The Dumbphone Experiment: Stumbling on iMessage

Well, that could’ve started better, couldn’t it? I ran in to a bunch of small little niggles on my first day, some silly, and some unexpected. This was expected, obviously, but I was still taken surprised.

📵 This post is a part of the Dumbphone Experiment, where I put my iPhone aside to rely on a dumbphone, and my iPad. You can read all posts here →

The first, and worst, thing that happened was that my Punkt MP02, my fancy dumbphone of choice, died on me. Out of battery, as it were. No biggie, I pulled out my iPad charger and popped in the USB-C cable. That’s one thing the MP02 has over the iPhone, USB-C charging lets me carry less cables. Alas, the battery wasn’t getting any juice. What the… I let it sit, but nothing. I managed to start it a couple of times, but it immediately died on me.

Then I remembered what I hate about USB-C: They’re not all created equal. I found a different cable, and, more importantly, a 5W adapter, and plugged it in that way. Success! It was charging happily, meaning that the iPad adapter I used had too much juice, and the MP02 couldn’t handle that. Or so I thought because connecting the MP02 to my iPad Pro’s USB-C port for charging didn’t help either. Maybe it was the cable? I dug out the small inCharge 6 multi-cable I carry, useful for weird connections, and tried that with USB-C to USB-C, MP02 to iPad Pro, and that worked. Maybe Lightning isn’t so bad after all…

inCharge 6 product shot

Anyway, the potential charging on the go issues resolved without having to carry another cable and adapter, I happily left the apartment to do some errands.

Enter the second niggle, which turned out to be more of a problem: iMessage.

Now, as I mentioned in the project description, I moved my iPhone SIM card to the MP02 so that I could make and receive calls without getting a new number. So far, so good, but just about every iMessage conversation I have has been initiated with my phone number, not my Apple account email (which is also possible). I remembered Apple having trouble with this in the past, but in my folly I thought that this would just mean that iMessages sent to me would ping on my iPad, and just not get delivered to the dumbphone. That’s the way I remembered this working, but apparently Apple has made some improvements to their platform.

In other words, people got the green bubble, and I got regular texts (i.e., SMS) with attachments (i.e., MMS) to my MP02. This was not what I wanted to begin with, but also utterly useless and impossible to accept as a quirk of the experiment. Being a dumbphone, there was just no way to view attachments, or even interact properly with the often lengthy conversations you have over iMessage. And I don’t even know what would happen to group messages, a feature I doubt would work at all when replying, at least.

Think fast. Switch back to not miss out on sometimes important conversations, or just live with it?

I opted for the third solution, which was getting a pre-paid SIM from the same carrier as I have. My old SIM, with its number obviously, went back into the iPhone, and the new pre-paid one went into the Punkt MP02. This set the world straight in terms of iMessage because now they arrived at my iPhone, and all other devices, as expected since my phone number was now where it was supposed to be.

Okay, so I can call from my new pre-paid phone number, the one in the MP02, but nobody’ll know it’s me, and having two phone numbers surely is a hassle. Luckily, there’s a solution to this, thanks to a great iPhone feature called Call forwarding. You’ll find it in the Settings app, under Phone, where you can choose to forward all your calls to another number. Just calls, mind you, so texts will still end up on the iPhone, but that’s fine by me because I want my texts and iMessages on my iPad, which, in turn, is allowed to receive them to my iPhone’s phone number. Yep, it’s a mess.

Enabling Call forwarding did the trick, however. If you call my regular phone number, that is now forwarded to my dumbphone. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that I can make calls with my regular number using the MP02, since the SIM is in the iPhone, but still, it’s a good enough solution for this experiment.

The lesson here is, should you want to completely remove your iPhone from the mix, you should make sure all iMessage conversations are initiated with your email account rather than your phone number.

And no, this setup isn’t ideal, but since the experiment isn’t meant to be permanent, I feel it is within reason. Now, my iPhone acts as a simple call center, forwarding calls to my dumbphone, and making sure iMessages arrive at my iPad thanks to its mere existence with the right phone number. If you do decide to go with a solution like this, make sure that calls between your devices — in my case, iPhone forwarding to Punkt MP02 — are free. In my case, I have free calls within the same carrier, so that’s fine, but otherwise I bet you’d be charged for every forwarded call.

📵 This post is a part of the Dumbphone Experiment, where I put my iPhone aside to rely on a dumbphone, and my iPad. You can read all posts here →