Apple sued for 2nd time over iMessage failure to deliver texts to Android phones

“Plaintiffs Adam Backhaut and Bouakhay Joy Backhaut of Macomb County, Michigan and Kenneth Morris of Riverside County, California have launched a Class Action against Apple in San Jose,” Jack Purcher reports for Patently Apple. “The case is about Apple’s iMessage not working properly with Android smartphones. This latest Class Action lawsuit was filed yesterday – just one day after Californian Adrienne Moore filed her Class Action against Apple over the very same issue.”

“Plaintiff Adam Backhaut purchased an iPhone 5 in December 2012 at a Best Buy store in Michigan. At the time of purchase, a Best Buy employee set up his iPhone 5, including iMessage. Mr. Backhaut used the iPhone 5 for approximately one year,” Purcher reports. “Plaintiff Joy Backhaut purchased an iPhone 5 at the same time and place as her husband and a Best Buy employee also set up her iPhone 5, including iMessage.”

“In December 2013, Plaintiff Adam Backhaut purchased an “‘HTC One’ for approximately $250.00, which runs an Android operating system, and switched the number previously associated with his iPhone 5 to his new phone,” Purcher reports. “Following Mr. Backhaut’s switch to an Android based phone, Mrs. Backhaut continued to text her husband as she had previously used the Messages app on her iPhone. When Mrs. Backhaut texted her husband, her iPhone indicated that the texts she was sending were “delivered.” In fact, Mr. Backhaut never received these messages. The messages continued to be intercepted by Apple’s iMessage system, despite the fact that the Plaintiff was no longer an iPhone user.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Solution: Don’t downgrade from an iPhone to an inferior iPhone knockoff.

In the immortal words of Ben Stern, “I told you not to be stupid, you moron.”

Related article:
Apple sued over vanishing texts to Android phones – May 17, 2014

64 Comments

  1. Many here say that the user is greedy / stupid, that it is their own fault and that this is a non-issue.

    The problem is real, and for a very tiny number of people (switchers from iPhone to an Android), it is a significant problem for which Apple is to blame.

    When an ordinary person buys an iPhone, they don’t know, nor do they care to know, what is iMessage. When they want to text someone, they open ‘Messages’ app and send their text. Vast majority has no clue that the phone will use Apple’s iMessage protocol to send the message if the other user happens to be an iPhone user. Most don’t even notice that the message text bubbles are green for some users and blue for others, and even if they do, they don’t know what is the difference (until their curiosity complex them to google it, like mine did).

    The problem is, when you get an iPhone, you go through the set-up process, which is fairly straightforward and fast. Along that process, you at some point agreed to associate your phone number, e-mail address(es) and Apple ID with iMessage (so that people can send you iMessages using any one of those). Hardly anyone will remember this particular action, since they don’t really know what iMessage means and how it works, but they will click “Yes” or “Next” on any button that gets them closer to finishing the setup and using their new iPhone.

    This association (phone number to the iMessage protocol) will cause colossal headaches later on. As long as this user continues to use the iPhone, their iMessages will arrive seamlessly, and will look and feel like ordinary SMS text messages (but they aren’t). However, once this user migrates their mobile number (and/or g-mail or any other e-mail address that was previously associated with iMessage on their old iPhone) to a non-iOS device, the new device will (obviously) never receive any of those iMessage texts. And the user never gets a warning, nor does sender get a warning. The messages are sent by the sender from the iPhone; since the number has at one point been associated with iMessage, the sender’s iPhone will automatically switch to iMessage, send the message to Apple’s relay server, and this is where Apple does it wrong. The iMessage relay server will now try to deliver the message to any device that has been associated with the number (and/or e-mail addresses that were there when iMessage was initially set up), and as long as in their database there exist some registration of iMessage for the recipient phone number, the message will be marked as delivered, even though it cannot be, since the phone number is no longer on an iOS device.

    The only correct way of dealing with this is for Apple to develop a way to confirm that an iMessage was actually been received (and viewed) on the recipient’s device before marking it as delivered. To go one step further, they could also check for delivery against an iPhone (since the phone is the only device that is genuinely tied to a phone number), and if the message is never viewed on a phone, send a warning e-mail message after some time to the recipient’s number owner
    that their phone is not responding to the iMessages. This could possibly alert the owner that their new Android device isn’t capable of getting iMessages and perhaps guide them how to remove the number from the iMessage system.

