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.)