How to send texts using iMessage

How to send texts using iMessage

iMessage lets you send absolutely free text (SMS) messages to anyone else using an iPhone, iPad, or Mac. It sounds simple, and it is, but there are a few important things to pay attention to.

Phone numbers vs. Apple IDs

Right now Apple uses two different systems for linking you to your iMessages. If you have an iPod touch, iPad, or Mac, your Apple ID email address will how you send and receive iMessages. If you have more than one Apple ID, iMessage will use whichever one you log into in Settings. Anyone you send an iMessage to will see it coming from that Apple ID, and anyone who wants to send you an iMessage will need to send it to that Apple ID.

If you have an iPhone, your iPhone telephone number will be used to identify use for sending and receiving iMessages, just like SMS and MMS messages on a regular phone. However, your Apple ID email address can be used as well, but will currently be treated separately.

What that means is, if someone iMessages your telephone number, it will only show up on your iPhone. If someone iMessages your Apple ID, it will show up on any iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, or Mac logged into that Apple ID.

If that sounds confusing, don't worry. With iOS 6, set for release this September, Apple will allow you to "merge" your iPhone phone number and Apple ID so all your iMessages will go to all your devices, regardless of whether or not they're sent to your phone number or email address.

SMS vs. iMessage

If you're using an iPod touch, iPad, or Mac, you can only ever send iMessages. If you're using an iPhone, however, you can send both iMessages and standard SMS/MMS messages as well. (You need that in order to contact people who don't use Apple phones, including people on regular feature phones.)

To make it easier to tell the difference, Apple color codes all iMessages with blue bubbles, and all SMS/MMS messages with green bubbles. If you send a message and the bubble around it is blue, you're using iMessage. If the bubble is green, you're using SMS/MMS. If iMessage is offline, your iPhone may try to send over SMS/MMS, so keep an eye on it if you want to avoid charges, especially international charges outside of any texting plan you might have.

How to send a message with the Messages app on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch

Once you're set up, you're ready to go. If you've ever sent a text message with your iPhone, you already know how to send an iMessage -- it uses the same Messages app. If you're brand new to the iPhone, or to iPod or iPad, here's how it's done.

  1. Launch the Messages app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap on the Compose button in the upper right hand corner.
  3. Start typing the name of the person you'd like to send a text to and tap their name.
  4. Type your message and tap Send.

That's all there is to it. Green bubbles represent actual text messages while blue bubbles represent iMessages. There's nothing for you to select or do, the Messages app handles it entirely on its own.

How to get more help with iMessage

If you're having issues getting iMessage to activate, get more help at the iMore forums, and for more tips, check out:

Allyson Kazmucha

Editor for iMore, Potter pundit, and the ninja in your iOS

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There are 9 comments. Add yours.

benjimen says:

The definition provided by iMore.com of iMessage as a SMS or MMS message couldn't be any further from factual information.

The actual definition is very simple -- it's Apple's proprietary IM client integrated into the Messages app. Prior to iMessage, the Messages app was used exclusively for SMS and MMS messaging.

iMessage has nothing to do with SMS or MMS messaging. As with any other IM app, iMessage requires a data connection to send or receive messages. SMS and MMS messages work without a data connection. Personally, I'd prefer it if there were a separate iMessage app so that I could keep IM separate from SMS and MMS.

WittyPug says:

Of course you do. Are you just a contrarian or was that really a suggestion? It was pointless rambling. I'm not sure who would want separate areas for SMS/iMessage unless you just like to be disagreeable.

benjimen says:

...so someone with a different opinion than yours is just rambling...? lol

Shawn Beal says:

I was wondering if this will work with other phones such as android phones? I tried sending myself a message to my Tmobile SK4 and nothing….

Alex Chaplin says:

"If iMessage is offline, your iPhone may try to send over SMS/MMS, so keep an eye on it if you want to avoid charges, especially international charges outside of any texting plan you might have."

I like to send picture messages but if it fails over iMessage (e.g. if the recipient is on the tube / has data turned off because they are travelling / are on the phone etc etc) then it automatically sends as a text message, and the costs incurred can be immense (from 35p locally to a few pounds if in the states or the middle east).

Can you force the messaging software to ONLY send via iMessage?

Abby Cherry says:

Is it possible for me to Imessage people like I would on my apple device on this current website? It's one of the main reasons I registered. Sometimes when I'm out or loose my phone and I need to Imessage someone, I would be utterly appreciated if I could use this website to send and receive messages like I would on my device. Thanks.

kayruun says:

My frustration is that iMessage won't send if it detects wifi, but I'm not connected (just happened when I was at the airport to pick someone up). I was trying to send a text to an iPhone user, but it simply failed to send (presumably because I was not connected to the airport's wifi). I wish there was an easy way to specify which way I prefer to send the individual message at a given moment. There would be times when you don't want it to affect your texting limits, and other times when you don't want it to affect your cellular data limits.