    There is a very small group of people who migrate from iPhone to Android (people who want bigger screens, for example), and many of these have no clue about this, and are missing many messages because of it. A skilful lawyer could presumably win in a class action, since it is not all that reasonable for ordinary user to tell the difference between iMessage and SMS, especially since they are transparently using the same app to send either to their recipients.

    1. There are things called “Read Receipts” that can be enabled to indicate to the sender that a message has been received and READ. Turning on iMessages is accomplished under Settings>Messages. It’s the very first slider button you turn on or off, and it includes a detailed explanation of the service. If users are too clueless, or in too much of a hurry to understand and use these settings is that Apple’s fault? The whole thing is ridiculous.

      As stated by another poster: “…a person in this situation (former iPhone user, no access to former iPhone, iMessage not deactivated, messages not being received from iPhone users) needs only to call Apple at (800)APL-CARE and ask for an Accounts Security advisor. These kind folks have a tool for de-activating iMessage for a specific phone number regardless of the current status/location/existence of the iPhone itself. These cases are *always* granted an exception whether or not the device is still covered by warranty, and a fee is *never* charged for Accounts Security calls (in which this situation is most definitely included). So the $19 fee doesn’t apply here, and anyone who’s told otherwise need only to ask for a supervisor to verify this fact. This isn’t speculation on my part; let’s just say I know these things to be true.”

      1. We will hear the arguments in court (or not, if Apple decides to settle), but it is relatively easy to argue that it is unreasonable to expect to clearly understand what iMessage is or isn’t, especially if its functionality is practically identical to SMS / MMS.

        In the entire mobile industry, with all the existing mobile platforms (Web OS, PocketPC / Windows Mobile, Palm OS, Symbian, Android, Tizen, etc), there is SMS that works across those platforms and in the same way. User opens texting app, composes the message, hits “Send” and the message is delivered to the recipient. If the delivery fails, sender receives an error message.

        When Apple introduced iMessage, they essentially extended that SMS system in order to help their users circumvent the most notorious nickel-and-diming scheme by carriers (charging for individual texts) by sending short text messages over regular data connection. This new protocol only works between Apple devices, though. The consequences of switching from an Apple to non-Apple devices have been explained earlier here, but the practical effect is serious.

        When the entire mobile industry uses the same standard, it is reasonable for a user to expect that “Messages” app will behave in the same way. An average user can reasonably assume that “iMessage” is just Apple’s name for SMS (just like they do for all other stuff: iCal for calendar, for example). The assumption is reinforced by the functionality — they use Messages app to send texts exactly the same way they do it in other platforms (not to mention that the green text bubble icon looks rather similar on other platforms).

        A good lawyer can successfully argue that Apple had hijacked an existing standard and extended it beyond the standard, to include Apple-only functionality (similar to what Microsoft did with the Internet Explorer; at the time, we called such strategy EEE: Embrace – Extend – Extinguish), while making it appear exactly like the existing standard. With a carefully worded argument, it could be possible to convince a jury that this was a strategic goal for Apple — to create functionality that can only reliably work on Apple devices, but make it appear that somehow the other platforms are at fault.

        The point remains: the ‘iMessage’ protocol, as well as the “Messages” app in iOS, look and work too much like SMS for average users to clearly understand the difference, and the consequences.

        1. So because the average user of other devices has trouble chewing gum and walking at the same time, we should all be deprived of any innovative benefits that might confuse them. Got it.

          1. I’m afraid you got it wrong; that is NOT what I said (I know, it was a long post, and it is a Monday, people don’t have much time for long posts).

            Whatever innovative benefits iMessage brought to iOS may well remain (depriving us all from innovative benefits was not what I suggested). The point is that when user leaves iOS eco-system (for example, because Apple refuses to make large-screen phones available, and their eyesight is simply to poor for the current size), this user should be able to exist without such drastic punishing consequences (inability to receive texts from iPhone owners, without any warning). While it is possible for a sender to override iMessage and send a message using SMS, hardly anyone knows how to do this or is even aware it is possible. Besides, they shouldn’t have to, nor should the departing owner have to know they have to disassociate their number from iMessage, in order to preserve the ability to receive simple texts. No other device on the planet would require this, and it is way beyond reasonable.

