Apple clueless on iMessage purgatory syndrome

By , May 14, 2014

iMessage iOS 7

Apple’s iMessage platform is great for heavy texters. Integrated deeply into the bowels of the operating system, iMessage simply disappears so normals are completely oblivious to the fact they’re actually using the system. When you start typing a recipient’s name in the stock Messages app in iOS or OS X, iMessage checks with Apple to see if a person has iMessage enabled.

If so, the chat bubble turns blue to indicate that the message will be sent as an iMessage, thereby bypassing your carrier’s SMS service. Problems arise when you switch to another smartphone platform only to discover that your phone number has not been removed from your Apple ID.

As a result, this could turn your phone number into a black hole for text messages…

This in some instances, can lead to a so-called iMessage purgatory syndrome where you’re not receiving text messages from anyone with an iPhone because Apple’s servers continue to convert their text messages to iMessages because your existing phone number is still iMessage-capable in your Apple ID account.

The problem was reported by other folks before, but now Adam Pash has written about his experience with Apple’s support staff to whom he turned to help fix the issue.

I recently switched from an iPhone to Android, and discovered shortly thereafter that my phone number was still associated with iMessage, meaning that any time someone with an iPhone tried texting me, I’d receive nothing, and they’d get a “Delivered” receipt in their Messages app as though everything were working as expected.

After getting in touch with an Apple Care representative, Pash concluded that the iPhone maker is largely clueless as to how to fix this annoying issue. Apple did, however, acknowledge that it’s a problem a lot of people seem to be facing.

Pash relays the information provided by Apple Care:

  1. This is a problem a lot of people are facing.
  2. The engineering team is working on it but is apparently clueless as to how to fix it.
  3. There are no reliable solutions right now — for some people the standard fixes work immediately; many others are in my boat.

What makes this particularly hard to stomach is that only Apple can fix this by making manual changes to your Apple ID.

“In the meantime, Apple has completely hijacked my text messaging and my phone number portability (portability between devices, not networks),” writes Pash.

The brute-force solution, according to an Apple representative, would be to contact every iPhone owner who has your phone number and ask them to remove you as a contact, which is just plain silly to begin with.

Lesson learned: remove your phone number from iMessage, manually disable the service in iOS Settings > Phone before selling your iPhone and pray for the best.

iOS 8 is said to bring several improvements to iMessage, including an optional feature to auto-delete conversation threads after a month or year. This should help save storage space because Apple’s stock Messages app is notorious for clogging up your device’s storage.

Jeff has put together an awesome iOS 7 Messages guide so check it out to get the most of iMessage and learn cool new tricks. You can also browse our archive of iMessage jailbreak tweaks and learn how to back up and restore Messages on a fresh iOS install.

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  • iBanks

    Simple fix… Person that is trying to send an message to the individual that switched from an iPhone to another device just needs too tap and hold on the iMessage they are trying to send to the non-iPhone. Click send as text message. Do this to 4 failed iMessages and the Messages app will then default to text message to that number. Have done this many, many, many times at work for customers.

    • http://twitter.com/jmarsh5 Justin Marshall

      But the iMessages aren’t failing. They are going through as though they are delivered.

      • Jonathan

        They are failing to be shown on the person’s phone who switched from an iPhone.

      • http://twitter.com/jmarsh5 Justin Marshall

        Yes. The sender thinks they are going through. The recipient can’t see them. Sender thinks recipient is just ignoring them.

      • iBanks

        The message will not show delivered. It’ll just show the blue bubble. Won’t show the red failed icon either. Just tap and hold and click send as text message.

      • http://twitter.com/jmarsh5 Justin Marshall

        “I’d receive nothing, and they’d get a “Delivered” receipt in their Messages app as though everything were working as expected.”

        Quote says delivered receipt appears.

      • ✪ aidan harris ✪

        I may be wrong but I believe the problem is that the phone number has not been removed from iMessage or it’s been removed but for some reason other peoples iPhones still think that the number is tied to iMessage (which is why Apple recommends getting people to remove your contact and add it again)…

      • http://twitter.com/jmarsh5 Justin Marshall

        That’s what I gathered.

    • diggitydang

      Only problem is you have to tell every single contact in your address book who may have an iPhone… good luck with that! :)

      • iBanks

        May as well keep the iPhone since most of your contacts probably have one as well. :)

      • diggitydang

        Ha. No need to convince me. I’m all iPhone… But my wife switched over and it was a pain in the a$$ to get the iMessage switched off so I could message her.

