Frustrated Over Interoperability? Me Too!

Sept. 10, 2014
Last week, after an impressive three-and-a-half year run, I decided to retire my Apple iPhone for an Android phone. What happened next has gotten me to empathize with industry insiders who express frustration with the lack of interoperability between health IT vendors.

I understand the frustration over the lack of interoperable systems in healthcare.  

No seriously, I do. The next time an industry insider harps on about data silos, proprietary systems, separate infrastructure, and the like, I’ll be able to empathize.

Selfish vendors? Preach on, brother man!

Last week, after an impressive three-and-a-half year run, I decided to retire my Apple iPhone for an Android phone. To be quite honest, there was no reason in particular. I just figured it was time for something different. I’m a Millennial. We grew up in the era of the Internet and shortening attention spans. Three-and-a-half years with the same phone felt like a lifetime.

My fiancée and I went to the Verizon store in our area, got the attention of an eager sales associate, and soon enough, walked out with sparkling, brand new phones. I gave my iPhone, which once survived a 20-foot drop from a balcony, the proper send-off. It was a good phone, but that was that. It was a brand new day.

Except it wasn’t. The first few days of having those Androids felt cold and lonely. I was getting text messages but certain people weren’t responding to me. Or so I thought. Had I really upset the balance of the universe just because I wanted an Android?

What I found out was that everyone who has an iPhone was messaging me through Apple’s proprietary iMessaging system, only available on iOS devices. The iMessaging system allows iPhone users to skip SMS texting infrastructure and send messages entirely through this separate platform. However, as I said, it only works for iPhones and iOS devices.

The problem arises when you switch from an iPhone and port your number to an Android (or any non iOS phone). For some reason, Apple keeps your number on the iMessaging platform, even when you are finished with that type of phone. If you don’t know you’re supposed to switch off iMessaging before you make the switch, you’ll be stuck in some kind of iMessaging limbo. Everyone who has iPhones will be iMessaging you, but since you don’t have an iPhone, you’ll never get it.

It’s enough to give someone an iHeadache.

The problem is well documented (which makes me feel bad that I didn’t know about it before making the switch), and there is even a website dedicated to fixing it: There are a number of other supposed fixes as well. I’ve pretty much tried them all.

  • De-registering the device on Apple’s website
  • Turning off iMessaging on all iOS devices
  • Changing my Apple password on all iOS devices
  • Deleting my Apple profile from all iOS devices
  • Calling up Apple support and ask them to kindly (my word)“revoke my iMessaging certificate”
  • Sending a text to 48369 with the word STOP
  • Having my friends turn on “send by SMS” on their iPhones if iMessage doesn’t work

The last one seems to have done the trick…I think! It’s hard to tell. There could be people out there who are still trying to reach me (or maybe I’m just not as popular as I thought I was) and their messages are still turning that dreadful iMessaging blue.  If it persists, I may have to change my number or just simply go incommunicado.

The real fix is a concept called interoperability. If iPhone made their iMessaging infrastructure open and compatible with other messaging platforms, we wouldn’t have to send out mass texts to our friends (most of who simply respond by saying, “You switched from an iPhone? Why would you do such a horrible thing?”). There wouldn’t be a need for a stupid workaround, which is basically what that is.

I’m more likely to do a commercial for Apple before that will ever happen. To me though, it’s curious that Apple doesn’t really have a strategy around avoiding this stupid problem, even though a simple web search reveals that it has been going on since iMessaging was created back in 2011. Whatever happened to consumer-driven devices? Also, not for nothing, but Apple makes iPhone users automatically opt-in with iMessaging.

I hope this doesn’t strike me down with the higher spirits of consumer technology, but it all just seems pretty selfish, if you ask me.

So like I said, when industry insiders talk about the frustration of proprietary systems and a lack of interoperability, I can understand the frustration. Of course, there is a lot more at stake for patients who need this interoperable technology to enable better care coordination than there is for me to receive text messages.

But I do get it. I really do.

Please feel free to respond in the comment section below or on Twitter by following me at @HCI_GPerna

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