This Is What Happens When You Edit or Unsend an iMessage Sent to Someone with iOS 15 or Older

This exciting feature comes with a pretty big asterisk.
iMessage on iPhone Messages App Credit: DenPhotos / Shutterstock
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The ability to edit and unsend iMessages could be one of the most exciting features coming to iOS 16, perhaps second only to the cool new customizable Lock Screens.

Unfortunately, as we noted shortly after the first iOS 16 beta hit, this feature comes with a pretty big asterisk: It won’t work unless the other party in your conversation is running iOS 16 too.

That’s obviously a huge problem right now since iOS 16 is limited to Apple Developers. Even after its general release in September, not everyone will rush out and install it immediately.

Plus, for the first time since iOS 13 was released in 2019, Apple is leaving some older iPhone models behind this year; the iPhone 7, iPhone 6s, and original iPhone SE lineups won’t be getting iOS 16.

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Fortunately, Apple has come up with a partial solution. In the second beta of iOS 16, released yesterday, editing a message now sends out the edited version as a new message for devices using older versions of iOS.

It’s a kludgy workaround that’s akin to using tapbacks with SMS/MMS messages. The recipient gets the new version of the message, with the word “Edited:” in front of it, in a similar way that liking an SMS message sends out the entire text of the original message prefixed by the word “Liked.”

However, at least the recipient will see the edited message. Before this change, if an iOS 16 user edited a message, recipients on iOS 15 would see nothing at all. The sender would have no way of knowing their edits didn’t go through, and the recipient wouldn’t know that they’d even tried to edit the message.

Unless Apple chooses to add support for iMessage editing in an iOS 15 point release somewhere down the road, this is likely as good as it’s going to get. The Messages app on iOS 15 isn’t designed to allow messages to be replaced with edited versions.

Likewise, it can’t handle deleting received messages either. So, if an iOS 16 user unsends a message, nothing happens on a device running an older version of iOS 15. In theory, Apple could take a similar approach, sending a second message to tell the recipient that you asked to delete the previous message. However, since the original message would still be there, that might seem a bit silly.

Ironically, Apple’s approach to devices running older versions of iOS is more in line with what domestic safety advocates are requesting. Fears have been raised that this iOS 16 feature could create an opportunity for abusers to harass and gaslight victims by sending violent, threatening, or otherwise unwelcome messages and then editing or retracting them before the victim can report them.

When both users in a conversation thread are using iOS 16, the Messages app will add a note to the recipient when a message has been edited or unsent. However, while this lets the person know that a change has occurred, there’s no way for them to see the original message content. With advocacy groups pressuring Apple to do better to protect victims from the potential abuse of the system, there’s a good chance Apple will tweak things at least a bit before the final release of iOS 16 arrives this fall.

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