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Issue #629: August 11-17, 2019

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Q: You explain computer issues very well, but I don’t know if you get into texting and cell phone issues, as I couldn’t find any in past columns. If you do, here are several questions.

 My wife has an iPhone and is trying to get proficient in texting, but we have a lot to learn. We have several questions:

  1. How does a person know if a text has been received? I don’t mean read, as that requires the person to actually read the text, but just that that person’s device has received it. This may be different, depending if the text is from an iPhone to an iPhone vs. an Android phone.
  2. Sometimes using Apple Messages, the message in blue indicates the message is “received”, and sometimes the message doesn’t indicate that. What is the difference?
  3. Can a person know if a text has been blocked? We know how to block a call from sales calls. Can that same technique be used to block texts from a phone number?

 – Ken M.
Destin, Florida

A: Thanks for the compliment, Ken. I don’t always succeed, but I do try to explain things so that they make sense to people with very little experience, while not being totally boring for Geeks and Geek-wannabes. From the very first issue that I wrote some 12 years ago, I have always pitched I.G.T.M. as a “Computers and Technology Q&A Feature”. That means that yes; I do answer questions on topics like texting and cell phone issues.

First, you might be disappointed to know that regardless of whether you’re using an Apple or Android device, it’s not possible to know with absolute certainty that a message has been delivered. That’s because ultimately, the owner of the destination device controls whether that device sends out acknowledgements when a message is received or read. Both IOS and Android offer a privacy setting that allows the user to toggle whether the device sends what’s called a Read Receipt. If someone turns it off, anyone sending messages to that device will not receive any feedback about the message status. This feature is on by default in both operating systems, so the rest of what I’m going to say assumes that it has not been disabled.

In the early days of cell phones, depending on your plan, you could send short text messages over the cellular network. This was known as Short Messaging Service or SMS messages. In those days, back before onscreen keyboards and data plans, these were inconvenient and expensive. Each letter of the message had to be formed by multiple clicks of the appropriate number key to access the letters co-assigned to it. A typical phone plan allowed a finite number of messages per month, after which you would pay for each message. This could – and often did – result in massive, unexpected cell phone bills, often for the parents of chatty teens who had no idea they were incurring fees. Modern mobile plans include Internet access, and wrap up with what we now call text messaging into the data plan portion of your bill, although text messages still travel via the cellular network.

Apple’s IOS natively supports two different types of text messaging. When conversing with other iDevices, it will use Apple’s proprietary iMessaging by default. This type of message doesn’t require the cellular network at all, but does require a data connection. So, it works when your phone is connected via WiFi, even when the device isn’t even on any carrier’s data plan. But again, iMessaging only works with other Apple devices. In the absence of a network connection, the device will attempt to send messages via SMS instead, assuming cellular service is available.

SMS was designed to be one-way, so it’s not always possible to determine the received or read status of messages sent that way. In iMessage, you need look no further than under the last message sent. If it was received on the destination device but not yet read, the word “Delivered” appears. Once it has been read, that is replaced with “Read at” and the time. Message colors have nothing to do with their read status. Sent messages appear blue if sent via iMessaging. If sent via SMS, they appear green, and the words “Sent as a Text Message” appear underneath. Android has a different method of providing message status, called “Delivery Reports” which is turned off by default. The steps to enable it vary depending on the Android device you have, but once enabled, you can tap and hold a message and select “View message details” or “View report” to get statuses such as “Received”, “Delivered”, or “Pending”.

I didn’t forget your question about blocking texts, but the answer is long enough to fill an issue by itself. So instead, I’m going to send you out to TinyURL.com/IGTM-0629, where you’ll find a pretty comprehensive article that should help you out.

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