So many SMS messages, so little time to delete them

Text messages are mother’s milk to system administrators and teenage girls alike—and that’s only one of many similarities between the two. Both groups also happen to be squarely in Apple’s iPhone target market, sys admins because they like the latest and greatest gizmos and teenage girls because they like the coolest gadgets around.

And that’s why I find it so gosh darned puzzling that Apple hasn’t addressed one of the iPhone’s biggest annoyances: deleting text messages en masse.

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am probably not a teenage girl—but I am a system administrator. This means that from time to time I receive what we in the industry call a frickin’ huge amount of text messages at the same time.

Just such an occasion happened recently when a momentary power outage caused some networking equipment to reboot, in turn causing several monitoring systems to believe that an ungodly number of servers had just gone offline. The monitoring systems proceeded to send me and my co-workers 185 text messages in a matter of minutes. All of these text messages politely alerted me to the fact that some servers might be down (they weren’t), and once the networking equipment started working again we got another round of text messages letting us know that the machines were back up (which, if you’re keeping track, they had been the entire time).

The iPhone is my phone of choice (pursuant to the federal statute mandating that all Apple bloggers must own one). That’s a choice that usually brings joy to my life—except when I get lots of text messages that must be deleted. As you know, deleting a text message on an iPhone is a two step process on an iPhone:

  1. Swipe the offending message with your finger.
  2. Hit the delete button that appears.
  3. There is no step 3. (Thank you, Jeff Goldblum).

When you only need to delete one or two text messages, this isn’t a big deal. But in order to delete the 185 messages I currently have on my iPhone, we’re talking 370 steps. That’s no fun at all. (I hesitate to even mention that my previous smartphone, a mere Motorola Q running Windows Mobile, would be able to remove all 185 in just two clicks total).

This silly oversight on Apple’s part would almost be forgivable if they hadn’t already addressed the same exact problem with e-mail. Apple added the ability to select multiple e-mail messages and then delete them (or move them) in the iPhone 2.0 software. Text messages were left in the cold.

iPhone applications that address this problem are out there, but they only work with jailbroken phones (if someone wants to point me in the direction of such an app that is available in the App Store I would be most grateful).

Ecamm’s PhoneView does allow you to manage your SMS log from your Mac (along with other things), but at $20 I’m not sure it is worth it for SMS management alone. The simple fact that such applications exist proves that I’m not the only person who longs for a day when we can delete text messages with abandon. C’mon Apple—teenage girls and system administrators everywhere will thank you.

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