The Disruptive Power of iMessage

SMS: Text Messaging Gets Redesigned
SMS: Text Messaging Gets Redesigned (Photo credit: pouwerkerk)

Suddenly your computer and your phone are sharing the same communications stream

You could argue that Apple has changed the way we do things several times. The way we buy music, use our phones, operate our computers and so on. But the world has pretty much overlooked one of Apple’s greatest ideas yet: messages.

It started with iMessages, an iPhone/iPad app that lets you send text messages between Apple hand-held gadgets without cost. Instead of using the cellphone network (and paying 20 cents each or whatever), texts you send using this little app get sent across the Internet, costing you pretty much nothing.

These Apple messages have many advantages over regular text messages. For example, the tiny word “received” appears beneath any message you send to let you know that your recipient’s gadget has received it. (If the recipient has turned on “Show read receipts” in Settings, you’ll even see the word “read” to let you know that the person has actually read the message.)

If you’re in a back-and-forth conversation, the text messages show up on a single screen, scrolling up in conversation balloons like a chat session. While the other guy is typing, you see “…” in his balloon, so you know he’s working on a response and not just ignoring you.

You can send pictures and videos through Messages. And you aren’t held to the usual 160-character limit of phone text messages.

And if you have more than one iGadget — say, an iPhone and an iPad — you’ll find the same message threads on each one. You can pick up on a chat from wherever you left off on a different machine.

Above all, Messages means that you can keep your text messages. They’re not locked onto your phone, like regular text messages. And they don’t scroll away forever, like regular text messages. You can go back and refer to them whenever, and they’re backed up every time you back up your device.

So: Messages is cool. And coolly clever, the way it cuts the cellphone company out of the revenue stream. But that’s not the big news.

Apple announced recently that this summer, it will release a new version of Mac OS X called Mountain Lion. And Mountain Lion will come with a new Mac app called Messages. You can download the beta version of Messages free, right now, even before Mountain Lion is available. (It’s actually just a beefed-up version of the previous iChat program, and still includes all of its audiochat and videochat features.)

O.K., this is where things get crazy. Suddenly your computer and your phone are sharing the same communications stream.

First, this means that you can now send text messages from your computer, using a full keyboard, which is a fairly radical change right there.

See Also

You’ve been able to do that computer-to-phone trick before, but it’s been tricky. For years, I’ve been using Google Voice to send text messages for that very reason: on its Web page, I can send text messages, free, to phones, with the full comfort of mouse and keyboard. And you could sent text messages from chat programs — but only with special codes, and, of course, without the ability to resume the conversation on a different device.

But Messages is the first time there’s been a low-friction, mass-available way to send computer-to-phone messages.

Read more . . .

via New York Times – David Pogue
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