Improving iMessages with Geofencing

The other day, as I drove home from work and practiced my dictation to the tune of Siri’s inept transcription abilities, I deftly tapped iMessages’ “Send as Text Message” tooltip for what — given the number of text messages I send each month — must quite literally fall somewhere in the neighborhood of the millionth time. I tapped this button two or three times until, finally, my phone realized I wanted every outgoing message sent without the use of Apple’s clever and oh-so-convenient replacement. Then, as if to mock me, a few seconds later it switched back to sending everything as an iMessage. I just couldn’t win.

Over the last few months, and to a great degree recently, it seems, the utility of iMessage has become a hot-button issue for many in the tech press and its adjacent areas. In the experience of most, Apple’s text messaging replacement works like a charm: Jim Dalrymple often talks about having no issues with the service whatsoever. At the same time, however, a likely smaller but nevertheless disproportionally vocal faction — as is often the case on the internet — just can’t get the darn app to work with any semblance of consistency. As you may have guessed from the previous paragraph’s anecdote, I fall in the latter category: since my girlfriend got an iPhone and iMessage became a “viable” option, iMessage has stymied our efforts to remain connected and in touch with one another more times than I care to remember. And because she is by far and away the one person I talk to most through this medium, this unreliability has given iMessage such a bad name that I have all but sworn the app off and gone with a popular alternative like WhatsApp, for example, or another, similar service. The one thing that keeps me coming back, though, and simultaneously the greatest frustration I have nearly every single day, is the inconsistency: sometimes it works great, at other times it works well enough to pass muster, but it fails just often enough to imbue within me an incredible level of distrust I tend to reserve only for weathermen and technology analysts. To its credit, I must admit, at least it fails more consistently in certain situations than in others. If that sounds awkward and convoluted, that’s because everything about this is, and therein lies the root of my problem.

Of the near innumerable number of times iMessage fails me, it does so most often when either my girlfriend or I am away from home and thus away from a WiFi network. So long as both of us have a strong and stable WiFi connection, iMessage works reasonably well. Unfortunately though, WiFi is a luxury neither of us have for the majority of our days, which brings me back to the situation described at the top of this article where I battled with iMessage while on my way home earlier this week. “What can I do?" I asked myself. “How can I fix this?" Every time I leave home and my phone tries to intelligently send an iMessage, I end up locked in a loop of variable and possibly infinite length, just trying to tell my girlfriend “Hi”. Even before this thought had finished crossing my mind though, the solution hit me: geofenced iMessages.

Every problem I, and I would wager many others, too, have with iMessages comes down to a combination of the sender’s phone attempting to dispatch iMessages at inopportune times, and the recipient’s phone failing to inform the former’s device that all future messages should, in fact, get sent as text messages in order to ensure timely delivery. At least for me, those inopportune moments always occur when either I as the sender or my girlfriend as the recipient, or vise-versa, leave a certain location — namely, our respective homes. If only there was some way for me to say that I only wanted to allow my phone to send and receive iMessages within a certain radius of a given location, or only when connected to a WiFi network, every single one of my problems with this service would be immediately solved. Now, that’s not to say this is necessarily the best solution, nor even a good one. But all the iPhone users who read this, think of the times and places when iMessages has failed you; like me, I imagine there is at least a small degree of commonality between them, even if only a little. So while goefenced iMessages might not be the best or most elegant solution, it would solve all my problems, and I would bet every one of a great number of other people as well. And that’s what Apple is all about. really: solving problems and making technology approachable. Unfortunately, as it stands now, iMessages flies directly in the face of that driving goal.