iMessage’s new “unsend” feature doesn’t work on iOS 15

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The upcoming version iMessage will allow you to Up to 15 minutes for unsend and editing messages. Sounds great, very convenient — Signal and WhatsApp and Viber have had similar features for years. It is available right now on the iOS 16, iPadOS 16 public betasAnd macOS Ventura. There is one caveat.

If you are unable to sweep the rug, please inform the recipient. isn’tRunning the public betas Everywhere device they use for iMessage, you’re the only one who will see history as you wish you’d written it.

In which I feign interest in my colleague’s NFT. This is the iPhone they used to see the iOS 16 public Beta; the iPhone Touch running 15.5 is the iPod Touch that they used.
Screenshots by Mitchell Clark/TheVerge

To test the new unsending and editing feature, I fired up iMessage on my newly beta’d iPhone 11 and asked my colleague Mitchell to show me the NFT they obtained while testing America’s most legally obligated new 5G network. I sent a message saying, “Thought you had apes,” unsent it, sent a second message that just said “cool,” and then edited it a few minutes later to say “VERY cool.” (It isn’t cool. Sorry, Dish.)

Here’s what Mitchell saw: on the betas for 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 little “Edited” badge underneath. I was shown on iOS 15.5 (macOS Monterey) as the NFT-hater they are: they could still view the retracted messages Both the edited and the original version of the second one.

I tested the feature with several people using different versions of iOS or macOS. They all got the same results. The notification center does not show any notifications for unread messages.

A screenshot of an iMessage exchange on iOS 16, showing the message “You unsent a message. Mitchell may still see the message on devices where the software hasn’t been updated.”

Apple warned me that unsending might not be compatible with older versions, but I was not told that my attempt to edit would look so awkward.
Screenshot taken by Nathan Edwards/The Verge

However, it can be used on any Apple device Not running on the public beta — which is, statisticAlly, all of them — unSend messages just hang out there, sent. Apple allows you to edit messages, rather than deleting them and sending another message. Instead, Apple saves the original message and sends it. Second message with your edits, which it wraps in quotes and prefaces with the words “Edited to:” within the message, as if you had typed it yourself. This is confusing and potentially embarrassing, and the sender is none the wiser — unless they happen to look at the conversation on one of They older devices.

Apple warns you, to be fair After you delete a message that it might not work on devices that aren’t running the latest software, but there’s nothing in the UI to indicate that editing a message is the equivalent of running a correction in tomorrow’s paper.

There are plenty of good reasons to recall a message after you’ve sent it: embarrassing typos, wayward auto-correct, messages sent to the wrong person, even just deciding that your first attempt came off a little bit 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 is the default messaging app for half the smartphones in the country. For most people, it’s a way to avoid gaffes and smooth out social interactions, nothing more.

Editing and unsending have other, more sinister uses. Victims’ rights organizations I have spoken out against the possibility of abuse and gaslighting — editing messages to look innocuous after they’ve been read, sending unsolicited graphic images and then unsending them, and generally making it harder for their victims to keep evidence of the misdeeds. “Manipulation of edit and unsend features will fit neatly within any power and control dynamic by allowing a bad actor to reach into a victim’s device and make changes without consent,” Adam Dodge, CEO of EndTAB — which trains organizations to help address and prevent online abuse — tells The Verge. “And a lot of damage can be done in a 15-minute window.” Dodge added that he’d spoken with judges concerned that it would “wreak havoc” with the admissibility of iMessage screenshots in court.

Editing and unsending are currently only available to a small number of Apple users who have enrolled in the betas. But this fall, they’ll roll out to everyone on an iPhone 8 or newer, which is a sizable chunk of the entire US smartphone market.

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

It’s certainly an option, but I think this puts an unfair burden on victims. iOS updates are better for device performance and help protect users from new threats. If you keep an older iOS version, it means that victims will have to deal with other disadvantages and risk in order to remain safe. I’m more in favor of an opt-in feature that lets users choose to allow editing and un-sending messages on their device, similar to read receipts.

There are still months before the new operating system officially rolls out. However, Apple may still have time to offer editing and unsending opt in features, as Dodge suggests. The features are available to those who wish them. You can also use Signal, which allows you to send view-once or auto-deleting messages. It also works on Android.

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