Comment: It’s time to rethink iMessage notifications

One of the best parts of iMessage is its seamless integration with SMS. One of the worst parts about iMessage is its reliance on looking like SMS in an app. I still remember when iMessage originally launched in iOS 5. With an 80+ year-old office building, getting text messages was nearly impossible for me. When Apple launched iMessage, I was able to use Wi-Fi, it was a game changer for me. Over six years later, iMessage is mostly the same. It’s still heavily tied to the same app that uses SMS. While it’s added iMessage “apps”, it’s still largely the same app and service that Apple launched years ago. I’ve realized that out of my major frustrations with iMessage, how it handles notifications is at the top of the list.

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So what’s wrong with iMessage notifications? While you can mute specific messages, I find that it works about 50% of the time. I am in a number of group messages that can get rather “chatty” (those chats where if you miss an hour, you have 100+ unread messages when you pick up your iPhone). I’d love to see notifications rethought for iMessage. It’s largely stuck in the same notification system as other apps.

Because we’ve started treating iMessage like a chat system vs a short message system, I think it’s time we started treating notifications differently as well. 75% of my incoming iMessages don’t need me to respond immediately, and there are plenty of times where I send a message that doesn’t need to be read immediately (I’d rather not trigger their phone or watch). In a world where Apple is promoting screen time on iOS to help us curb technology addiction, I think rethinking iMessage notifications could help a lot.

iMessage notifications

Allow Sender To Disable Alerts

One of my suggestions is allowing users to mark outgoing messages as not important or “read at some point”. If I want to send someone a text message at 6 AM, I may not want them to see it unless they open their iMessage app. A lot of email apps have the capability to “pre-schedule” messages, so it’s possible for Apple to implement the same for iMessage.

Hold Alerts After Three Unread Messages

Another suggestion is for Apple to stop sending alerts if a group thread has more than 3 unread messages. I don’t need to continue to get vibrations or messages past a couple. Seeing a badge with 100+ unread messages is useless to me. There is no chance I’ll go back and re-read all of them, so I generally don’t care to know. This situation is especially true when I am in a movie, out to dinner with my wife, etc. If I feel one alert from a thread and don’t want to check it, I certainly don’t want to get additional alerts.

VIP Users with Mobile Only Options

My final notification adjustment ideas is to be able to mark certain contacts as VIP, and only send notifications for them. I’d love to mark my wife and a few people at work as VIP, and ignore notifications for everyone else. Right now, it’s all or nothing. Ideally, I’d love to separate these settings to mobile only. When I am at my Mac, it means I am usually in “work” mode, so I don’t mind the notifications. When I am mobile, I’d like to see fewer alerts.


We’ve seen no rumors of iMessage notifications getting overhauled for iOS 13. We’ve seen rumors of Apple possibly looking to support RCS, so it’s possible that iMessage will be getting some attention later this year. I love iMessage, and I think some minor changes to how notifications work would reduce the potential of being overwhelmed with new message alerts.

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Avatar for Bradley Chambers Bradley Chambers

Bradley lives in Chattanooga, TN where he manages Apple devices for a private school. 

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