You Can Edit and Unsend Messages in iOS 16 — But There’s a Catch

There are many scenarios where it’s not going to work in an ideal way due to technological limitations.
iOS 16 Edit and Undo Send in Messages Credit: Jesse Hollington
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Perhaps one of the most useful improvements coming to iOS 16 is the ability to edit and even retract sent iMessages. However, before you get too enthusiastic, it’s important to keep in mind that this feature comes with a few provisos and a couple of quid pro quos.

That doesn’t mean that being able to edit and unsent messages won’t be a great feature. Still, it’s important to know that there are a lot of scenarios where it’s not going to work the way you expect due to technological limitations.

How Edit and Unsend Works in iOS 16

Editing or retracting a message in iOS 16 is pretty straightforward. Just tap and hold on your recently sent message, and if the message is eligible, you’ll see two extra options in the pop-up menu: Undo Send and Edit.

Tapping on Edit will open the message in a new inline editing window, right where it fits into the conversation. Make whatever changes you like and tap the blue checkmark to save the edited message. The message will be updated, and the word “Edited” will appear below the message bubble for everyone in the conversation.

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The Undo Send option is even simpler. Tap on this, and your message will vanish with a nice little animated poof, never to be seen again.

Note that you can only edit or undo send for a message sent less than 15 minutes ago. After that, it becomes just as permanent as it is in iOS 15. However, that’s not the only thing you have to watch out for.

Edit and Undo Send: Where It Works and Where It Doesn’t

While both of these features are handy additions to your tool belt, you won’t want to rely on them in every case. Don’t get careless about what you write because there may be situations where you can’t walk it back.

Firstly, this doesn’t work for “green bubble” SMS/MMS messages. These go out through your carrier’s network, so Apple has no control over what happens to them once they’ve been sent out. The Edit and Undo Send options won’t even appear if you’re in an SMS thread.

More importantly, this also won’t work even for iMessages unless everyone in the conversation is using iOS 16. Since the feature was introduced in iOS 16, older versions have no idea how to deal with a request to update or remove a message from a conversation thread.

This last point can be a bit insidious, as you’ll still be able to use the Edit or Undo Send features, and they’ll appear to work just fine on your end. However, recipients who aren’t running iOS 16 won’t see the results. The original, unedited message will remain on their device no matter what you do.

As of the first developer beta, the Messages app does warn you when unsending a message that the recipient “may still be able to see your message on devices running older versions of iOS.” However, this warning doesn’t appear after editing a message, so you may not realize that the person you’re communicating with may not be seeing the edited version of your message.

Even after iOS 16 has been out for a while, this could still become a bigger problem than you might expect. With iOS 16 dropping support for the iPhone 6s, original iPhone SE, and iPhone 7 models, there are going to be quite a few folks left behind on iOS 15. The same limitations also apply to iPadOS, watchOS, and macOS; those on older versions won’t see your edited or unsent messages.

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