How to stop an outgoing iMessage before it is sent

By , Jan 6, 2016

When you send an iMessage to the wrong person, it can be one of the most embarrassing things ever. This is especially the case with iMessages that you intend for your boyfriend/girlfriend, but end up going to co-workers, friends, or family instead.

I’ve had plenty of situations where an iMessage I intended for a specific person ended up going to someone else all because I wasn’t paying enough attention, and I’ll be the first to tell you that when you learn the hard way even just once, you’ll become motivated to learn how to stop an iMessage dead in its tracks before it gets to the wrong person ever again.

In this tutorial, we’ll help keep you from standing in similar shoes and take you through the steps necessary to cancel the sending of an iMessage before it even reaches Apple’s servers, where it would then be pushed to all of the user’s iOS devices and Macs. 

How to cancel an iMessage once it starts sending

The first thing to realize is when you send a message to a person using iMessage, there’s no getting it back once it hits Apple’s servers. This is the reason you have to intercept the message before Apple’s servers receive it. This also means you have to act fast before the blue progress bar reaches the right side of the screen after sending the message.

The trick here is to kill the Internet connection as quickly as possible before the message can successfully reach Apple’s servers, and because iPhones have both Wi-Fi and cellular data capabilities available for getting data in and out, your best bet is to get Airplane Mode enabled as quickly as possible after sending the message.

Method 1: Non-jailbroken iOS Device

In some cases, you can pop open Control Center and tap on the Airplane Mode button pretty quickly. This means swiping down the keyboard you were just typing on and opening Control Center to tap on the Airplane Mode button, sometimes in just a second, or a fraction of a second.

airplane-mode-control-center

The only downside to this method is that you’re really chancing it because it can take more time to perform these steps than it may take for the iMessage to send with today’s high-speed Internet connections.

To perform this method:

Step 1: While the iMessage is still sending, swipe down to dismiss the keyboard and then launch Control Center.

Step 2: Quickly tap on Airplane Mode before the blue progress bar reaches the right side of the screen.

Step 3: Dismiss the message telling you about how Airplane Mode needs to be turned off to send messages.

Step 4: A red “Not Delivered” indicator should appear.

imessage-not-delivered

Step 5: Remove the message from the conversation thread by tapping and holding on the message bubble and choosing More > Delete.

Step 6: Re-enable Wi-Fi and cellular data by turning Airplane Mode back on.

If you see the red “Not Delivered” indicator, then you’ve just saved yourself a whole lot of embarrassment, because this means your Internet connection failed when you toggled Airplane Mode and that your iMessage was unable to reach Apple’s servers. Even better is that your iOS device will not try to automatically re-send the message, but you would have to do so manually, so just delete the message instead and you’re golden.

Method 2: Jailbroken iOS Device

Jailbroken devices have another advantage: Activator. With Activator installed from Cydia, you can assign any gesture to enabling Airplane Mode, and that’s what we did for this tutorial since we’ve only seldom been able to accomplish this task with the former method of trying to beat the clock to open Control Center.

Activator gestures can be far more time-efficient than stock iOS gestures, so for this instance, we opted to assign a three-finger tap gesture to toggling Airplane Mode on or off:

activator-toggle-airplane-mode

With this method, you’ll follow these steps, which apart from Activator, are essentially the same as the previous method:

Step 1: Install Activator from Cydia if you haven’t already.

Step 2: Assign your favorite gesture to toggling Airplane Mode on or off.

Step 3: While an iMessage is sending, invoke your Activator gesture before the blue progress bar reaches the right side of the screen.

Step 4: Dismiss the message telling you about how Airplane Mode needs to be turned off to send messages.

Step 5: A red “Not Delivered” indicator should appear.

Step 6: Remove the message from the conversation thread by tapping and holding on the message bubble and choosing More > Delete.

Step 7: Re-enable Wi-Fi and cellular data by turning Airplane Mode back off.

Edit: another tweak that can help significantly with making sure you don’t miss the mark is SendDelay, which will actually give you more time before the progress bar hits the right side of your screen. The delay will give you more time to react, and hence you’ll have better luck at turning off Airplane Mode in a timely fashion.

Now that you’ve successfully intercepted an iMessage before it could reach Apple’s servers, and removed it from your conversation, you can rest assured that the person you accidentally fired the message off to won’t receive it.

If you’ve ever been in a similar situation, has this method worked for you? Share in the comments below.

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  • Joshua The-Legend Wiebe

    but it still sends via SMS

    • Kurt

      Only if you have that option selected.

    • pegger1

      Explain how it sends an SMS in airplane mode?

      • CrazyTechGuy

        lol

      • mahe

        As long as the phone doesn’t fly too high (that’s what airplanes do!) it still can have a working network connection xD

      • throttle clutch e brake

        SMS sends messages by re-sending methods automatically whenever network connections are on, even if you try to alter initial message.

    • Anthony Bouchard

      There is a setting in the Settings app that is disabled by default for this. By keeping it off, iMessage is the only function that will work. Even if you have the feature enabled, SMS messages can’t be sent in Airplane Mode and SMS messages can also fail to send.

