While there are a lot of different messaging apps to communicate with your friends and family, there's nothing that is as easy as Apple's own iMessage. With iMessage, I can easily chat with others who are also in the Apple ecosystem with the best iPhone, iPad, and Mac, but I can also send SMS texts to those who are — gasp — not an iPhone user. Not to mention I can also participate in group chats, send money through Apple Pay, spam GIFs or stickers, and even play games with them, all in one place.
However, one thing that has always bothered me about iMessage is that the features are limited when conversing with non-Apple users. With iOS 14, we got some brand new features like pinned messages, inline replies, and even the ability to name group chats and assign an image or emoji to them. That's all fine and dandy, unless you, well, talk with those who are part of the green bubble crowd.
I've already covered the annoyances of limited iMessage capabilities in general before, so I won't get into those. Instead, I want to focus on one big limitation that has been around for years — why can't I leave a group chat if there are SMS users?!
Group chats can be a little too much sometimes
Truth be told, I don't have a lot of group messages going on. If I need to contact someone, I would prefer to send a message to just that one person. But I am in two active group conversations with my older siblings, as well as my older siblings and mother. This is because we should keep everyone in the loop on familial matters, so you know, these messages should be important ones. Except sometimes they're not always important.
Sometimes my siblings like to talk back-and-forth about things that I am not particularly interested in, or frankly, care about. But unfortunately, since one of them uses an Android device, I'm unable to freely leave the group conversation, which is something I could do if it were an iMessage group chat. Instead, I'm forced to pretty much mute the conversation because during the day, while I'm working, it can be a little...much. And while I guess I can delete the thread, it's pointless, as it'll just come back since they'll continue sending messages to me.
And it's not just my issue either. One of my colleagues has a story of a group chat with SMS users that went awry. You know, that old friend of yours who starts up a huge group chat with multiple people to wish them a good holiday, and then everyone else in the chat wishes the same to everyone else — yeah, it can be a lot. And then what if someone in that group starts sending, uh, some rather questionable and inappropriate content? At that moment, you really should be able to leave, but since not everyone is on iMessage, you'll either have to mute the entire thread, give your friend a stern warning to not throw you into a group chat ever again, or start up a new one and exclude that one person. No matter how you slice it, the solution is annoying.
I've honestly had to keep my family group chats muted almost all the time. This isn't ideal, though, because I may end up missing something important — sigh. Still, it's kind of wild that you can't leave a group chat freely if there is anyone who is using SMS in the group. I could always move my chats to another messaging app, but then I would need to convince people to use those apps instead of SMS/iMessage, and that can be even more work. I've tried to convince them to use an iPhone – their answer is no (can't win them all).
Apple needs to improve iMessage features when SMS is involved
I'm just surprised that Apple has done nothing to improve the overall iMessage experience when non-Apple users are involved. I don't think that it's impossible, either. After all, there is the Rich Communication Services (RCS) protocol, which is implemented in the Google Messages app, though that's only available on the Google Play Store for Android devices.
If you're unfamiliar with RCS, think of it like iMessage, but for SMS as a whole (though confined to Android for now). You can text over Wi-Fi, see visual typing indicators, share high-resolution photos and video, and more. However, it does seem like it's also impossible to remove yourself from group chats on Android too, so maybe this is all just wishful thinking from me.
Regardless, Apple needs to improve the group messaging experience when there's SMS involved. I mean, you can't even reply inline or change group chat names if there are SMS users.
Do you ever wish you could remove yourself from a group SMS chat?
I can't be the only one out there who has been wanting this feature, right? For now, I'll continue to mute and check in occasionally to see what I've missed, but this may not always work for other group chats. Seriously, it's 2021 — why can't we remove ourselves from SMS group conversations?
What are your thoughts? Leave them in the comments below.
More navigation links:
- iMessage is Apple's hidden social network
- Instagram's bigger than you think
- Do Slack and Teams count as "messaging"?
- Apple, let us leave group SMS chats
- RCS vs. SMS vs. iMessage
- Google's messaging failures
- How to switch your family to a new service
- Telegram vs. Signal vs. WhatsApp
- iMessage is popular...in America
Christine Romero-Chan has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently the iMore lead on all things iPhone, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.
When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.
I’m lost how the experience will be different in your family group if everyone was on iMessage?
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