New iMessage “unsend” feature not working on iOS 15


The next version of iMessage will let you unsend and edit messages for up to 15 minutes. Sounds great, very convenient – Signal and WhatsApp and Viber have had similar functionality for years. You can try it now in public betas for iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura. Just a little warning.

If the recipient of your carpet sweep attempt is not run public betas on all device they use for iMessage, you are the only one to see the history as you would have liked to write it.

In which I pretend to be interested in my colleague’s NFT. On the left, what they saw on an iPhone running the iOS 16 public beta; on the right, what it looked like on an iPod Touch running 15.5.
Screenshots of Mitchell Clark / The Verge

To test out the new undo and edit feature, I fired up iMessage on my newly beta iPhone 11 and asked my colleague Mitchell to show me the NFT they got while testing the new 5G network on most legally obligated in America. I sent a message saying “I thought you had monkeys”, I didn’t send it, I sent a second message which just said “cool”, then I edited it a few minutes later to say “VERY cool”. (That’s not cool. Sorry, Dish.)

Here’s what Mitchell saw: On the betas of iOS 16 and macOS Ventura, they saw that I had unsent a message (but not the message itself), and they got the edited version of the second , with a small “Modified” badge underneath. On iOS 15.5 and macOS Monterey, I was revealed as the NFT-hater that I am: they could still see the retracted message and both the edited and original versions of the second.

I tested this feature with several people on several versions of iOS and macOS and got the same results: if both parties are running the public betas, the feature works as expected and you retain as much dignity as possible . Even unread message notifications in the notification center quietly disappear.

A screenshot of an iMessage exchange on iOS 16, showing the message

Apple warned me that unsending might not work on older versions, but not that my attempt to edit would look so clunky.
Screenshot by Nathan Edwards/The Verge

But on any Apple device not running on the public beta – which is, statistically, everything of them – unsent messages just lying there, shipped. And if you edit a message, instead of deleting it and sending another, Apple leaves the original message intact and sends a second message with your edits, which it surrounds with quotes and prefaces with the words “Edited at:” in the message, as if you had typed it yourself. It’s confusing and potentially embarrassing, and none the wiser for the sender – unless they’re watching the conversation on one of the their older devices.

To be fair, Apple warns you after you’re removing a message that it might not work on devices that aren’t running the latest software, but there’s nothing in the UI to say that changing a message is equivalent to running a fix in the log of tomorrow.

There are plenty of good reasons to call back a message after you send it: embarrassing typos, wayward auto-correction, messages sent to the wrong person, or even just deciding that your first attempt turned out to be a little rude. (Sorry, Mitchell.) Slack and Discord already let you edit messages, and WhatsApp, Viber, and Signal, among others, let you delete sent messages, though none of them are the messaging app. default for half of the country’s smartphones. For most people, it’s a way to avoid goofs and smooth social interactions, nothing more.

But unsending and editing have more nefarious uses. Victims’ rights organizations have denounced the potential for abuse and gaslighting – editing posts to appear harmless after reading them, sending unsolicited graphic images and then canceling them, and generally making more difficult for their victims to retain evidence of wrongdoing. “The manipulation of edit and undo features will fit seamlessly into any power and control dynamics by allowing a malicious actor to gain access to a victim’s device and make changes without their consent. “, Adam Dodge, CEO of EndTAB, which trains organizations to help address and prevent online abuse – says The edge. “And a lot of damage can be done in a 15 minute window. Dodge added that he had spoken with judges who were concerned it would “sow chaos” with the admissibility of iMessage screenshots in court.

Currently, editing and unshipping are only available to the extremely small percentage of Apple users enrolled in public betas. But this fall, they’ll be rolling out to everyone on an iPhone 8 or newer, which is a big chunk of the entire US smartphone market.

If you don’t like the idea of ​​people being able to edit or remove messages on your phone’s default messaging app, should you just skip the iOS 16 update? It’s not a good option either, as Dodge explains:

It’s certainly an option, but I think it places an unfair burden on victims. iOS updates improve device performance and protect users against new threats. Keeping an older version of iOS means asking victims to endure other inconveniences and risks just to stay safe. I’m more in favor of an opt-in feature that allows users to choose whether to allow editing and unsending of messages on their device, such as read receipts.

With several months until the official rollout of the new operating systems, there may still be time for Apple to offer edit and unsend functionality, as Dodge suggests. People who want the features can enable them. Or they can use another messaging app like Signal, which lets you send messages to view once and automatically delete. It even works on Android.

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