In the small but lovely improvements department, iMessage support in iOS 6 and OS X 10.8.2 seems to finally smooth out many of the rough edges that it has sported since arriving last year. The ability to receive messages to your phone number on all your clients is the well-publicized part of this. More subtle—and much more welcome in my book—is the fact that iMessage now seems to sort out which client you’re using and keep the rest from dinging extraneously.
I noticed this in action while sending messages earlier today on my laptop while café computing. As long as I had the Messages application in the foreground, replies from friends showed up there but didn’t ding on my iPhone like they used to. Of course, the messages were still delivered to my iPhone, they just didn’t announce their presence. It was only if I started ignoring messages on my laptop that they would announce their arrival on my iPhone.
I haven’t worked out the full heuristic of how this works, but it seems like this is all tied to whether or not you’ve read a message. For example, I’ve noticed that if I’ve been using the desktop client to send and read messages and then put the app into the background to work on something else, new messages will announce themselves using the notification center pop up and then—assuming I don’t switch over to the app to read the message—about 10 seconds later a notification is pushed to my iPhone.
It’s probably somewhat more complicated than that. After all, what happens if you leave the Messages app in the foreground and then go for a walk? Do you need read receipts turned on or not? (I currently have read receipts turned on, and haven’t observed the behavior when they are turned off) However it works, I’m certainly very welcome of the sudden arrival of less dings from all my devices as I trade messages back and forth with friends, family, and colleagues.
I had to follow Glenn Fleishman’s advice to log out and log back into my iMessage accounts on all my devices and on my laptop. Whether or not this helped to activate this smarter bit of notification handling is a mystery to me, but it might be something to try if you don’t see the same behavior.
Adrian Sutton (@ajsutton) tweets that iMessage notifications have always worked like this for him. Interesting. Maybe this feature has been there for a bit and just unevenly distributed for a while. It’s certainly been an issue for me as well as many other people I know.