Former iPhone users now have a way to ensure that text messages from other iOS devices aren't lost in a digital no-man's land, now that Apple has launched an online tool to help them deregister iMessage. Previously, many Apple phone owners who switched to Android or Windows phones found they no longer received texts from iPhone users.
The problem was a function of how iMessage operates. Introduced in 2011, iMessage uses the Internet rather than SMS networking to transmit text messages from one device to another.
That meant that when iPhone users switched to different mobile platforms, texts from other Apple devices were routed using the users' former iMessage information. With no active iPhone account to receive those messages and no support for an SMS alternative, those texts ended up in a "black hole" (some called it "iMessage purgatory") inaccessible to the intended recipient. The problem eventually led to at least two lawsuits by former Apple customers.
Missed Texts = Angry Friends, Bosses
The previous iMessage fix offered by Apple gave former iPhone users two options: temporarily return their SIM cards from their new phones to their iPhones, connect to the mobile network and enter the iPhones' settings function to switch off iMessage; or contact Apple Support if they no longer had their old phones to seek a representative's help to deactivate iMessage.
Former customers who couldn't -- or didn't realize they needed to -- do one or the other have made numerous complaints about the problem. In fact, an article in Business Insider on Monday reported that it has received more than 500 e-mails from readers who complained the issue led to worries about broken relationships, angry bosses, lost customers and even safety concerns due to failed communications between police officers.
As with the previous fix, the new Apple deregistration page offers former iPhone customers the option of transferring their SIM cards to their old devices to deactivate iMessage. However, it also offers an online option where users can simply enter the phone numbers they wish to deregister, after which they should receive a confirmation code by phone.
Lawsuits Filed Over Issue
In May, former iPhone owner Adrienne Moore filed suit against Apple in California complaining that the iMessage system prevented her from obtaining the full benefit of her new cellphone contract for an Android device. Another class action lawsuit, also filed in California around the same time, alleged that Apple's iMessage system violated several federal regulations, including the Stored Communications Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
According to Law360, Moore's lawsuit against Apple was ordered into alternative dispute resolution in late October. The other case was also being considered for alternative dispute resolution.
News about Apple's new deregistration option emerged after a post on Reddit's Apple subreddit over the weekend. The announcement quickly generated more than 150 responses, including this comment from one user: "Finally! I had to call in twice to deregister my mom's iPhone from iMessage because she doesn't have a data plan and wasn't receiving text messages. Both times I was on hold for 30 mins."
We reached out to Apple to learn more about why the company decided to launch the online self-help tool, but did not get a response.