If you've succumbed to the temptations of Android — or even Windows Phone or BlackBerry — there are some steps you need to take to make sure the iPhone friends you leave behind can still reach you. iMessage works by routing iPhone to iPhone messages through Apple's servers instead of sending them as actual text messages. Unfortunately, unless you tell it to stop doing this, iMessage has no way of knowing you've left, at least until it times out after a couple weeks, and that's beyond frustrating. Luckily, deactivating it is easy. Here's how!

How to deactivate iMessage and before switching from iPhone to Android, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone

Complete these steps from your iPhone before starting to use your new smartphone:

  1. Launch Settings from the Home screen of your iPhone.
  2. Scroll down and tap on Messages.
  3. At the top, turn iMessage to Off.
  4. Now hop into the Messages app and send some messages to people you know have iPhones to make sure they can message you back. You want green messages bubbles for everything.

That's all there is to it. Once you've done this, iMessage should hopefully deactivate from Apple's servers and you shouldn't have any issues, nor should you have to go any further into this guide. As a side note, the sooner you do this, the better off you are. If you know you're going out to purchase an Android, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone in 3 days, do this process right now. That way you have turned off iMessage and it gives the servers a few days to actually process the request completely and boot you off.

Once you've switched to your new smartphone, verify you can send and receive text messages to someone else using an iPhone. If you aren't receiving anything back, continue on to remedy the problem...

How to fully deactivate iMessage from Apple's servers

Unfortunately, there isn't a list of steps you can perform on your own. Instead, you need to call 1-800-MY-APPLE in order to have Apple manually de-register your phone number from the Apple servers. In order to do this, make sure you have your Apple ID on hand as well as the phone number in question.

To expedite the process of your call, be sure to ask for technical support when calling in. Then just tell them you're switching to a smartphone that isn't an iPhone and you can't receive messages so you need them to manually unregister you from the iMessage servers.

Update: Why does this happen with iMessage?

iMessage is completely integrated with SMS/MMS in the iOS Messages app. Apple effectively intercepts SMS/MMS and replaces it with iMessage for iOS users. That ease of setup and phenomenal experience comes with a downside — if you stop using iMessage you have to tell Apple by turning it off. Otherwise Apple will keep trying to deliver iMessages for a week and, if you're not using iOS, you won't get them unless and until iMessage times out or you go online or call up Apple and ask them to disconnect you.

Yes, that's impenetrable to many if not most people who decide to switch away, but it's hard to imagine a workable alternative that doesn't also destroy the ease of use and experience. (I've been trying for months.) - Rene

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: