By Dan Moren
July 6, 2016 7:35 AM PT
Reconciling forked iMessage conversations
Note: This story has not been updated for several years.
Reader Gabriel followed my instructions (blame where blame is due) to switch to Apple’s two-factor authentication, but ran into a weird problem:
I followed the same steps as you did, it went fine … except that now any message I send on either of my Macs (with the Messages app) stays separate from the messages on my iPhone. Feels like reality has forked into two different dimensions–I’m currently in two distinct conversations with my wife, on my MacBook and the other on my phone.
Ah, Messages. It may be a tentpole feature of iOS 10, but man is it still one idiosyncratic1 piece of software at times. The good news is that I’ve seen this issue before, and I know just how to fix it.
iMessage’s threading is based on which address the message is sent from. In iMessage, that can either be your phone number or any email address that you have associated with your iMessage account. If you have different “from” addresses on different devices, you’ll get forked threads, as Gabriel did.
To complicate matters I’ve noticed that when you log your Apple ID out of Messages and then log back in–such as when you go through the whole two-factor authentication rigmarole–”from” address sometimes gets changed.2
To make sure that all your settings are the same across all your devices, open Messages on your Mac(s) and go to Preferences > Accounts and select your iMessage account. At the bottom of that window you’ll see a dropdown menu labeled “Start new conversations from”; choose your desired address there. (To help save my own sanity, I’ve unchecked everything but my phone number and my primary email address under the “You can be reached for messages at” section above that.)
On your iOS device(s), go to Settings > Messages > Send & Receive, scroll down to “Start new conversations from” and select the same address/phone number there.
The most important thing is to make sure this setting is the same on every Mac and iOS device that you send messages from. Because as soon as you send a message to someone from a device with a different setting, you’ve potentially created a forked conversation. (Don’t even get me started on message threads with multiple recipients, which can turn into quite a mess if you have different people in the same thread sending messages to different addresses of one of the recipients.)
Reader Gabriel confirmed that this fixed his problem, though it did not reconcile the forked conversations that had already happened. Sadly, I’ve yet to find a solution for that particular woe. Let’s all cross our fingers that iMessage threading will be improved in iOS 10.3
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at @email@example.com or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is out now.]
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