            1. Exactly how is Apple supposed to know that after noon on a given day last week an iPhone user pulled his SIM card, trashed his iPhone, and stuck the card in an HTC phone? Isn’t it incumbent on such a customer to ask questions, and to somehow notify Apple that their number is no longer associated with an Apple product? There’s an established procedure to fix the problem if one calls Apple Account Security, and it doesn’t cost $19.

            2. Is a Motorola owner expected to call Motorola and notify them that they are no longer using their phone after pulling the SIM card out and putting it in another phone? How about Samsung user? LG? HTC?

              Exactly how is user expected to know that they should call Apple when they stop using an iPhone? There are no precedents to such practice, and, from a regular, average user’s perspective, it makes absolutely no sense. Why would their number be held hostage by Apple?

              The “Message” app looks, feels and works the same as similar apps in all other mobile OSes. There is nothing that would indicate that there is something very proprietary in it that would no longer work when user does something as simple moving his SIM card from one phone to another.

              What Apple is supposed to do here is develop a method that would periodically check (perhaps when user sends or receives an iMessage) if the phone associated with the number used for imessage is still an iPhone and if it is still working. If there doesn’t seem to be a responsive iPhone connected to that iMessage account, the system could send a message to the recipient (perhaps using world-standard SMS) to warn him of possible problems. Or the sender could get a warning message that his iMessage could NOT be delivered (because there was no iPhone on the other end of the system).

              When sender receives confirmation that a message was delivered, and the recipient receives neither the message, nor an error message, the system is NOT working properly, regardless of causes.

            3. The user OPTED INTO iMessage when he/she turned on the iMessage function in Settings>Messages. There is a detailed explanation of what that service is on the settings page where they slid the slider to the “ON” position. This is a prime example of why Apple (or any other intelligent company) should realize there are customers they don’t want to do business with, because those customers cost more than they contribute to the revenue stream, and these people are prime examples of those customers.

              Should Apple be nice and accommodate their limited attention spans and lack of discrimination in the products they buy? Probably. But this is NOT lawsuit material.

            4. I totally understand your argument, and you make a solid argument, but I disagree with you.

              The setup process for iPhone is probably one of the most straight-forward in the mobile industry. Apple has always tried to make it as simple and intuitive as possible, and they did a remarkable job. However, this process still has to satisfy Apple’s Legal Department, not to mention that it still includes multiple steps. While we can argue about the “low quality” users all day, the reality is that users of every quality (low and high) overwhelmingly click “Next” at every step of a set-up process, without reading large blocks of text. The larger the text, the lesser the likelihood it will be read. While a company might be able to legally hide behind this, it doesn’t say much about the process.

              Be that as it may, when the user agrees to associate their phone number with iMessage and turn the service ON (by taping “Messages” in “Settings”), nowhere will they see that if they take their number / SIM card elsewhere, the messages would just disappear. Not to mention that the explanation about iMessages does NOT appear in the settings; there is just a link (Find out more), which takes them to the Apple web site (meaning the phone has to be online in order to show the site).

              Regardless of people’s attention spans, or lack of discrimination regarding the products they buy, when a person sends a message to another person, there should only be two possible outcomes: the message gets delivered, or the sender receives an error message. This is how it works with SMS (the global standard), and it is how it should work with iMessages, but under certain circumstances, doesn’t. What makes it worse for Apple is that it fails in only one specific type of case: when an Apple user abandons Apple’s eco-system and migrates to the competitor’s. While there are only one in twenty iPhone users who do this (highlighting passionate loyalty of Apple users to their superior platform), this translates into millions of people, who are now missing messages without warning.

              This is simply not right, no matter how you slice it.

    1. When you get an iPhone for the first time, you are asked to create an Apple ID, and an iCloud account (with an e-mail @me.com / @icloud.com). In the process of setting up your phone, you are asked if you would like to associate your number with the iMessage protocol. If you do, when other iPhone users send you text (or multimedia) messages, those messages will be transmitted using iMessage protocol rather than SMS / MMS.

      So, when you switch from any other phone to an iPhone, at one point during the set up, you’ll associate the number with iMessage and from that moment on, all other iPhones, anywhere in the world, will be using iMessage when texting to you.

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