SMS is still the only universal messaging

… or should I say, the most universal messaging. It won’t reach someone without a mobile phone.

I’m responding to this tweet that stated:

Re: SS7. Some infra is too old and widespread to secure; you have to pave over it. Cellular voice and SMS are going the way of dodo anyway.

That, in turn, was in response to the 60 Minutes show that demonstrated that hackers only need your phone number to spy on all your text messages and calls.

I replied,

SMS is pretty much the only universal messaging. Are friends on iMessages, Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Telegram …

but due to Twitter’s 140-character limit, I had to stop there. There are many more alternatives for messaging, such as Skype, Fongo, Hangouts, HipChat, Line, Viber, … and the list goes on with many more I’ve never heard of.

The point being, if you don’t care about privacy, or understand there’s an infinitesimally small chance some hacker will read your texts or listen to your calls, then stick with SMS and cellular voice because you know there will be a 99% chance your message will get through. Otherwise, you have to remember that this friend is using Messenger and that relative is using WhatsApp and that friend is using SnapChat and your coworker is using Slack and … see what I’m saying?

Now let me talk about my “favourite” messaging protocol, iMessage. My wife and I both use iPhones and she’s disabled iMessages so that all our texting is forced through SMS. That’s partly because we’re already paying our telecartel for unlimited SMS and don’t also want to burn up bytes with iMessage that uses data, but mostly because we actually want messages to get through to each other. P.S. Our telecartel charges us a whopping $30/GB!

So why is Apple’s iMessages so unreliable between two iPhones? Well, hang on to your hat.

Because I have an iPhone, an iPad, and a Mac, and she has an iPhone, and a Mac, iMessages is more than willing to say a message was “Delivered” as long as one of the devices has received the message. But what if the recipient is not standing in front of that device?

Here’s an actual situation that happened. I’m out shopping with my data connection turned off so I can’t receive an iMessage. That’s OK, I can still receive an SMS and, hey, a sender’s Messages app will switch to SMS after 5 minutes (yes, it waits 5 whole minutes), if an outgoing message can’t be delivered. I send an SMS to my wife asking her a question. She receives it in her Messages app and—get ready for the stupidity (arrogance) that only Apple can do so well—her reply is sent back to me as an iMessage. Even though Messages knows it received an SMS, because it knows I have an iPhone. Well, if I was a patient person I would only need to wait 5 minutes for her Messages to realize I hadn’t received it and it would switch to SMS. Or, my wife could tap on the message and force it over SMS, right? Wrong on both counts.

What actually happens is that my iPad and Mac receive the iMessage and dutifully report back to my wife that her message has been Delivered. My wife is not given the opportunity to force the message over SMS because it’s already marked as being delivered. Her only recourse is to go into settings, turn off iMessages, and then reenter and send the reply as an SMS. Why Apple doesn’t reply in the same format as a message is received is pretty obvious. The Apple developers and verification staff have unlimited plans with their telecartels and always leave data enabled. They’ll get that iMessage on all their devices, so screw the peons in the real world. For us peons, we’d prefer if Messages would reply using the same protocol as the received message!

In AppleLand, both parties need to know if the other person has data enabled on their mobile device, iMessages is enabled, or if their other iMessage-capable devices are turned on. Even if the Messages app isn’t running, you can still receive notifications of a message.

This is so complex and unreliable that my wife and I agreed that she would just disable iMessages to force everything over SMS.

Now, to add the complexity of 50 other different messaging apps to the mix just makes communication exhausting. As much as I hate SMS, it works across all mobile platforms.

As for my privacy, I fight back against any hacker or unwarranted government surveillance by boring them to death. They’ll never snoop on me more than once.

Author: Tom

Destroyer of software. If I haven't tested it, it hasn't been tested.

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