When Apple makes changes to what might be the most popular product on the planet, it surely has a good reason. And yet it keeps doing things to the iPhone I can’t quite get behind. There are hardware improvements, from the ever-growing size of the device (a trend that prevented me from upgrading my phone until Apple rolled out the iPhone 12 mini) and the removal of the headphone jack. 2018 saw the introduction of Memoji, whose purpose I still don’t fully understand. And now, with the forthcoming iOS 16 update, iPhone users will be able to edit and even unsend their texts.
Apple shared this new feature and other things coming down the pipeline at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference on Tuesday. As the press release says, “Users can edit or recall recently sent messages, recover recently deleted messages, and mark conversations as unread so they can come back to them later.” In addition to the new text editing, the new iOS update will bring a “personalized lock screen,” a schedule-send email option, and visual look-up abilities.
Yet most people—including myself—reacted most strongly to the text editing feature, and rightfully so. In a demonstration of how it would work, Apple VP Craig Federighi noted that this would allow users to fix typos and/or “recall a recent misfire.” As iMessage stands now, if you mistype something to a friend, you have to correct it immediately after in a subsequent text. Often, iOS’s Auto-Correction is to blame for the typo. Whatever the cause, those errors feel like permanent blots on a conversation, only correctable with what’s effectively an asterisk.
So it will definitely be nice to delete any evidence of linguistic blunders or erase, say, a passive-aggressive text you regret the moment after texting, but there are endless other possibilities. All over the web—but on TikTok especially—users had ideas for how texters could use this capability in ways that go far beyond Apple’s intentions. As some noted, the new feature could allow texters to shoot their shot momentarily and then quickly hide behind the “Undo Send” button. It could also be used to screw with your friends, family, or even your worst foes. As one TikTok put it, “iOS 16 gonna bring the biggest age of cheating, gaslighting, and manipulation that we’ve ever seen.”
In another video, a user demonstrates one such prank, mimicking using iOS 16 to message a “[girl emoji] with a boyfriend” asking “¿Yo, yu a fan of Nicki Minaj?” to which she responds “Of course I am!!” He then immediately edits the original text to “¿Yu tryna fuck?” and “screenshots” it. The TikTok might have been a crude joke, but you can see how Apple may be handing users a fast-twitch disinformation machine.
Luckily, a closer look at the fine print reveals that the new editing privileges won’t necessarily be a free-for-all. “Users can edit or recall a message for up to 15 minutes after sending it, or recover recently deleted messages for up to 30 days after deletion,” the company’s official material explained. And it seems like even after you delete it, it tells the receiver the message has been unsent by the sender.