I was excited for iMessage

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iMessage was one of the features that I was most excited about with iOS 5. Messaging has always been imperfect both on the computer with IM and on the phone. What I want is something that is seamless no matter which type of device I’m using. I had hopes that iMessage would be a step in the right direction. Allowing me to also message on my iPad, and if all went well, on the Mac too. But so far, no such luck.

iMessage already has the huge hurdle to get over since it only works for people on iOS. I have enough of those to at least utilize some of the benefits, unlike most other messaging options, which none of my friends use. Given this hurdle, I figured they would have gone out of their way to make iMessage as easy as possible. No such luck.

I don’t care about the avoiding Text Message part when it comes to fees. At this point you either have unlimited or nothing. I’m a long way from not needing any Text Messages, so I could care less about that benefit.

I expected that as soon as I was connected to someone with iMessage then all of our messages would start popping up on my iPad. Not the case. From what I’m reading, but haven’t tried out because it’s not worth the inconvenience of anyone who has iMessage, is that for it to show up on both my iPhone and iPad, the sender would have to send an iMessage to an email address I have registered on both. If the message is sent to my phone number like a normal Text Message, then it will only appear on my iPhone.

Text Message threads are already in place using phone numbers. Meaning a new message thread needs to be started using email addresses. What email address to use? For my school friends, I only have their .edu email, but I bet most of them don’t attach that to their iMessage, so I’ll have to go through the trouble of asking which email to use. Sure, it only has to be done once, and I’ll try it with a few people, but this could have been done without any effort on my part.

Here are the two situations and how they could easily work:
1) iMessage sent to phone number. iMessage system figures out all the connected devices, sends to all of those.
2) Text Message from non-iPhone. iPhone sends message up to iCloud. iPad receives message as well. Reply allows iMessage system to route message back. They can go back through the phone if they have to.

I don’t get Apple’s strategy. The have iChat, which for the most part you use to log in to third-party services. Then FaceTime, so you can do video chats between devices and computer. Now iMessage. Is there a reason there are three different platforms? I had always assumed iChat would have been on the iPhone early on, but it’s never happened.

Talking between someone on a phone and a desktop has potential to be less than ideal. The phone user won’t respond as quickly as you are used to on IM. Still, it would be useful. The software would obviously tell you the person was currently on a phone or whatever sort of device, so you’d know it might be slow. I’d rather be able to send or respond to a message on my computer, if I’m using it, than have to get my phone and type in a message.

Have you tried to navigate iMessage? I imagine I have a lot fewer conversations than the average user, and I have trouble scrolling around looking for the conversation I want. Why no favorites tab like the Phone App has?

Nice things to say …
Most of my complaints are comparing iMessage to what I think it should be. Comparing to the old Text Message only version, there are a few nice new features.

Quicker – For those that I am connected via iMessage, it is faster send over Wi-Fi than having to use a text.
Group Messaging – I used to send a message to a group of friends and then get messages back from them in separate threads and they wouldn’t see each others’ responses. I assumed this was some sort of technical limitation until last year when my sister got a Blackberry and I realized I was receiving replies when our mom was sending a message to both of us. Now I can reply to everyone on the original thread at once.
Text Tones – Some of this may have already been in. I think you could change the default sound, but I didn’t like any of the alternatives. Now I can assign a custom tone to anyone. I did realize that it isn’t as easy to find sound clips online as I remember. Simpsons, Seinfeld, whatever you wanted used to be easy to find. I asked a friend what sound he would want when he texted me and he picked a popular line from Friday Night Lights, Coach Taylor’s ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ After much searching, no luck. I assume instead of posting sound clips, people just do YouTube clips now. I still couldn’t find it on there. I’m not sure I care enough to try and record it off a DVD.

WhatsApp is free now, or at least was yesterday when I downloaded it. I like that it works on a few different platforms. It is tied to a phone number so no luck on the iPad and certainly nothing on the desktop. It doesn’t seem worth trying to migrate people as it isn’t much better than what I can do with Text Messages. This seems the same as the other Apps I’ve downloaded: Ping, Kik, GroupMe, Beluga, Disco.

Is there something I’m missing? It’s possible Facebook might be the best alternative. However, most of my friends don’t sign in to Facebook chat, so that would take some effort. Right now, email is still the best way to go for my needs, I just want instant email. At least until ChatON gets rolling. ChatON is Samsung’s service that just launched on Android. It is attempting to be cross-platform along with a web app. I’d settle for a web app. Hopefully their iOS App comes out soon.

That’s where I’m at on iMessage. There are a lot of things I like about iOS 5, and I’ll try to get to them. There are also a few head scratchers. iWork Docs only sync between devices, not with the Mac!?!

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