Configuring iMessage: an Update

iMessage is a pretty awesome feature of iOS and since Mountain Lion of OS X too.I originally wrote a little on configuring it across multiple devices in a post about a year ago. It's far from groundbreaking: innumerable Instant Messenger services and BlackBerry messenger came before it. It's none the less useful, and while operating largely like a text message service on the iPhone and rather like an older IM client on your Mac it offers a few things over the ageing SMS protocol:

  • Multiple recipients.
  • File transfer options.
  • Real-time status and read-reciepts (optional).

There's one other feature that's been a pretty big deal since iMessage launched a little over a year ago:

  • Seamlessly synced conversations across your iOS devices and (more recently) your Macs.

This latter feature has actually been available from the launch of iMessage, but has had some issues. Firstly, there was only a beta client available for the Mac prior to Mountain Lion and it wasn't very good at all (it needed the forthcoming Notification Center to operate properly and the temporary work around was ugly). Also, iMessage could operate on your phone number or your e-mail address(es) - but your phone number was exclusively tied to your iPhone.

Transient

If you wanted cross-platform syncing to work seamlessly, you had to configure the same email address across the board, and ensure that your phone used your e-mail address as it's "Caller ID" and also ask your friends to use your e-mail address rather than your number for iMessaging. Not an ideal situation - but one that most people figured out and got used to.

iOS 6 and Mountain Lion patch 10.8.2 resolve this issue, by allowing your non-phone iOS devices and your Macs to recognise your iPhone number. This is a really big deal in terms of fixing what was before fairly user-hostile. "Caller ID" has also been replaced with "Start new conversations from" which while functionally identical is a little clearer in purpose for the non-technical amongst your friends and family. Now your only responsibility is to be consistent in your configuration (which should occur by default).

This wasn't one of the headline features of iOS 6, but it is one of the more important ones in my opinion.

Note: This change applies equally to FaceTime setup also.