The (i)Message we crave
Apple’s most important social asset, made better, simply
How strange is Apple’s iMessage? The strangest.
With each release I anticipate UX improvements, but they never come.
Presently, in iMessage, you can register some email addresses with some devices. Some phone numbers with others. Not all sync automagically. Messages appear willy nilly. Histories are fragmented. It feels very un-Apple like. As if they made product decisions based on engineering-think rather than user-think.
The tragedy is that iMessage is clearly one of Apple’s most valuable assets. It’s their social-network-by-accident that actually works. And if you look at what’s happening with LINE and all the other message-apps-cum-social-networks chomp-chomp-chomping away at Facebook’s mobile marketshare, you can’t help but think that — damn — Apple is in a pretty great position.
That said, here are three improvements that could drastically simplify and make better the entire iMessage experience.
One ID to rule them all
We all have an Apple ID. iMessage associated email addresses and phone numbers should sync around it. Let’s get rid of per-device settings. They just confuse everyone. The vast majority of us don’t need that much granularity.
Store message histories on the servers
Different message histories on different devices is unnecessarily inconsistent. Skype — for better and probably worse (hello NSA!) — stores everything so all devices feel the same. Hunting for a message or photo across iOS devices on iMessage is unintuitive, frustrating, and makes the network feel fickle and fragile. The expected rule is simple: Deliver all messages to all devices, always.
Allow us to create even the simplest of profiles. Unmanageable contact-sprawl pervades my address book. Rapportive in Gmail allows me to consolidate all my various networks under a single entity. Apple would be smart to do the same. Imagine Rapportive style data on messages in iMessage. Delicious and delightful.
It’s tough not to look at an asset like iMessage and see low-hanging user experience fruit. I was hoping Apple would pluck some of them down for us in iOS 7. They’ve yet to do so in the beta; here’s to hoping they do in the final release.