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Apple to Allow Users to ‘Unsend’ iMessages

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iPhone text messaging. | Image by DenPhotos/Shutterstock

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Apple software engineer Craig Federighi announced at the company’s 2022 Worldwide Development Conference that a new feature will soon unroll that allows users to effectively “unsend” an iMessage.

There are some catches: Users must choose to unsend their message within 15-minutes, and text recipients who have iOS 16 installed will be able to see if a sender edited or unsent a message.

According to Darshil Patel, a full-stack engineer who identified himself as an Apple beta tester, the feature is “not implemented properly. If the other person doesn’t have iOS 16, the message won’t unsend for them.” It is unclear whether Apple will resolve this issue before the update is released.

Federighi’s announcement drew mixed reactions from people on social media. Some people shared excitement, while others shared concern.

A few people tweeted their thoughts, especially about topics related to the dating world.

Some Twitterers worried about people being able to hide cheating by unsending messages or unsend something that may make them look bad, such as a drunken text or something in an argument. Others mentioned that texts can be used in a court of law, and the ability to unsend messages could open a new host of issues.

On the positive end of the spectrum, users praised the new rollout as being something helpful for when emotions get the best of them. Galaxy Romero, a college student, shared that she sometimes sends a message in the heat of the moment without thinking it through.

“When I’m in the moment, I will react on my first initial feeling,” she said. “I will become defensive and send an iMessage with how I’m feeling in that moment.”

For Romero and plenty of others in similar situations, the 15-minute grace period to unsend messages could be a lifesaver.

To use this new feature, users simply long-press on a message they sent. A list of actions will pop up. When a user chooses “Unsend,” two new options are shown: “Unsend for Everyone” and “Unsend for You.”

Once the text writer presses the first of these buttons, gray text will appear on the user’s phone indicating they have unsent their message but that the receiver may potentially still be able to view it, depending on their version of iOS. This popup is a warning that not all texts can be retracted. Even when it works, the recipient will see a gray line of text on their end that says, “(Contact Name) unsent a message.”

This means that even when a message is successfully unsent, iMessage will still notify the receiver that something was sent in the first place—even if they never saw what the message contained.

In addition to the unsend feature, users will now be able to edit iMessages or mark them as “Unread” to remind them to reply later.

Federighi said users request these features most often, and Apple is listening. In addition, users will be able to recover deleted messages for up to 30 days. Federighi explained that these updates will help users “avoid ‘misfires’ and make typos ‘a thing of the past.'”

Statista reports that over half of cell phone owners in North America are iPhone users—about 53%. As such, the ability to edit or unsend messages will affect many when the iOS 16 update comes later in the year. No date for its release has been set yet.   

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