    • Adam Nellessen

      I have done the same thing… This solution works.

    • Shawn

      Doesn’t work

  • Rock Lee

    Or you could just inlink your phone number from the AppleID. You’re the one that linked them, so it’s your own responsability to unlink them.

    What’s next? Gmail doesn’t stop autoforwarding mail to an adress you don’t use anymore? The fix is really easy: take mattters in your own hands and fix what you created!

    • ✪ aidan harris ✪

      You can’t fix what isn’t your mess. This iMessagegate has been known for a while now and has basically stumped Apple since they don’t know what’s wrong which likely means the issue is to do with iOS rather than iMessage since even when Apple manually removes you from the iMessage database problems still occur. Although they don’t affect everyone (something many articles fail to mention). The issues are random and due to this randomness will probably keep Apple busy for a while…

      • Rock Lee

        Solution:

        Step 1. Go to your settings and switch off iMessage.
        Step 2. Remove SIM and insert in new phone.
        Step 3. Use your new phone and start texting

        And the hidden step.

        Step 4. Throw away phone and switch back to iPhone, cause you know it’s simply better.

        Honestly, this is like complaining that you can’t be reached because you forgot to switch out your SIM when buying a new phone. This is not a problem to be fixed. The user just needs to turn off iMessage when they’re not using the service anymore. You don’t see me complaining that my mail keeps getting forwarded to an old non-active account when I switch from email provider.

        It’s time people stopped acting so brain dead and start handling their own shit. iMessage isn’t a problem, the only problem here is that people are too stupid or lazy to figure it out and hit the switch. Fix that problem and you’ll see that suddenly all of the other problems will go away…

      • Rafael Damasceno

        Thank god people like you still exist.

      • Radu

        you’re so right

      • KRD

        This is seriously one of the most ignorant posts I have ever read on this subject.

        First
        of all, the iPhone is one of the worst available phones on the market.
        Period. Secondly, this problem is very real, and turning off iMessage
        beforehand does not solve the problem as you so simply think that it
        does. I am currently waiting to switch to a new phone because my iPhone
        has slowly degraded to the likes of a paperweight over the past couple
        years I have used it.

        So in preparation, as it is a clear issue I
        have seen with those who neglect to do so, I have turned my iMessage off
        already. Mind you, I am still using my iPhone, just with no active
        iMessage, and I have disassociated my phone number with my apple ID, I
        have deactivated my iCloud, and logged out of my apple ID on my phone as
        well. For MOST of my colleagues who are still brainwashed enough to
        think apple is the only phone people should use, this actually worked
        and they began sending texts as SMS to my number. (Of course this only
        worked after their phones tried sending iMessages and they manually had
        to select send as text message a handful of times. Ridiculous.)
        Now
        here is the real problem, of which I firmly believe there is no current
        solution at all. Remember how I just mentioned that “for MOST” of the
        people who still use an iPhone this worked? Well for SOME, this process
        has yet to work, and their phones, for one reason or another, refuse to
        disassociate my number with iMessage. Now with that being said, let’s
        introduce this problem to group text messaging. My iPhone with iMessage
        turned off, 3 colleagues; all with iMessage turned on, and one of them
        with a phone that so stubbornly will not accept my number as an SMS
        number. The result: My phone can communicate with the two phones that
        have adjusted, while the third stubborn phone sends it’s messages as
        iMessage, because it only cares to communicate to the two people who
        have iMessage turned on.

        You are a moron if you think this is not a
        legitimate problem. Obviously you increase the risk of having this
        problem if you do not take proper (and which should be unnecessary)
        steps before switching phones. But this is still a problem nonetheless.

        Enlighten
        me on how easy of a fix there is for this. I would truly love to know.
        It baffles me that there isn’t a fix as simple as – Go into the
        contact’s information, check or uncheck a box that says iMessage. Done.
        There are already enough other steps for a “solution” to this, why not
        make one like that?

        Next time consider the fact that this issue might
        be a little more in depth than what you so plainly see on the surface,
        before you go sarcastically responding to a problem as if it is not one
        at all.

    • https://twitter.com/MrElectrifyer MrElectrifyer

      The problem is you can only unlink the number from your Apple ID, through an Apple device. If Apple smartened up and made it possible to unlink via the “Manage My Apple ID” web page, this wouldn’t make the news.

  • Todd Modgling

    Another thing I’ve watched work is log back into an old iPhone and set up like you’re moving back on the phone. Go into settings and turn off iMessage send a few texts and it will turn iMessage off on Apples side.