  • Brandon Michael

    for those that are jailbroken…it’s a lot easier to just get SendDelay

    • Rechain

      Yeah, I have used SendDelay a lot, it’s useful. Before that I used biteSMS that had the delay function built-in. Airplane mode is also useful, when not jailbroken 🙂 most of the time, I stop messages if I see missspelled words or want to add more, but few times if I’m in the wrong conversation to write..

    • Anthony Bouchard

      Very good point – I added this to the post!

  • Manuel Molina

    Method 1 works for all sprint iPhone users since they have dial-up speeds. Ha.

    • NolesFan

      You got that right .. 🙂

    • Anthony Bouchard

      I can agree with you there! I tried Sprint at the start of the year and within the 14 day return period, I went right back to my old carrier.

      • Manuel Molina

        Had sprint for a month and it was not the best idea. Had service in most areas, but their internet was death. I had to pay the ETF, trade the iPhone for an AT&T iPhone, sell that one, and trade that for a Verizon iPhone when I wanna to go back.

      • Anthony Bouchard

        I felt like while I was on LTE, I was getting 2G speeds. I had trouble discontinuing service with them as well and they tried to convince me to pay a breach of agreement fee even though I was within the 14 day return period. I would say keep away from Sprint to anyone that asked.

      • Manuel Molina

        I couldn’t get onto Netflix and could barely watch 10 mins or more until I had issues. Sprint was Doctor Doom for me. T-Mobile and I don’t look back.

  • Sailor_V90

    You know, I actually miss when incomplete text messages went in to a Draft Box. That and having the option to type up a message and send it later. I wonder if in time will Apple reconfigure the Message Application? More so the Contact Application needs re-working in my opinion.

    • Fanboy 

      You can type a message and not press send and it stays in the message thread to send for later…

      • Sailor_V90

        Right, I am aware of that, however it’s a flawed technique and not always reliable.

      • Fanboy 

        You would really rather go back to have an INBOX, SENT, OUTBOX & DRAFTS folder? Don’t understand your logic here.

      • Sailor_V90

        I understand MY logic just fine, it is why you are blithely unaware of what I am saying. I simply, yet long winded, was implying that Apple needs to add more features to the Message Application to help users in these type of situations, such as an option to “Send Now or Send Later” with the latter being saved in a Draftbox or with some type of reminder. I did not say at any point that I wanted a Mailbox set up, even though some may prefer such a set up. Overall the Message Application does need a makeover, and this is MY PERSONAL OPINION.

  • Stefano

    Can anyone please for the love of god let it be know how to stop iPhone from asking me to upgrade software to 9.2. Deleting the file in iCloud storage is not the solution.

    • burge

      You can not if your not jailbroken

    • Nolan I.

      If you’re not jailbroken, just update. It really improves the performance.

      If you are jailbroken, install mikoto. Should fix automatically upon installation. Make sure to delete it in the Storage section as well.

  • Stefano Polo

    When I used to JB my iPhone, BiteSMS was my solution to this problem. That was the main reason for me to JB and it was absolutely amazing with all its features. iMessages has improved significantly since I last used BiteSMS but it’s still not there yet.

  • Matt

    You would have to be REALLY fast at turning on the airplane mode because once I push ‘send’ there really is no going back because it sends the text almost instantly.

    • Nolan I.

      Same, unless the wifi is crappy (iPod user here).

    • Anthony Bouchard

      Yes, this is unfortunate. Sometimes it can’t be accomplished, but over the weekend, I had an experience where this worked because after some fluke, my message didn’t send as quickly as it normally would and I suppose I just got lucky.

  • Nolan I.

    Bite had this feature. There would be like a 5 sec delay and the button would change to “stop”.

    I miss bite…

  • Nolan I.

    In rare cases the message will still send anyway. Had it happen once, fortunately it was ok.

    However to prevent this from happening, while in airplane mode quit the Messages app from the app switcher. Reopen while airplane is on as well, make sure you see “Not Delivered” before you turn it off.

    • Anthony Bouchard

      Definitely make sure you see that “Not Delivered” prompt before turning it off, solid point!

  • Sailor_V90

    But does the Airplane Mode trick still work if you are using Apple’s continuity feature (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and or iMac/MacBook all linked together) will not just send through one of those devices?

    • mahe

      Airplane mode turns off everything (Cellular, WiFi, Bluetooth).
      So there is no way the message can be delivered to any device.

    • Anthony Bouchard

      By keeping the message from reaching Apple’s servers, it won’t get to iCloud, which means your other devices won’t send it either. The key is to intercept the message before Apple’s servers get it.

  • throttle clutch e brake

    There’s a tweak that will ask to send a message which is super convenient too

    • the hood

      That’s right ‘t c e b’, there was also another tweak on ois8 for what it’s worth, that placed the name of the person you’re texting in the text box allowing you to then ‘type over their name’ with your message. A sort of extra reminder who the message is going to.i agree with Sailor_V90 re:draftbox etc.

  • NotTodayThx

    did you just make this Kak up? smh

  • Sean Wright

    They just need to have an option to delete the iMessage before the recipient opens it. Seems simple enough with today’s technology.

    • Anthony Bouchard

      Yeah, it’s too bad that they don’t 🙁