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How to set up and activate iMessage for iPhone and iPad

Messages on iPhone
Messages on iPhone (Image credit: iMore)

On your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, you can use iMessage to send and receive SMS-like text messages and MMS-style multimedia messages without using a carrier text messaging plan.

Instead, these messages use Wi-Fi or cellular data and are delivered in an encrypted fashion, making iMessage one of the best iPhone communication tools. You'll need to set it up before you can start using iMessage; here's how you do it!

How to turn on or off iMessage for iPhone or iPad

If you set up your iPhone using iCloud, chances are iMessage was activated along with it. If not, or if you ever need to re-activate it, it's simple to do!

  1. Launch Settings From your home screen.
  2. Scroll down and tap Messages.
  3. Tap the On/Off switch beside iMessage. The switch will be green when it's turned on.

How to turn on or off iMessages for iPhone or iPad: Tap Settings, tap Messages, set the switch beside iMessage to the on position. (Image credit: iMore)

You can repeat these steps at any time to turn off the ability to send and receive iMessages.

How to turn read receipts on or off in iMessage for iPhone or iPad

Read receipts let your contacts see whether or not you've viewed their iMessages. While some people may consider read receipts creepy, others may find them useful for work and business situations.

  1. Launch Settings from your home screen.
  2. Tap Messages.
  3. Tap the On/Off switch beside Send Read Receipts. The switch will be green when it's turned on.

How to turn read receipts on or off in iMessages for iPhone or iPad: Tap Settings, Tap Messages, set the switch beside Send Read Receipts to the on position (Image credit: iMore)

Follow the same steps to turn Read Receipts off at any time if you no longer want to let people know you've read their messages.

How to turn message previews on or off in iMessage for iPhone and iPad

Depending on your iPhone model, iOS may show a short preview of incoming messages on both your Lock screen and Home screen. However, this can be changed if you'd prefer the message to display only the sender's name or behave differently whether your phone is locked or unlocked. Here's how to change it.

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Notifications.

How to turn message previews on or off in iMessages for iPhone and iPad: Tap Settings, tap Notifications (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Messages.
  2. Tap Show Previews.
  3. Tap the option you'd like. Your options are as follows:
    • Always
    • When Unlocked
    • Never

How to turn message previews on or off in iMessages for iPhone and iPad: Tap Messages, tap Show Previews, tap the option you'd like (Image credit: iMore)

I message, you message

Once you're set up with iMessage, you'll be able to contact friends and family from any of your Apple devices and have Messages in iCloud keep your conversations in sync across all of them.

You can also forward SMS messages to your iPad and Mac to never miss a message, no matter what device you are using.

Updated May 2022: Updated for the latest version of iOS 15.

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 


Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.