  • RarestName

    All I did was flick two switches (iPhone and iPad) and iMessage was disabled. People can send me text messages with iMessage enabled. What is this guy talking about?

    • ✪ aidan harris ✪

      The issues are random. Just because things work for you it doesn’t mean they work for everyone. Plus what happens if you’ve sold your iPhone? If you haven’t removed your number from iMessage you have to do it via Apples website which is hit and miss depending on who you ask. There is a problem. Apple acknowledges that there is a problem (so it definitely exists). Now we just have to wait for the fix or even easier just don’t leave the iPhone / iOS platform…

      • RarestName

        They could just allow people to remove the phone number from iMessage, but also allow them to continue using iMessage with an email address.

  • Jason Bowen

    I was going to leave a comment here berating “Adam Pash”…but three people below beat me to it….since when is it everybody else’s responsibility to do what you should have done yourself…or could very easily fix on your own by just borrowing someone else’s iPhone for a few minutes? Absolute laziness…

  • Lordrootman

    FINALLY IS WORKING thanks

  • Shawn

    I’ve had this happen a number of times when switching between devices. And yes I make sure to turn imessage off and still get the issue. It appears to be completely on apples end. my friends phone would show the message being delivered with iMessage and no way to send via SMS.

  • Damian

    It seems iMessage is still in its infancy.
    I have not been able to activate my iMessage with my phone number for years, probably due to the fact I am using not an official iPhone carrier.

    Even Apple stuff did not know what was the issue with my iMessage. They Re pretty clueless

  • Serge

    People still use iMessages? Lol. Everyone I know uses Whatsapp.

    • Adrian

      What’s app? Is that one of those silly chat apps that require a username and/or invite phone contacts in?

  • emayteetee

    The best way to avoid this – BEFORE ACTIVATING A NEW NON iOS PHONE – go to settings, messages, and turn off imessage. wait about a minute, and turn off your device. Now, iMessage is not registered with your phone anymore. IF you have a Mac, iPad, iPod, you must do the same there, otherwise it will try to forward the message to one of those devices. IF you have your Apple ID on someone else device, they MUST GET THEIR OWN APPLE ID.

  • jack

    if you change your phone number all the time you deserve to get all this trouble

    • pegger1

      Changing your phone number would fix this issue, because you’d have to give your new number to all your friends.
      The issue here is changing from an iPhone to a non-iPhone (not changing numbers)

  • Grnot

    Posted this in another thread:

    After dealing with this for quite a while, here’s the ONLY way, as far as I know, that you can disassociate your number:

    1. Find a friend with an iPhone (5 or above if you’re on Verizon).
    2. Have your friend backup his or her iPhone with iTunes and restore.
    3. Remove your SIM card from your new phone and replace the one in your friend’s iPhone with your own.
    4. From your friend’s phone, once setup is complete, turn on and off iMessage in Settings.
    5. Return SIM cards to their rightful homes & restore friend’s iPhone to the backup.

    I was on the phone with an AppleCare rep for quite a long time before I came to this conclusion and he reluctantly confirmed that this is, in fact, the solution. He told me this is “what they used to tell people,” but did not say why they don’t tell people to do it anymore.

  • justme

    on iOS8 they will need to improve imessage, not just the auto-delete feature. they’ll need to compress more the info, need better encryption. the first reason that the people choice Telegram or Whatssapp instead imessage is that Telegram just consume 8 times less bytes per message, an option to compress the images and videos from settings if you want, a little improvements on the UI and the most important of all Quick REPLY! (quick reply from lockscreen, springboard, in-game with an option to disable on settings if you want “because security for lockscreen”)

    they need an option to disable all notifications temporally if you are running your favorite game and not need any distraction.

    • pegger1

      iOS has a “Do Not Disturb” feature

      • justme

        I knew that feature, but doesn’t work if you are playing some game or any other app.

  • Ian Leon

    easy fix. stay with iPhone

  • Allan Santosh

    simple fix….apple just has to add a feature in the apple website that would allow people to signin with their apple id and then they can turn off imessage there.

  • Kenneth Hernandez

    This has happened to me about 3 times. I have tried EVERYTHING.

    THE BEST WAY is to change your password. There is NO better way.

    You change your password and all idevices log out. This is the best way to unlink you iphone besides removing it from your apple id.

  • Tommy

    Best fix IMO is to turn off iMessage and just use Whatsapp for those you contact very often. Who doesn’t use Whatsapp nowadays anyway?

    • Raashid

      I don’t anymore. Ever since facecrook acquired them, jumped ship to BBM.