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 and Apple IDs

Prior to iOS 6, you could only use an Apple ID, aka an email address, in order to send iMessages from an iPad. If you're running iOS 6 or higher, you can link your phone number with your Apple ID and start message conversations on both iPhone and iPad with your phone number.

Keep in mind however that you still can't send text messages from an iPad, even if it is cellular enabled. Since iPads don't have their own phone number, you'll still have to sign into the iMessage service in order to message from an iPad.

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.

If there are ever times that you find iMessage hanging up or not sending, try turning it off in Settings for a while and then re-enabling it later. This allows you to use standard SMS from your carrier. You can always check the system status of the iMessage service — as well as all other iCloud services — with the following link.

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: