iOS 16 is packed with major interface and feature changes, but only one will potentially change the course of human communication: the ability to unsend, unread, and most importantly, edit sent messages.
Since we’ve had iPhones and Messages, we’ve shared countless small text messages filled with inaccuracies, embarrassing typos, and hilarious autocorrects. Message errors are so pervasive that they are part of our culture. There is entire sites (opens in new tab) dedicated to, for example, cataloging particularly notorious autocorrects, or as they are more commonly called, “Damn You Autocorrect”.
The latter refers to Apple’s own autocomplete system, changing the words you intended or “correcting” your typos of text into something silly or, often, embarrassing.
But even without autocorrect errors, there are:
- drunk texts
- angry texts
- Incomplete texts sent too soon
- Texts to the wrong people
I have experience in the latter category, having once sent a text about needing to get more toilet paper to a business contact instead of my wife.
We’ve all been there.
iOS 16, which Apple revealed on Monday in its keynote at WWDC 2022, has a chance to end it all with three simple features, one of which will either be a godsend or cause new controversy.
Unsend is obviously a big deal. Text that sounds good in your head, but seems dismissive, angry, or insensitive, may be gone and possibly never seen by the recipient.
Messages are edited, canceled and unread. #WWDC22 pic.twitter.com/Np2vqDHnJ2June 6, 2022
Being able to turn a read text into an unread one also has its benefits. Your friend asks you to sit down and, knowing you’ve read the message, waits for your response. Instead of negotiating, you make the message unread and wait for your friend to ask someone else – even if they can still see that you read the message.
The problem, however, is editing the texts after sending them. You can correct a misspelled name, remove the part of the message that was perhaps too honest or personal, or simply correct that embarrassing typo or autocorrect.
Goodbye Fun message hello rational text conversations.
The ability to change the record of a conversation is not just about eradicating text-based errors. Some may use it to alter the registry, insisting they never texted you “that thing” even though the altered messages say they were edited. The ability to clear the text message list, knowing that you can quickly remove any traces of that offending text, shouldn’t be a license to say what you want.
The big caveat here is that all these options are only available to you for 15 minutes. After that, your mistakes are frozen in time and the embarrassment is permanent.
Also, this is an Apple iOS 16 messaging feature, not a global SMS. Mistakes and bad texts sent to your Android friends and your green text boxes will be as permanent as ever.
For iPhone users, who will be upgrading to iOS 16 this fall, your text communications are about to undergo a sea change. They might even start aggressively editing texts throughout the first 15 minutes as a kind of competition, turning the whole thing into a new kind of game.
It won’t have the same kind of comedic punch as Damn You Autocorrect, but it could be a whole new kind of texting fun.