System) environment. This is supposed to prompt you to re initialize iMessage on all of your other devices. Doing so will remove the old phone number from the system and make it work as expected. Don’t know if it will actually work, but it sounds promising. If you still have the iPhone in question, you supposedly are able to simply disable all of your iCloud services including iMessage and it should do the same thing. But if you are no longer in possession of the the iPhone, or, as in my case, the iPhone is inoperable, you have to resort to assistance from Apple Support.

  11. I have seen this problem with this a lot with my customers at my store. According to Apple, when i spoke to them, you need to disable iMessage on the old phone. That will a “revoke” request to apple to have them remove you from the iMessage database. This can take 24-48 hours. Then your friends with iPhones need to delete your conversation thread. If you use the existing thread the phone will never know to call out to see if iMessage is still active on that number. When they go to start a new one, the phone will call out to Apple to see if the number is assigned to iMessage and see it is no longer active and will revert to text messaging instead. By doing this, I have seen is fix the issue every time. I have never changed the “Phone type” in the contacts app.

    • Ben Lovejoy says:

      That sounds promising, Brandon – thanks for posting.

      • No problem! I do apologize for all the typos in there ha I didn’t go through and reread it lol The switch from Apple to Samsung in a big thing in my town as people want the bigger phone…. Until the iPhone 6 ;) but i see this daily, took me a little while to find a working solution and so far its been holding true,

  12. Got hit by this a year ago when my work iPhone 4 got replaced by a Moto X. I did not know about removing the phone from Apple’s Messages app. Wound up switching over to Google’s Hangouts, which has been working pretty well.

    Wasn’t Apple going to make the Messages protocol available to others? I seem to recall that in the initial product blurb. Seems like that might solve the problem…

    • scottwilkins says:

      I thought they did do that, along with FaceTime. Nobody uses it though. Apple’s a tough company to work with, so most don’t bother unless they can get return. And through free services they don’t get any return to speak of.

  13. This has happened to me as well. My iPhone is currently getting fixed and so I’ve had to use an old brick phone, so seeing as my number is unavailable for iMessage a lot of messages from my contacts dissapeared whilst after I messaged them from my iPad or Mac I would once again get messages as before. I think it takes a little while for Apple’s system to realize the phone number you have linked to your Apple ID is unavailable for iMessage and FaceTme.

  14. chrisw52 says:

    I had a similar problem when I enabled my iCloud services for the first time. After enabling my iCloud services, all of my iMessage enabled contacts failed to get any texts delivered until I manually resent the texts via SMS. Once that contact was sent a single message via SMS, that contact would stop having issues.

    Pain in the butt, so I stopped using IMessage all together.

  15. Well Found the problem, why did they change from iPhone to Android in the first place..Idiot:-) Go back to iPhone and the problem is solved.

  16. They just came out with the fix. Just switch back to your iPhone and keep using it.

  17. Isn’t conventional SMS an old technology anyway. Can’t we all move to a new standard that works across all platforms? I love seeing blue messages and hate seeing green ones. If I get a really long text from someone with SMS it always comes to me in a different order than the sender intended and I have to practically decipher it. It’s aggravating.

    • nik (@n13) says:

      Well Apple has absolutely no intention of making iMessage work on other devices. They use it as a lock in / switch over feature.

      In some ways that is rather strange – imagine Apple went all out to make iMessage _the_ way people message each other. With their installed base of oh about 400M devices, they’d have a very good chance of becoming the dominant messaging service in the world. Which would be worth $19Bn… as it is it’s an add-on for Apple to sell more hardware.

      • eldernorm says:

        Actually iMessage is NOT SMS. It is a better system that can default to SMS when talking to older phones. However, if people tell their iPhones that you have an iPhone, then you change, they have to tell their iPhones that you have downgraded to plain SMS. Just saying.

  18. scottwilkins says:

    I turned off iMessage a long time ago due to this issue. I will never use iMessage again. Just not worth the problems it causes.

    • yes, these very rare instances where iMessage doesn’t work as intended FAR outweigh the exceptional convenience of everything iMessage provides.

      • herb02135go says:

        Given the number of cell phone users that have unlimited texting ( which is cheaper than dirt) there is not much use for iMessage anymore.
        Unless you want false information about delivery status and to have your messages “hijacked”!

  19. itsnobi says:

    Actually, for that particular problem(OP), there is a fix. There are two, actually. You can 1) reset the password for Apple ID you stopped using. Or 2) call apple and tell them you want to disassociate you number from your Apple ID. Ooooo, 3) if you still have the device, you can turn off iMessage, which disassociates the number. 4) you can wait 45 days, as it does t automatically after 45 days of non use.

    That’s all I got.

    • s19742014 says:

      From the article “iOS: Deactivating iMessage” http://support.apple.com/kb/TS5185

      Performing these tasks won’t deregister iMessage:

      * Logging into My Support Profile and changing your password or removing your phone number
      * Sending an SMS text message STOP to 48369
      * Resetting your network settings
      * Changing your Apple ID password

      A lot of people thought changing the password worked, but it doesn’t, and even if you disable iMessage on the old device (while under wifi) it usually doesn’t work.

