Everything You Need to Know About iMessage


Apple seeded the public version of iOS 5 earlier today, adding over 200 new features to its mobile OS. The Cupertino company gave a preview of the software back in June, and now it has given everyone the chance to check it out.

Among the several additions to iOS, one of the most prominent is the new iMessaging system. The cross-device messaging client can be used by any product running iOS 5. So how does it work? Hit the jump for a full breakdown…


iMessage is a messaging client built into iOS 5. It works on the iPad, iPod touch, and of course the iPhone, as long as there is an active internet connection available. The entire platform is based on your Apple ID, so you must know your contact’s associated email address to send them messages. The system works a lot like standard text messaging, so you can send pictures, videos, and obviously text. It’s also comparable to other proprietary messaging clients like BlackBerry Messenger, as it can notify you when a contact has read your message or when they’re typing.

How Do I Get Started?

As aforementioned, you’ll need to have iOS 5 installed. iMessage is iOS-specific, so messages cannot be sent to non-Apple devices. Once you have iOS 5 installed, you need to make sure iMessage is setup. To do this, open up the Settings application and tap on Messages. This is where you can enable/disable iMessages, and tweak other settings. Switch on Read Receipts if you want others to be notified when you’ve read their messages. You can also change your Receiving Email Address, and turn the subject field off and on.

Now that you are all set up, you need to obtain your contacts’ Apple IDs. With over 200 million active users, it’s not surprising that Apple chose this method for validating iMessage contacts, but it’s still kind of odd. Their Apple ID is likely the email address associated with their Apple account, and once you have it you are all set. Enter it into the New Message field in iMessage, and start typing. If the Send button doesn’t appear accessible, that means that it doesn’t recognize the email address you entered. This is because it’s either wrong, or because the contact has not setup iMessage yet.

If the system recognizes the address, the send button will turn blue to show it’s enabled. Sending media isn’t difficult to figure out, simply tap the camera icon to the left of the message field and pick out your content.

Will This Replace Text Messaging?

iMessage is different on the iPhone than it is on the iPad or iPod touch. On the iPhone, you have the option to send an SMS message if a contact is not iMessage-capable. This can be enabled by visiting the Settings application, tapping iMessage, and making sure that the Send As SMS feature is turned on.

Keep in mind that this will send an SMS anytime a contact is not recognized by iMessage, so it can get expensive. Standard carrier text messaging rates apply. So the bottom line is no, this most likely won’t replace text messaging. It may, however, reduce the amount of SMS messages you send on a monthly basis, allowing you to dial down your texting package a bit. You’ll have a better idea in a month or so, once the dust has settled, of how many of your contacts are using iMessage.


I’ve been using iMessage since it debuted in Beta form back in June. The good news is that the service has come a long way in the last few months. Sending and receiving messages happen very quickly, and pictures and videos go through without a hitch. Of course, that could all change in a month or so. There’s not a lot of people using iMessage right now, because there aren’t a lot of iOS 5 users just yet (compared to the entire iOS user base). This has to be the messaging client’s biggest downfall. Not everyone owns an Apple device, and the ones that do may not be able to upgrade to iOS 5. This is pretty crippling for a system that looks to replace other messaging clients, which are generally cross-platform.  The true test for iMessage will come in the next few months, as more and more next-generation Apple devices with iOS 5 pre-installed are activated. But for now, if you know people that are using iMessage, I can’t think of a more convient way to chat.

Any Questions?

Update: This update is an attempt to answer some FAQ from Twitter and the comment section below.

One of the most popular questions we have been getting is “can you use someone’s phone number to send them an iMessage?” The answer depends on what device the person you are trying to contact is using. If they are using an iPhone with iOS 5, you should be able to send them an iMessage via their phone number. With an iPad or iPod touch however, you must have their Apple ID or associated email.

Some folks have been asking if you have to give out your Apple ID to others to use iMessage, and the answer is no. If you don’t want to give up your Apple ID, you can attach other emails to your iMessage account. Just go to your Settings app – Messages – Receive At – Add Another Email. Once you add an email address, Apple will verify it by sending you an authorization link. Once it shows as verified in the Settings app, you can start receiving messages at the new address. Just make sure you do this on all of your devices that you wish to receive iMessages on.

That should answer another big question we’ve been seeing. For the people who share an Apple account with other users, you can each individually attach your personal emails to iMessage on your respective devices. This way someone can send you an iMessage at johndoe@mail.com on your iPad, and your wife wouldn’t get that message at janedoe@mail.com on her iPhone. Just use the steps above to add a personal email.

And for the people having trouble figuring this out, iMessages and text messages are one in the same. iMessages is integrated into your old Messages application. If you have an iPhone, and are sending both SMS and iMessages, you might have trouble telling the two apart. Just remember that green bubbles are text messages, and blue bubbles are iMessages. If you want to send a text message, just do so as normal. If the contact is recognized as an iMessage user, the send button will appear blue, and the message will be sent via iMessage.