A peculiar formatting bug is causing problems with text chains between iPhone and Android users, and no one seems quite sure who is to blame.
Multiple reports in multiple threads on Reddit and elsewhere complain that the numbers of people using Android or Google Voice are showing up on iPhones with an extra + sign at the beginning. This leads to the iPhone becoming confused and thinking it must be an international number: if the first two digits of the area code were 44, for example, it would turn into the +44 international code for the U.K. when the iPhone applies its automatic number formatting.
This misidentification can lead to various annoying problems. Chat threads may break because the phone thinks newer messages are coming from a different person. If you’re messaging someone for the first time, meanwhile, they may be put off reading the message because the strange number makes them assume it’s a scammer.
Some commenters have speculated that the problem is related to iOS 16 in some way, and it’s true that the issue does appear to coincide with Apple’s iOS 16.5 update. But curiously a near-identical problem was reported several years ago, with one of the afflicted noting their use of iOS 13.1.2. Perhaps it’s a coincidence that problems with 13.1.2 and 16.5 just happened to manifest in the same bug, but it’s hard to imagine that Apple would have fixed the original bug only to allow it back all these years later.
At the time, Apple reportedly “confirmed to me that they in no way change/provide/etc any of the incoming phone data. They said that is all from the carrier.” But if the carrier is the culprit, it’s odd that T-Mobile was the focus of ire previously, whereas now, per MacRumors’ coverage, the most numerous complaints come from AT&T users.
For now the whole thing is a mystery. However, while various solutions have been put forward–send yourself a text, do a hard reset, reset networking settings–the most reliable is probably to make sure contacts are entered with the correct international code included. For U.S. contacts, that means you need to include the +1 at the beginning.