May 14, 2014 · 3 minutes

Planning to abandon an Apple product? You may be in for more trouble than it's worth.

The company has yet to fix a problem with its iMessage service that sometimes loses messages between iPhone users and former iPhone users. The problem has no immediate fix and, according to a blog post describing a recent encounter with the issue, there's no real hope of it being fixed in the near future.

This isn't a new problem. There have been reports describing messaging problems whenever someone switches from an iPhone to another smartphone since at least September 2013, when Mashable reported on a woman whose smartphone wouldn't receive text messages because of the iMessage bug even though she'd never owned an iPhone. (She received a phone number from someone who had owned an iPhone, and the switch brought the iMessage bug over).

Mashable reported that Apple's support team was less than eager to help with the iMessage bug, perhaps because it mostly affects people who switch to competitive products:

Apple is a company that prides itself on providing an excellent customer experience, but that consideration doesn't appear to extend to former customers. iMessage has the potential to make their communication inconsistent once they leave iOS, but the message from Apple is clear: You're on your own.
Time didn't help Apple improve its methods for handling the iMessage bug. As the New York Times reported in December 2013 after one of its columnists encountered the bug:
If you’re in this position, here is some advice: Don’t ask Apple’s corporate P.R. team for help. The people there are so terse you have to assume their keyboards have been heated to 128 degrees Fahrenheit and therefore they can’t type much.

When the Haggler inquired about the iMessage problem, he received a link from a spokeswoman that explained the 'Turn off iMessage on your iPhone' strategy. The Haggler also asked if Apple wanted to make switching as difficult as possible. 'I will decline to comment further. Thanks,' typed the spokeswoman, Trudy Muller. Now, with the better part of a year having passed between Mashable's report and the latest blog post complaining about the issue, it doesn't seem that Apple is any closer to solving the problem -- or properly explaining the issue to consumers who just want to be able to use their new smartphones without having their text messages lost in some kind of iMessage-made Hell.

As Pash describes the problem in his blog post:

Apple has completely hijacked my text messaging and my phone number portability (portability between devices, not networks). No one can fix this but Apple because it’s a problem at the device level, which means people in my position have no recourse but to wait for Apple to figure out what the problem is. But Apple isn’t offering any public support on the issue that I’ve been able to find (and it’s worth repeating that proper support is behind a $20 paywall for most people who’ve switched devices, who would also be the most commonly affected by this problem).
So Apple has essentially created a problem that only affects people who abandon its products, has not yet figured out how it can make the problem go away, and has consistently failed to help consumers figure out why they're being punished for switching to a new smartphone. iMessage was always about locking consumers in to Apple's products -- free messaging between iPhones, iPads, and Macs? Why not? -- but it seems that the golden handcuffs have been replaced with iron shackles that no one, not even Apple, really knows how to escape.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]