iMessage: like texting for grown-ups.

So Robin has an iPhone 4S, I got her iPhone 4 as a hand-me-down, and I updated the iPad to iOS5, so all three devices can bounce iMessages between each other.

iMessage, for those not familiar with it, is the new Instant Messenger feature built into iOS5. It’s designed to be an alternative to SMS, and while it works only between devices that run iOS5, it’s a no-cost alternative to SMS. If all the people you routinely message are on iOS5, you can drop the SMS package from your cell phone’s price plan altogether and save a chunk of change every month.

iMessage is my favorite iOS5 feature by far. When I roomed with Tamara, we used to joke around about the pointlessness of SMS. (“Why, I can communicate with another cell phone user via text! It’s almost as efficient as MAKING A CALL! Revolutionary!”) And prior to iMessage, I’ve never sent a single SMS to anyone. (This is mainly due to the fact that all my phones thus far had keypads, and tapping out a sentence with the number keys is an exercise in swear word generation for me.) But now with the iPhone? Holy cow, does this ever work well.

The nice thing about iMessage is that it fits exactly the brief kind of status update or information I share with my wife throughout the day–stuff like “I’m on the way home”, or “Stop and pick up milk”. It’s the sort of data for which email is too clunky and voice-calling is overkill. iMessage fits the niche perfectly. It’s instant, fuss-free, and provides discrete notifications. Email does that too, but you have to start the email program, address the message, type it out, and send it through the respective mail systems, which is a bit more involved than just tapping the message out and hitting “send” for instant direct delivery.

Yeah, SMS has done that for a long time, but SMS plans cost money. If we had phones on different platforms, we’d have no choice but to buy an SMS package for each phone for the same convenience. With iMessage, we get the capability thrown in with the device and OS, without any monthly fees, and we have the ability to send pictures and videos the same way as well.

(The saleswoman at the Verizon counter was a little crimped that Robin knew about the iMessage feature and turned down the offer of adding a $30/month “Family Unlimited” texting package to each account.)

So yeah, I’m probaby sounding like a breathless Apple fanboi, but iMessage is really turning out to be a “how did we live without this?” sort of feature for us. It has all the convenience of instant messaging without the cost of SMS or the need for setting up and maintaining separate IM clients on the phones, and it has made it much more convenient and easy for us to stay in touch during the day, when phone calls are not a option much of the time.

(Yes, I’m aware of Google Talk/Chat which lets you do the exact same thing on Android ZOMG!, but platform war debates make me feel all stabby. It’s a phone, not a religion, and there is no One True Way. We just happen to have–and like–our iPhones, and with a huge chunk of change invested in a lot of specialized apps–we’re not likely to switch to Android any time soon. If your Android phone does the same thing as iMessage, wonderful.)

13 thoughts on “iMessage: like texting for grown-ups.

  1. Alex Johnson says:

    My only issue so far is that our household uses 1 AppleID for all of our iDevices. iMessage worked great between my wife and I. Right up until I activated iMessage on the ipad. Then it doesn’t matter which phone number I use, it shows up on both. And if my wife replies, it shows up on both my ipad and phone.

    Still waiting to see what a work around is for this. We share our calendars and contacts between the devices, and that is the major reason for one AppleID.

  2. iDunno. I use Google Voice, which lets me do realSMS — to any carrier’s phone — for the same low, low price of “free.”

    For that matter, Google Chat does the same thing, and doesn’t care whose hardware it runs on.

    Sure, you have to install an app, and Dog knows smartphone users hate doing that!

  3. Alex Johnson says:

    Well, after I disabled iMessage on my iPad, my wife didn’t get a notification when I messaged her from my phone to her phone. I think I fixed my wife and I’s phones. I had her change the address that she is iMessaged at, but leaving the AppleID the same.

    Trying the same thing on my ipad now. Good thing I have multiple email accounts😉.

    And this seems to work too. So there is a work around.

  4. Arkh says:

    Hello, the 80s have called. They want their email back.

  5. David Avera says:

    I was a late convert to text messaging until I realized how good it was when you wanted to say something to someone but not have a conversation

  6. Erik says:

    (The saleswoman at the Verizon counter was a little crimped that Robin knew about the iMessage feature and turned down the offer of adding a $30/month “Family Unlimited” texting package to each account.)

    That’s where a lot of the money is for wireless carriers. ‘Suspect they’ll find some other differentiated service to milk for cash in the future.

    It has all the convenience of instant messaging without the cost of SMS or the need for setting up and maintaining separate IM clients on the phones, and it has made it much more convenient and easy for us to stay in touch during the day, when phone calls are not a option much of the time.

    Now that phones have the CPU horsepower and bandwidth to run IM clients in the background, I foresee SMS declining in popularity. I personally run Meebo – which can handle a number of IM networks in one app – and message people on IM with the same anywhere convenience of SMS without the cost, multiple-choice latency, nor hard limitations. There are probably other apps out there that perform similar functions.

  7. >and tapping out a sentence with the number keys is an exercise in swear word generation for me

    Like trying to light a fire by rubbing two boy scouts together. You can do it, but seriously there’s usually an easier way.

    My number one use of SMS is from scripts I write. When a script is finished, or there’s an item I want on ebay that’s under my price-point and within 8 hours of ending, or a “buy it now” has just appeared, or something like that. In this case, it’s the script banging out the bits – not me. With my elCheap-o prepaid dumbest of the dumb phone plans, all the incoming SMS messages are free. At about $11 per month, that’s cheaper than an alphanumeric pager monthly plan from a decade ago.

  8. Glamdring says:

    You might really like BBM (blackberry messenger) then it does that plus chat room and data ie pics or audio.

    We became blackberrys hose last xmas, instead of just me. Part of that is BBM but also can use wifi in place of cell tower. And cell co erage inside house was real spotty. Now with the wifi (UMI) it is perfect reception at home.

    Planning on getting gf iphone in Spring to go with her iPad. I might get one as well, for spare phone.

    Any big differences in your opinion between the 4 & 4s, I have looked at specs but wondering about hands oon from someone I trust.

    • Marko Kloos says:

      Siri’s fun, and the camera in the 4S seems to be a little better, but the one in the iPhone 4 is pretty good already. Some people say the 4S has shorter battery life, but we haven’t seen a big difference.

      Other than that, they look and feel the same, and with iOS5 on both, they have feature parity except for Siri.

  9. Tam says:

    Yeah, I’ve actually sent a few texts since I got the pocket magic elf box. Of course, it’s easier when your plan is a flat $40/mo. for unlimited SMS/data/email and 1200 minutes of talk time.

  10. Will says:

    This bit of data might be a little out of date:
    When you obtain your phone, the business that you purchased it through (store front, kiosk, whatever) gets 50% of the charges as income. Discovered this when the store I had a phone from changed carrier brands. Started getting billing direct from the carrier, at a 50% discount from the normal monthly bill.

    This is why the clerk was annoyed with you, most likely.

  11. Gewehr98 says:

    Glad you made the Android disclaimer, Marko. Otherwise, I’d have thought your brain had been dissolved by continual iProduct exposure into iJell-O. 😉

  12. Tam says:

    platform war debates make me feel all stabby

    Heh. I was recently told what a luzr I was for buying an Android phone because it may not automagically update to the latest version of the software. Which was ironic-with-a-capital-“I”, since I was reading this horrible news on a P4 running Win XP. (Which is sitting on the desk next to an eMac running Tiger…)

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