      • itsnobi says:

        Changing it will not, but resetting it will. I addressed that, already:

        “Btw, when I say reset the password for the newly abandoned Apple ID, I mean go to the iforgot.apple.com and go through the process as though you had really forgotten the password. When the password is reset to disassociates all devices/numbers until the password is re entered. I used to tell people this info on the phones everyday for 2-3 years”

        And seriously, I just finished working in the call center. Its really easy to fix, unless the OP is referring to something different.

    • s19742014 says:

      Changing your password is resetting your password. Technically there is no “reset” since there is no option to reset it to an original, and it does not work 100% of the time. The only thing that does work is dumb luck or contacting Apple so that they can flip the switch on their side on a process they are intentionally hiding from users. As for the waiting for 45 days, it would be easier to find a teenager who’d rather go 45 days without a kidney or access to breathable air than one that would wait even 45 minutes for iMessage to disassociate.

  20. itsnobi says:

    Btw, when I say reset the password for the newly abandoned Apple ID, I mean go to the iforgot.apple.com and go through the process as though you had really forgotten the password. When the password is reset to disassociates all devices/numbers until the password is re entered. I used to tell people this info on the phones everyday for 2-3 years

  21. b9bot says:

    That report is a little exaggerated. Not hijacked because no one with another ID is actually stealing the information. I’m sure they are not clueless. They may not have the answer as of right now but that doesn’t mean they are clueless as this report suggests without any facts to back it up. It may need time to fix but exaggerating the story with lines like “hijacked” and “clueless” are not necessary and are false. Example Nasa runs into problems all of the time and needs to fix them. Does that mean they are clueless? I don’t think so and the same goes for Apple. This is making drama from nothing and is the wrong way to write about it.

    • eldernorm says:

      b9bot, totally agree. Ps its an apple feature. When people switch to android then complain that their Apple feature does not work…. well……

    • s19742014 says:

      The report is entirely accurate. iMessage is a virtually redundant feature to their cellular SMS/MMS, provides little to no tangible value for most, its activation is both mandatory and done in virtual secrecy. Aside from the times iMessage fouls up, it is designed to work seamlessly with the existing SMS/MMS system almost to the point you don’t even know it’s there.

      When someone moves to another device they discover that Apple has taken their number and unless you pay $20 you will never see your messages again,

      How is that NOT a hijacking of a phone number?

  22. drtyrell969 says:

    This is precisely why iPhone folks who convert to Android, a very common thing these days, are reporting that texting is slower. BECAUSE, Android doesn’t LIE to the user reporting that texts are sent before they are. Apple made the software decision to fake it, then later notify you, often after you’ve locked your screen, that a vital text hasn’t been sent and that you have to try again. You arrive to your destination thinking you’ve sent a “sorry, I’m running late” message only to find your iPhone didn’t send it. Android OS will NOT report it has been sent until the server reports back 100%.

    • eldernorm says:

      So you are saying that an advanced feature and free service should be removed cause Android does not have it??? It appears that the user is using an iPhone and tells his phone he is sending to an iPhone. No issue. But when the receiver switches to an android phone, the sender needs to change from send to “IPHONE” to send to “MOBILE” NO issue.

  23. eldernorm says:

    Ben, not a bad article but maybe just a little hit conscious. Apple did not hijack anything. People used a great feature and then switched to a system where that feature did not work. Just like when switching and your apps do not follow you. Apple should fix that,,,,, right??? And this seems exactly just like that.

    Just a thought here, but you have a great feature in the iPhone. You want to switch to a non-iPhone and yet have the same advantages????? NOPE. Don’t count on it.

    Oh I see, to get the advantage, your friends had to flag your phone as an iPhone. Cool. Now they have to unflag your phone as an iPhone. Not Apple’s problem. There is even a good solution below to do it.

    However, complaining that Apple is “bad” and has a major problem cause its more advanced than android is like complaining your go cart can’t go fast, and after upgrading to a car, complaining that you cannot park in a cardboard box any more.

    The iPhone is more than a phone. Its a computer that makes calls. So we need to understand that. Actually we see the something among android users. You go from one running OS 4.4 to one running OS 2.2 and suddenly your apps don’t work. Some one should fix that,,,,,, right???

    And yes, I totally understand that its possible for Apple to bend over backwards to make things great for using your new android phone. But tell me why Apple wants to do that, when Android keeps copying Apple features (and sometimes very badly) and no one is paying Apple for all that great R&D???

    Just saying folks.

    • John Gibson says:

      With all do respect, if a user turns off iMessage for a particular message Apple should no longer try to deliver messages to that via iMessage. The problem is Apple’s system is buggy and even though one has explicitly that they no longer wish to use iMessage Apple will still try to deliver iMessages to that particular number. iMessage may have a more advanced feature than Android but that doesn’t change the fact they they’ve eff’d up the implementation of turning said feature off.

