It sounds like an exaggeration, but it isn’t: Apple’s latest iPhone software fix will end a bizarre two-year period in which the iPhone’s inability to reliably deliver texts to Android ruined a lot of people’s lives.
It also created life-threatening risks for police officers in units whose members used a mixture of iPhone and Android phones, a police source tells Business Insider.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
It will come as a huge sigh of relief to the thousands — maybe millions — of former Apple customers who ditched their iPhones for Android.
Previously, anyone who switched from iPhone to Android faced a huge problem: unless you executed this complicated system of steps exactly right, your phone number stayed inside Apple’s iMessage system and no one using an iPhone was able to reach you by text. The texts stayed trapped inside iMessage, undelivered.
While that sounds trivial — iPhones didn’t deliver some texts, who cares? — it was driving users insane.
Since Business Insider began covering the iMessage fiasco, we’ve received 567 emails from readers complaining they couldn’t receive texts from iPhone users after they switched to Android. That’s more emails than for any other single issue Business Insider has ever written about.
Of those people, dozens complained that they’d lost relationships because iPhone users thought they were being ignored. Employees complained they’d lost wages or promotions because their bosses thought they weren’t responding to texts. Salespeople say they have lost clients and contracts because their customers weren’t getting replies to their messages. One guy told us he nearly failed to sell his company because of iMessage screwups.
The list goes on. Phones are supposed to do one basic thing: help you communicate with important people in your life. And for two straight years, since the introduction of iMessage in 2012, iPhone users were hobbled from doing that.
Recently, an undercover police officer in North Carolina, in the US, told Business Insider that iMessage failures put his entire crew at risk. Here is a lightly edited version of what he told us. Obviously, we’re keeping his full identity confidential:
I have had a problem in the past with my captain not receiving my texts, though I would receive his. He has a Samsung.
A week ago my department moved me from an iPhone 4 to a 5 s. Since then I have identified 6 persons, all police officers with Samsung phones who are not receiving my text messages. Talk about a safety issue.
I’m making sure my wife is apprised of this issue so if I get smoked because I wasn’t able to communicate my circumstances at my job she will own a big bite of Apple.
Our primary communications are by portable radio. Bad guys know what portable radios look like so that’s not an option in certain situations.
Often, myself or my guys are tasked with going into businesses or other public areas to sur veil / identify bad guys. Communication to partners / support units on the outside is delivered by text 99% of the time.
We often operate with other units where we will establish a group message and deliver orders / information, during active operations, by text. Not receiving these messages could absolutely cause problems.
We also use texts to conceal our comms in the event that bad guys have a scanner with the frequency we are using. (Imagine sitting on your couch eating Cheetos and hearing on your scanner ‘hey guys, everybody head toward Jim Edwards’ house at 123 Maple St and let’s blow the door off.’ Not good for business.)
The same info is often communicated by text and if I’m having issues getting these orders out, I may be leaving guys behind, creating a shortage at the destination and ultimately creating a safety issue.
The issue has been a huge ongoing headache for Apple, too. The company is now the defendant in two class action lawsuits on behalf of Android customers whose messages were lost by Apple. One alleges that Apple deprived customers of the full benefit of their Android phones; the other goes further and alleges that Apple was basically wiretapping Android customers by diverting their messages and not delivering them. Apple has denied both suits. (Business Insider’s coverage of iMessage is cited in both lawsuits although we had no prior knowledge of either suit being filed. We have, however, been asked by dozens of former Apple customers how they can join those suits.)
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