• Apple’s iOS 16 will allow people to edit their sent iMessages for the first time.
  • Edited iMessages will be logged for both recipient and sender.
  • iMessages can be deleted, but they won’t be logged.

Screenshots from iOS 16.

Apple's iOS 16 update is going to allow people to edit iMessages after they are sent, but those hoping to be able to edit away embarrassing mistakes are set to be disappointed.

Being able to edit an iMessage after sending it is a big improvement and a feature that people have been crying out for. But Apple made a change in a recent beta release that means all edited messages will be saved for posterity. Both sender and recipient can see all versions of the message, no matter what.

That might seem counterintuitive to some. Why let people edit out their mistakes if they aren’t ever really gone? It’s “for transparency purposes [so] users know what was edited,” Mark Gurman, Bloomberg’s well-known Apple-watcher, told Lifewire via direct message. Without a log of edited messages, people could change the meaning and the context of any replies at will.

A Moving Target

Apple’s most-recent iOS 16 beta made a change that has tongues wagging. When iOS 16 was announced during the annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June, Apple said it was adding a feature that would theoretically allow people to edit out mistakes like typos. The feature debuted in beta form the same day, June 6, but the most recent release has fundamentally changed how people will use it. Now, every edited message remains available in a sort of leger, ready to be read repeatedly. That wasn’t the case in previous betas, suggesting this is a conscious change on Apple’s part.

That’s a fact driven home by an update to Apple’s iOS 16 preview website that simply says, “recipients will be able to see a record of edits made to the message.”

It's a notable change mid-beta cycle, and while things could change again, that seems unlikely. Apple wants people to be able to see what edits were made to messages, but why, and where does that leave the feature as a whole?

Gurman believes it's all about accountability, ensuring everyone knows exactly what was sent and when. It makes sense in a way—Apple doesn't want people changing the meaning of a message after it was sent. But that's what the feature is surely for, otherwise, why bother at all? In reality, this new implementation only means that iMessage chats are less cluttered than before, when people would just resend the same message without the typos.

John Gruber, a long-time Apple commentator, says via Twitter that “the sender doesn’t get (and doesn’t deserve) the right to erase all traces of something that was once on the recipient’s phone.” He added, “once you send a message and it’s delivered, the message is as much the recipient’s as it is the sender’s.” It’s a theory that makes sense. Except, there’s one problem.

You Can Edit, But You Need to Unsend to Be Sure

The waters are further muddied when you consider another addition to iOS 16—the ability to delete a message entirely. With the current implementation, choosing to unsend (Apple's term for deleting) an iMessage and immediately resending a corrected one really is the only way to fix a typo or remove an embarrassing mistake for good. It's the nuclear option, but it'll work. The new message will get a new timestamp, of course, and people can only delete a message for up to two minutes after sending it. Edits can be made for up to 15 minutes, however.

Editing texts in Messages for iOS 16

And that all brings us full circle.

If Apple doesn't want people to be able to send a message and then have it wiped from history, why allow messages to be deleted? Lifewire reached out to Apple for clarification but has not received a response.

Gruber thinks he might have the answer. “A three-step Undo-Send / type-a-corrected-version-of-the-message / resend works as an alternative to the actual Edit feature if you do it immediately,” he said on his Daring Fireball blog. “But it doesn’t if the message with the typo is no longer the most recent message in the thread. Undo Send means ‘it was a mistake to send this message at all.'”

Source