Apple giveth, and Apple taketh away. One of the most compelling features for iPhone users has been unexpectedly removed in the latest beta version of iOS, with Messages in iCloud being axed – at least for the moment. The surprise removal occurred with the release of iOS 11 beta 5 today, with Apple yet to comment on why it disappeared.
Messages in iCloud was announced at WWDC 2017 several months back, as a way for users with multiple iOS and macOS devices to make better use of Apple’s Messages system. Effectively, it adds cloud backup and synchronization to Messages: if you delete a message on your Mac, for instance, that message is also automatically deleted on your iPhone or iPad. Rather than locally storing all messages, the app will keep the cache in the cloud for the most part, pushing only the most recent to the iOS or macOS device.
It proved to be a welcome improvement for those on the iOS 11 beta program. While Messages is one of the more compelling aspects of the Apple experience, and certainly a part of owning an iPhone that makes users reluctant to jump ship to Android, its functionality has been overshadowed in recent years by other, cross-platform services that better handle multiple devices.
Apple attempted to build Messages into a platform in its own right last year, launching support for extensions, stickers, animated emojis, and more. There’s even a distinct section of the App Store for downloading such things. Exactly how successful they’ve been, however, is unclear. The most recent campaign attempted to push the “wackier” uses of stickers, but we’ve seen none of the crowing companies usually like to do when a feature has been a particular success.
A more functional – and welcome – improvement might be more suited to Apple and Messages’ needs, indeed. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t appear to be quite ready for primetime. In its update notes for iOS 11 beta 5, Apple confirmed that the Messages in iCloud feature had indeed been removed. Instead, it said, it “will ship in a future software update to iOS 11,” implying that it wont’ be part of the iOS 11 release that arrives alongside the iPhone 8 and other smartphone updates in September.
“Users can continue to receive and store messages on each device, and they can continue to backup and restore messages using iCloud Backup,” Apple points out. However, if your dream was seamless handling of Messages across every Apple device you own, it seems you’ll have to wait a little longer for that to arrive.