      • s19742014 says:

        Worse still, this is a feature that cannot ever work.because it pretends to be the phone’s true SMS/MMS system when it is not and therefore does not have access the the information required for the feature to work reliably. Apple should have made iMessage into a separate instant messaging system, but that was too conventional and not “Apple” enough for them. Instead they envisioned their iMessage working seamlessly with the existing messaging system, and while that would be a great way to work, it cannot be done and this botched feature’s problems confirms this is true.

  24. Would’ve thought the actual issue here is on the server side? Apples iMessage service has to tell the device the message has been delivered. It seems the server *thinks* the message is delivered and thus tells the sender.
    I think this because, when you send an iMessage to a user who has no signal or the device is off, I do eventually get an undelivered message and to try SMS (for actual iPhone users). Hmmz.

    Either way – I also wouldn’t call it ‘hijack’ as the message isn’t directed anywhere, it’s just lost by the server.
    But indeed – turning off iMessage *before* you migrate to another device should stop this happening.

  25. sillynurse says:

    Title not misleading– my friends have iMessage and I do not– yet someone who no longer has a phone number is still using it for iMessage and therefore text messages to me are going to this J A who won’t stop using iMessage with my phone number – apparently the only solution I have to change my number again which is really irritating cause I just changed it

  26. s19742014 says:

    iMessage can’t be fixed because it’s a fundamentally flawed concept. Apple must have found independent instant messaging apps inadequate and wanted to build something that works seamlessly with a phone’s existing SMS/MMS system for ease of use, and this is why the feature is secretly activated during the setup process, but in order to work properly it requires information it can never receive.

    Switching to an Android is a perfect example. Before the switch your phone registers your number at Apple as a iMessage number. If you switch to an Android how will Apple ever know? This would require either Android manufacturers or cellular carriers notify Apple that you are no longer using an iPhone, and those parties are not going to do that. Why should they pay to fix Apple’s problem, and if they do how long would it be before they’re sued for violating a user’s privacy?

    Of course the user could notify Apple but:

    1) Apple still hasn’t provided customers a simple way of removing their phone numbers from iMessage, and Apple could easily do that.

    2) Many iPhone users don’t know iMessage exists, and why should they? Apple prides itself of making devices so easy to use you don’t need to understand the underlying technology! If they felt consumers should know, iMessage activation would at least be a visible (and rejectable) step in the setup process.

    This is issue is just the tip of the iceberg of problems with this feature.

    People want nearly instantaneous transfer of messages, and iMessage works over a data connection. What happens if that connection is lost? Should the other iPhone automatically switch to SMS/MMS to keep the conversation flowing? If so, how would it know to do this? This would require all iMessage devices to waste data and repeatedly ping Apple’s systems to report a “ready” status so that a delay of only a few seconds (remember people want instantaneous transfer of messages) could be treated as a “not ready”.

    What would “not ready” signify? Was the data or device turned off? Can Apple even distinguish between the two? It is certainly relevant because if it was a loss of data, then messaging should switch to SMS/MMS,.. unless of course the user has a limited messaging plan is roaming internationally because then the customer would not want the expense of SMS/MMS… maybe.

    If the device was powered down then surely messages should continue to be sent as an iMessage awaiting the time the phone turns back on… unless of course it was shut down for the purpose of moving cellular service into another phone!

    I find it hard to believe that Apple did not forsee these issues. What I imagine is that Apple wanted something *better* than a instant messaging service (a choice which would have eliminated these issues) and arrogantly believed all iPhone users will have data access at all times and will only want to upgrade to another iPhone.

  27. s19742014 says:

    There are other bugs in Apple’s messaging system Apple has failed to fix:

    1) If you change your phone number your iMessages will not reflect your new phone number. To fix it you have to disable iMessage, reboot the phone, and then re-enable iMessage.

    2) If you change the phone number of a contact and send them a message the phone will continue to send messages to the previous number. To fix it, you have to delete all of the message threads to this contact, and then delete & recreate the contact.

    3) If someone sends an MMS and your cellular data is off you will get nothing. Other phones advise that so-and-so has sent you a message showing a button requesting that you download the message. At least this way you know a message exists and you can get it by enabling data. With an iPhone you have no idea anything happened.

    4) If someone adds you to an iMessage group message you have no way of releasing yourself from the conversation. I think this is also true with MMS group messaging, but I thought this iMessage feature was supposed to be better and more advanced than the cellular stuff…

  28. bjbrev says:

    I have never had an iPhone and never used iMessage. I do have a S4 and those of my friends who send multi-recipient text messages with their iPhone’s I do not receive. I know iMessage can be turned off in the iPhone settings, at least for group texts. What I do not understand is why iMessage still exists. To me it is like AIM or Yahoo Messenger or ICQ, kind of out dated and useless.

  29. Kelly Law says:

    My babe and I are having the opposite problem. We can’t send any iMessages to each other, even though we both have iPhones. This started about a month or so ago. We are getting the messages as green texts though, so we haven’t lost any.