One of our favorite features of iOS 16 is the ability to edit and unsend iMessages. Just long-press a message and you can choose to edit or undo send (we show you how to edit and unsend messages here). But advocates have raised concerns that the system could be abused by bad actors–texting abuse is common among those in abusive relationships, and the ability to change or hide evidence is concerning.
While Apple has not addressed these concerns publicly, some changes to the system in iOS 16 developer beta 4 seem targeted specifically at them. You used to have 15 minutes to edit or unsend a message, and edited messages would only show an “edited” tag to the recipient. The new rules are as follows:
- You only have two minutes to complete Unsend a message.
- You still have 15 minutes to Edit a message, but you can only edit it up to five times.
- Either party can tap the “Edited” label to see a list of prior edits.
With these changes, the ability of an abusive partner or scammer to use the system for harm is greatly diminished. A two-minute window to delete an iMessage is still plenty of time to catch those “oops I sent this to the wrong person” or “I really shouldn’t respond and just let it go” moments, but greatly reduces the ability to message someone and know that they’ll see it before you vanish all trace of it. Logging (and limiting) edits keeps an evidence chain for those who might need it in the future.
Of course, this feature still only applies to iMessages (blue bubbles). Regular SMS text (green bubbles) cannot be edited or deleted.