mixed up texts
October 11, 2012 10:28 AM   Subscribe

Why did my husband receive a text from me that contained an ending sentence different from the one I sent?

The details are very banal and nothing suspicious or salacious! I'm going to make up the content here, but it's very similar to this.

I sent "Hey, what do you want for dinner? I'm going to stop at the grocery & pick up some cat food and I can get whatever else you want."

He received "Hey, what do you want for dinner? I'm going to stop at the grocery & pick up some cat food and I can get whatever s he saw. That's a good movie."

We've sent each other screenshots, so we've both seen what we sent & received and what the other person is seeing. I haven't sent anyone else any texts about funny movies, nor is it something I typed & then deleted.

It's kinda weirding me out.
posted by peep to Technology (16 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I could picture myself accidentally doing a "copy" from some web site/document/whatever of some phrase/set of words ('cuz that happens to me a lot as I'm punching and swiping on the iphone), so it's in the clipboard and then accidentally doing a "paste" (and this could be hours/days later) into a text without noticing it before I hit send.

Personally, I would rack this up to user error of some sort...
posted by HuronBob at 10:34 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

What kind of phones? You said screenshots, so I'm assuming some kind of smartphones, but manufacturer/model/OS might make a difference in troubleshooting this.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:38 AM on October 11, 2012

I don't know, but the same thing happened to me last week. In the midst of a totally pleasant exchange about meeting for drinks, my wife got a text that I didn't send. The entire content of the message was the one word: "ho."

It ... created some confusion, let's say. My suspicion -- and this is not at all reassuring -- is that the addressing data of someone else's text became garbled and routed to her phone.
posted by gauche at 10:40 AM on October 11, 2012 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: Just checked my clipboard; it has a whole sentence that I had clipped to send as a Facebook message to a couple people. Totally different content.

And, this is the key here: I'm looking at the text I sent. It says exactly what I typed above after "I sent". That is not what my husband received.

Me: iPhone 4s, Him: Samsung Galaxy note. I have iOS6, not sure about him.
posted by peep at 10:40 AM on October 11, 2012

I have had this happen with Android phones on the AT&T network. A friend sent a text to me that contained a few sentences from what they actually sent, and an ending sentence from a text sent more than a month prior, to another person, when they were still using a clam-shell non-smart-phone (the sentence was very specific and memorable, obviously).

I cannot answer your question as to the reason, but I think that safely eliminates user-error, or phone error. I think it's an uncommon carrier error. The creepier thing to me was that the remnants of that other text were still floating around in their system to show up weeks and weeks later... accidentally.
posted by Lafe at 10:41 AM on October 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

My phone used to do this! Any time I tried to send two specific people texts over the 140-character limit, they'd come through garbled, usually with a much earlier text I had sent the same person. My short-term solution was to break longer texts into two separate messages. Long-term was get a new phone, since complaining to Verizon is a special level of hell.
posted by SeedStitch at 10:45 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Couple more data points: we both have AT&T, and I've never noticed that either of our phones split longer messages. I did a message search for the word "good" and there were a couple of instances but nothing with "good movie", so I really don't think it's from anything I've ever sent. I know it doesn't search archived texts but I also just don't think I ever typed that to anyone else.
posted by peep at 10:59 AM on October 11, 2012

Sometimes phones do weird things. Once, I called someone to save her number. She was sitting right next to me, her phone was across the room. 10 minutes later I get a text message from her phone which was a part of a message she had sent someone a few weeks prior.
posted by Neekee at 11:02 AM on October 11, 2012

I think when messages are longer, sometimes weird things happen. I sent a message once that was rather long and detailed to several friends, from my iphone. One with a blackberry and one with a non-smart phone got it correctly. The third, also with a blackberry, got it as a series of texts, and in a random order that completely changed the meaning of the message. Enough so that those first two got a message saying I did not have a concussion, and the third got one saying I totally had a concussion. Hilarity ensued.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 11:23 AM on October 11, 2012

Best answer: You've not sent us the original message you sent, but was it by any chance greater than 140 characters?

You may not notice your phones splitting longer messages, but SMS can only be so long (how long depends upon the char set used). Fortunately, part of the SMS spec is breaking up a large message into multiple smaller messages. I've seen the broken up messages arrive out of order; this could be the phone software incorrectly reassembling the message during an out of order event. Additionally the reassembly was ... inconsistent (forcing a work situation for us to contort to always fit in 140 chars). Or it could be a separate carrier bug where they accidentally sent the 2nd half of someone else's message to your husband.

For the sake of privacy, I'd really like to think, that somewhere, possibly from someone else, your husband received the second half of the message you didn't send in his message history. Mobile tends to be different in a lot of ways from standard telco, so I wouldn't really be too surprised if this was an odd carrier bug.
posted by nobeagle at 11:28 AM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Actual message was 172 characters. But man, that's gotta be well below my median text length. I'm wordy & receive a lot of wordy texts. This is the first time with any weirdness. Hmm.
posted by peep at 11:38 AM on October 11, 2012

that's gotta be well below my median text length

Then I guess you should just be happy it doesn't happen more often :)

As a formerly frequent long texter who mostly texts a partner with an identical phone on the same account, I can vouch for similar weirdness. (It's really weird when you hold two identical phones side by side and the conversations look close-but-not-quite-exactly-the-same.) and in trying to research it only found explanations like nobeagle's (except more technical and therefore nothing I can remember well enough to explain)

I've started paying attention and hitting send after 100 or so characters, which has usually cleared up any all communication errors (as long as I don't text from bars or when one of us is half-asleep)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:57 AM on October 11, 2012

I don't have a specific explanation for you, but I've sent a txt message to somebody and they've received a completely different one that neither of us had ever composed. The message was so weird that she took a screenshot to prove I sent it and I took a screenshot to prove I didn't.

My takeaway: sometimes txt messages fail in unpredictable and undesirable ways. I'm guessing this may have happened to you.
posted by eisenkr at 1:30 PM on October 11, 2012

Best answer: nobeagle has it right. Basically SMS very occasionally gets misdelivered for some reason, as people in the thread have pointed out. Modern texting apps will let you send messages longer than 140 characters, but underneath the system treats them as separate messages and reassembles them on the other end so you don't notice. What happened here was it split the messages like usual, but your husband got a frankenstein message that was part your message and part someone else's message. Just because you send messages this long all the time doesn't mean particularly much. This misdelivery failure mode is really super rare. If it happened more often people would notice pretty quickly. So if it's one in a million level and happens equally often to multi-part messages and single-part messages you could still go a very long time without seeing it. I think this is just one of those strange internal carrier bugs that I'm sure are sufficiently difficult to figure out and sufficiently rare that their engineers have thrown their hands up at fixing.
posted by heresiarch at 1:42 PM on October 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

SMS Limit is actually 160 characters, not 140. 140 is Twitter.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:25 PM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: nobeagle & heresiarch, I just checked my actual message and the "wrong" part started at character 153. Your answers do make sense to me. Would it make a difference where the messages got put back together the wrong way, or if this is what's occuring should it have been correct for 140 characters & then have the wrong part tacked on after that?
posted by peep at 2:27 PM on October 11, 2012

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