Apples iMessage system, officially released last October along side of iOS5, allows iOS users to communicate between devices. Sounds fantastic, and for the most part it is. Least not for the feature which means SMS messages go over iMessage where possible.
Yesterday (16th Feb) Apple released a beta of Messages for Lion (Mac OS X 10.7) users, a core feature of Mountain Lion (OS X 10.8). Messages give OS X users the access to the iMessage system giving communication between OS X, iPad, iPod and iPhone in any combination.
iMessage works in a similar way to a SMS or IM message in that messages are sent to a iMessage address, be it a phone number or a verified email address. The sender of the message also sends their Caller ID to the recipient to create a communication stream. Meaning that the same sending location receives the returning messages.
Problems occur when devices such as iPad, iPod and OS X cannot receive phone number iMessages, meaning that when messages go out from such devices a different Caller ID is give. This creates another stream resulting in 2 communication streams between a single pair of individuals. Potentially very confusing. The target of these 2 streams become indistinguishable. How does the end user know which way the messages are being sent? Messages targeted for the phone may be sent to the desktop or iPad resulting in these messages being potentially missed for long periods of time.
iMessage needs a status indicator and a device logo to help users identify which streams would work, falling back to SMS when theres no other option.
iMessage addresses need to be consolidated to a single contact card.
Possibly a single stream between individuals rather than addresses, with a switch icon to identify where the message is being received – gets confusing though.
Finally, allow none iPhone devices to receive phone number iMessages.
I can only assume Apple have seen these problems coming. I do hope however that It’s not a solution as part of iOS6 – leaving many iMessages out.