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For many of us, iMessage is our go-to messaging service whenever at all possible — meaning when we’re communicating with friends and family who also happen to be Apple users. There are a lot of advantages to Apple’s first-party messaging platform, such as tighter integration with iOS and other Apple devices and services such as the Apple Watch, Siri, and HomePod, not to mention the fact that you’re pretty much guaranteed that you can use it to communicate with anybody who already has an iPhone, without making them install extra software.
For all of its advantages, howver, it’s hard to argue with the fact that there are some things that competitors like WhatsApp do better, even beyond multi-platform support. However, Apple has a tendency to improve iMessage in large leaps rather than small steps, as it did back in iOS 10, and now there may be another new feature coming that could leave most of its competitors in the dust: the ability to edit messages after they’ve been sent.
Right now you can’t even retract a sent message. Once you’ve hit the “Send” button you’ve committed it to arriving on the recipient’s device, and unless you happen to be fortunate enough to have been out of data coverage when you sent a regrettable message, there’s no “oops” option built into iMessage. Sure, you can delete the message from your end if you’re rather not be reminded of your mistake, but that has no impact on what the recipient sees.
That was arguably reasonable at one point, since iMessage was originally designed to be an adjunct to SMS messages, which don’t even provide delivery notifications, much less more advanced features. However, most messaging platforms have also long since moved on from the elementary principles of text messages.
Editing Sent Messages
If a new patent application comes to fruition, however, Apple will go beyond offering the ability to retract sent messages, and actually allow users to edit a message after it’s been sent.
According to a patent filed by Apple last December and discovered by AppleInsider after it was published this week, Apple is looking at ways to improve the iMessage experience by letting users make edits after the fact, at least partly to help avoid the problem of users needing to resend a new text to correct an old one.
Based on the mockups in the patent, it appears that a new “Edit” option will show up in the action menu that comes up when you long-press on a message. Tapping the option will open up an editing panel that will let the user make any changes they want to the prior message, whether it’s just correcting a misspelling or replacing the entire text.
Of course, the patent suggests that the Messages app will indicate to the recipient when messages have been edited, so this won’t be a way to pull a fast one on your friends. In fact, not only will they know that the message has been edited, but they’ll also still be able to see the original text, and it looks like Apple is even proposing an ellipsis “typing-in-progress” indicator will appear beside a message while it’s being edited.
The patent in question, U.S. patent application 20200133478, titled Devices, Methods, and Graphical User Interfaces for Messaging, also covers quite a few other features that Apple may have in the works for iMessage as well, including improvements on how stickers are displayed in a message, making it easier to use Apple Pay to send money from within Messages, handwriting recognition, foreign language translation, and improvements to private messages.
Of course, this all comes with the usual caveat that Apple patents a lot of things that never see the light of day, and there’s no guarantee we’ll see this at all, much less ready in time for iOS 14. However, unlike many of the hardware patents we see, nothing in this one seems like too much of a stretch, and much of it also represents improvements that are becoming more necessary if Apple expects iMessage to keep up with the rest of the pack.