iOS 16 beta reveals your iPhone won't actually hide your message edits

iOS 16
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Apple's vision of user-controlled messaging is coming into focus and maybe iMessage unsend and editing don't work quite as we expected.

On Wednesday, the iPhone maker finally dropped the long-awaited iOS 16 Developer Beta 4, which includes updates to Messages and Mail that offer a better understanding of how its new communications controls will and won't work. The newest release arrives a few weeks after Apple's first iOS 16 public beta.

On the Message front, retrieval and editing of sent messages are looking a lot more like they did when Apple announced the feature -- and iOS 16 as a whole -- at its WWDC developers' conference in June. But the company is also adding some nuances that weren't entirely obvious back then.

Messages can be edited for up to 15 minutes after you send them. On the recipient side, they see a log of your changes. This means they see both the original message and the new one, prefaced by "Edited to." Editing messages in iOS 16 is not changing history. The record of your original words remains.

There is also a limit to the number of edits you can make. You've got five. If you need more, then consider deleting the message.

As far as the message unsend function goes, the window is much smaller. You have two minutes to rethink your words. But unsend is unreliable in the current beta, and words might not disappear from the phones of those who aren't running one of the iOS 16 betas.

Mail recalled

Tools for controlling your mail mishaps are also coming together. iOS 16 Developer Beta 3 had an Undo Send preference setting that let you set it for off or for 10, 20, or 30 seconds. Gmail offers a similar 30-second unsend window.

That's a half minute to reconsider your missive and pull it back. The Undo Send appears in that timeframe at the bottom of the email screen and, with the clock ticking, it can be pretty easy to miss. 30 seconds go by pretty fast, after all. 

There's more

Other updates in this build include the ability for developers to build Live Activities through a new API. These activity windows can live on the new Lock Screen and show you, for instance, live scores from your favorite sports teams.

Early availability of the new tool would normally mean developers can have their Live Activities ready for iOS 16 when it launches in, we expect, September. However, an update on Apple's Developer page, reminds developers that "Live Activities and ActivityKit won’t be included in the initial public release of iOS 16." Developers will have more time to build out these widgets and submit them for App Store approval before Live Activities launches later this year.

All these developer updates should make their way to the next iOS 16 public beta update whenever that arrives.

If you're thinking about getting a new iPhone to support iOS 16, you should read our best iPhones roundup.

Lance Ulanoff
Editor At Large

A 38-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.