Text messaging is cool. But where are its limits?

The text-messaging app has always been the most used one on my phone. It’s fun and efficient, and it’s often a faster way to get a response than to send an email or make a phone call.

Still, even though Apple rolled out a slew of new text-messaging features in a software update this week β€” and as Google has improved its Android Messenger app over the years, such as adding colorful emojis β€” texting still remains to be desired. leaves a lot for.

Apple’s latest software system, iOS 16, which was released on Monday, includes enhancements to its iMessage app. Texts can now be edited and messages can be retrieved after they have been sent to clear up embarrassing typos. Google’s Messages app for Android also has tools that automatically generate responses to text.

These changes help us steer clear of awkward situations and save time, but they don’t solve a bigger social problem: Texting is distracting, demanding, and at least sometimes stressful.

The advantages of text messaging can easily turn into disadvantages. Since texting usually only takes a few seconds and is widely considered to be the most urgent, attention-grabbing form of digital communication, it’s difficult to set the limits of texting with our colleagues and friends. Text messaging invites us to interfere in other people’s time.

“Where does your work end, and where does your personal life begin?” Said Justin Santamaria, one of the iPhone engineers who developed the iMessage app more than a decade ago. “It’s something everyone has been struggling with over the past three years, and it’s playing on your home screen.”

Even texting is not the most secure form of communication, especially in the post-cry era when privacy is more important than ever, said Caitlin George, managing director of digital rights advocacy group Fight for the Future.

“It should be something that everyone should have and not worry or think about,” she said of the need for a universal private texting service.

The new messaging features are easier to use. On iPhones running iOS 16, holding down a sent message opens options to edit or retract it. Android users can open Google’s Messages app, enter settings, and use the new texting technology, called Rich Communication Services, by toggling on “Enable chat features.”

Here’s my wish list for improving texting.

we need a distant message

To reduce the chance that we’ll be bombarded with texts, Apple and Google have added layers of settings to let others know when they’re busy. Yet the tools are ineffective.

Apple’s iOS includes Focus, a tool released last year to manage how phone notifications appear in various aspects of our lives, including at work, at home, when we’re driving. Staying or going to bed. In work profiles, for example, focus can be set to only allow text and phone notifications from coworkers; Anyone not on the approved list gets a message that notifications are not being received.

The problem I have with focus is that it is overly complicated. Each focus profile takes time to set up, and requires effort to schedule the focus to activate at certain times or to remember to turn the feature on or off. In my experience, when my focus setting tells people I’m not getting notifications, they text me anyway.

Google’s messaging app has a so-called Smart Reply tool that automatically generates potential responses to a text message, including a message that says you’re busy. But you still have to select a response manually.

Text messaging apps from Apple and Google would benefit from a very simple tool: message away.

AOL Instant Messenger, one of the earliest online messaging services of the 1990s, was a simple autoresponder with a memo that users could use to let people know why they were unavailable. Slack, the chat app for workplace collaboration, can display a far-fetched status like “on leave until Monday.” This is effective in preventing people from sending messages.

We need a scheduling tool

One of the beauty of text messaging is the ability to share something – like an idea or a photo – instantly. But the iPhone messaging app still doesn’t have an easy way to avoid annoying people at inappropriate hours: the ability to schedule a message to be sent later.

Here is where Android’s messaging app has a clear advantage. Last year, Google added a scheduling tool. After composing the message, hold down the send button. A “Send Schedule” button appears, which lets you set a time and date to send the text. This is useful because we often send texts at inappropriate times for fear of forgetting to send it later, and a scheduling tool solves this problem.

We need Apple and Google to work together

The lack of interoperability between the iPhone and Android messaging services makes photos and videos appear pixelated when sending between Android and iPhone, a dangerous digital phenomenon known as the “green bubble” effect.

At a tech conference last week, a member of the audience raised the issue with Apple CEO Tim Cook. In a question-and-answer session, Cook was asked whether Apple would consider working the iPhone’s messaging service with Google’s Rich Communication Services so that the questioner could send candid video to her mother, who had an Android phone.

“I haven’t heard our users asking that we put too much energy on that at this point in time,” Cook said. “Buy your mom an iPhone.”

An Apple spokesperson declined to comment.

George of Fight for the Future said that Cook’s remarks were elitist because not everyone could afford an iPhone. He said the incompatibility between the messaging apps of Apple and Google has also created a problem for digital privacy.

Apple and Google encrypt their messaging apps so that messages are indecipherable to anyone except the sender and recipient. But the encryption only works if the apple phone texts the apple phone and the android phone texts the android phone. When users of different mobile operating systems text each other, their messages lack encryption, making the content readable to other parties, such as phone carriers.

While third-party texting apps like Signal offer encrypted messaging between Apple and Android phones, those tools aren’t as widely used as the default texting apps that come with our phones.

The content of text messages has become even more sensitive after the Rowe v. Wade reversal, George said, adding that law enforcement agencies can now solicit data from tech companies and phone carriers to prosecute women seeking abortions. . That’s one reason Apple and Google would do a great job if they found a way to work together on their messaging apps, she said.

β€œAt a time when half the country needs to be concerned about how they are communicating about their physical autonomy, you have a moral obligation to watch your marketing if you are telling people they trust you. can,” she said of Cook, who has staked his reputation on digital privacy.

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