Thoughts on Apple’s Messages

The idea of a continuous client is something that has sent nerds’ hearts a flutter for a long time. No matter what device you pick up, you’ll have an up to date conversation log.

Now that Apple has released a beta of their Messages (formerly iChat) app, iMessage is more accessible than ever. (iMessage is the protocol, Messages is the app.) I’m toying with the idea of dropping AIM for straight iMessage. If you get an iMessage on your phone, it comes to your Mac, and vice versa. You can now reply to your friends without picking up your phone and poking a 3.5” glass screen.

A new problem that arises when using iMessage. If you get an IM, you’re now going to have it ring through on every device. If you’re getting 3 IM’s a minute, that’s 6 buzzes if you have an iPhone and iPad. That doesn’t even include the 3 dings that Messages will give you to alert you. And my battery life, oh I can only imagine the hit that’s going to take when I keep getting push messages left and right.

The answer is that the various messages apps need to have an awareness of your state. There can be automated ways of doing this, but that might create a lot of false positives. Say you pick up your phone to play a game and Apple redirects your messages there, since that is the most recent device, but you don’t want that. Or if you’re on your Mac, but don’t want to be receiving messages there, same issue, different device.

To solve this, I would propose that Apple adds a few little tweaks to the Messages app. First of all, add a little button that mutes all other devices alerts, though they will continue to receive the actual updated chat log.

(I’m no Photoshop whiz obviously). Something like this (I’m no Photoshop whiz obviously)

The second is an auto-away period. If you have not touched your computer for n minutes, direct your chats to your secondary device. It’s more so an addition to the an idle status than a whole new feature. When you return to your computer Messages pings the devices to say “I’m back at the computer, stop redirecting my message notifications” if your mute notifications toggle is on.

If they can add those two things, I see no reason why it wouldn’t be far more convenient to use iMessage than AIM, not worrying about logging myself in and out of devices.


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