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Why aren't text messages viewed on the iPhone iOS displayed at full width? I can think of several reasons why it would make sense:

  • Short messages won't have unnecessary line breaks, long text messages will be easier to read.
  • Text messages with an even width and alignment will have an improved sense of vertical and symmetry.
  • Contrast of colour and the tails of a message bubble indicate if a text is an incoming or outgoing message.


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I believe it's a visual affordance to allow you to more easily see if the message you're looking at was sent by you or received from someone else. The color difference also helps, but does not help as much with those who are color blind. – GotDibbs May 19 '12 at 15:47
I wonder if layout is the same for languages that read right to left? – Dan May 19 '12 at 21:45
I think you should've blurred the status bar and the buttons as well, just to be on the safe side ;) – Vitaly Mijiritsky May 20 '12 at 17:16
I don't have an iPhone but I've seen pictures where it goes full width when one side is doing all the texting - can anyone confirm? – Roger Attrill May 20 '12 at 19:02

Because whitespace is important. Being able to quickly skim the list and pick out who said each response is important. By adding left and right whitespace it makes the list of messages far easier to scan. It also makes the application instantly accessible from the very first sight; if it were just white and green with no justification, then people seeing the application for the first time would still be confused.

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What's done here (in contrast to the administration of single messages in an inbox or outbox) is to show all messages between you and one other person in a chronological order - this establishes a relation between single messages, illustrates a dialogue and finally is a really useful feature.

As a metaphor, speech bubbles as in comics are utilized. With some adaptations as e.g. showing messages below each other (not next to each other) which is necessary to put emphasis on the chronology and of course because of the limited screen width.

I agree that the "whitespace" is necessary to clearly represent this metaphorer and to differentiate the directions (incoming / outgoing) or "actors" (me / counterpart).

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