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How to Activate iMessage on Your iPhone or iPad: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide

iMessage is an incredibly popular messaging app developed by Apple exclusively for their ecosystem of devices like the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and more. With over 1 billion iMessage users worldwide, it has become one of the most widely used messaging platforms globally.

In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll walk you through the entire process of activating iMessage on your iPhone or iPad using just a few simple steps.

Let‘s get started!

An Introduction to iMessage

For those new to iMessage, here‘s a quick overview of what it is and why Apple users love it so much:

  • Free Messaging: You can send unlimited messages, photos, videos and more to any other iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple Watch completely free over Wi-Fi or cellular data. No SMS fees or charges!

  • Seamlessly Synced Across Devices: Messages sync instantly across all your Apple devices logged into the same Apple ID, allowing you to start conversations on one device and pick up right where you left off on another.

  • Advanced Features: Fun features like animated stickers, Apple Pay cash transfers, high-quality photo and video sharing, group messaging, taps, Likes and more.

  • Secure and Private: End-to-end encryption ensures your conversations stay private. iMessage is considered one of the most secure and private messaging apps.

  • SMS/MMS Fallback: If the recipient isn‘t on iMessage, your messages will automatically fall back to normal text messaging through your carrier, so you can reach anyone.

According to Apple, over 100 billion messages are sent per day on iMessage, making it one of the most widely used apps in the world. Now let‘s look at how to get it activated on your device.

What You‘ll Need Before Getting Started

Before starting the iMessage activation process, make sure you have:

  • An iPhone or iPad running iOS 12 or later. iMessage is not available on Android.

  • An active SIM card inserted into your device with a cellular data plan enabled. This connects your phone number.

  • An Apple ID account like an iCloud email address to pair with iMessage.

  • An internet connection, either via Wi-Fi or cellular data.

  • Sufficient SMS credits on your cellular plan. Activation involves sending a text to Apple‘s servers.

Once you have all that ready, we can dive right into the quick and easy activation steps!

Step 1: Open Settings on Your iPhone or iPad

From your home screen, find and tap the Settings app icon. It looks like a gray gear.

Settings App Icon

This will launch the Settings menu.

Step 2: Navigate to Messages Settings

In Settings, scroll down the menu and tap on the Messages app icon.

Messages in Settings

Tapping it will open the Messages settings page.

Step 3: Turn on the iMessage Toggle

On the Messages settings screen, find the switch labeled iMessage and tap on it to toggle it ON (green).

iMessage Toggle

A popup will appear informing you that standard SMS charges may apply during activation. Tap OK to continue.

iMessage will now begin activating in the background.

Step 4: Wait for iMessage Activation to Complete

It usually only takes a few seconds for iMessage activation to fully complete. Under Send & Receive, you‘ll see a "Waiting for Activation…" message display.

Waiting for Activation

Once it‘s done, this message will change to let you know you can select addresses.

Step 5: Choose Your Send and Receive Addresses

After activation finishes, tap on Send & Receive.

Send and Receive

On this screen, you can choose your Apple ID, phone number, or both to use for sending and receiving iMessages.

Step 6: Sign In and Select Your Apple ID

To enable your Apple ID, tap Start Using your Apple ID for iMessage and sign in with your Apple ID credentials like you would sign into iCloud.

Sign in with Apple ID

A checkmark will appear next to it when ready to use.

Step 7: Select Your Phone Number Too

You can also tap your phone number right above your Apple ID to enable it for sending/receiving iMessages.

Select Phone Number

Make sure both your Apple ID and phone number are checked off for the best experience.

That‘s it! iMessage is now activated and ready to start messaging your friends and family.

Troubleshooting Tips for Activation Issues

If you encounter any error messages or issues activating iMessage, don‘t panic. Here are some troubleshooting steps to resolve them:

  • Try toggling iMessage off, waiting 30 seconds, then turning it back on. This restarts the service.

  • Ensure your date/time settings are correct and your Wi-Fi or cellular data connection are working properly.

  • Update your iPhone or iPad software in Settings > General > Software Update.

  • Contact your carrier to confirm your cellular plan supports SMS/MMS messaging.

  • Try signing out and back into your Apple ID account.

  • As a last resort, reach out to Apple Support for further assistance activating iMessage.

Following these tips should get iMessage working smoothly in minutes.

Removing a Phone Number from iMessage

If you ever need to remove a phone number from your iMessage account, it‘s easy:

  1. Go to Settings > Messages > Send & Receive.
  2. Tap your Apple ID, then tap Sign Out.
  3. This will instantly remove the phone number from iMessage.

You can always sign back in with your Apple ID without a phone number attached.

Activating iMessage Without a Phone Number

Don‘t have a cellular plan? No worries – you can activate iMessage using just your Apple ID.

When you turn on iMessage, Apple will send a verification code to your Apple ID email address. Follow the email‘s instructions to complete the activation process.

Once verified, head to Settings > Messages > Send & Receive and select your Apple ID to enable iMessage without a phone number.

Expert Tips for Using iMessage Like a Pro

Now that you‘ve got iMessage set up, here are some pro tips to use it like an expert:

Set Up Group Chats: Easily message up to 32 people in the same conversation by tapping the + button when composing a new message. Give the group a name at the top.

Share Your Location: Press and hold the send button to share a live updating view of your location with someone. Tap Stop Sharing when done.

Send Read Receipts: See when your message is delivered and read by tapping Details after sending it. Disable read receipts in Settings if preferred.

Send High-Quality Photos: Tap the camera icon to take a photo, video or selfie directly in a conversation thread to send in full resolution.

Manage Notifications: Adjust notifications per conversation thread – set a custom alert tone, enable/disable badges, previews and more.

Digitally Touch and Feel: Press deeply on a message to access intuitive Touch features like heartbeats, fireworks, balloons, confetti and more. Fun!

Share Large Files: Send files up to 100MB, 5x more than MMS. Great for sharing 1080p video clips. Shared iCloud link allows accessing anytime.

Message from Any Device: Start an iMessage thread on your Mac, iPad or iPod Touch and continue seamlessly on your iPhone when on the go. Syncs instantly across your devices.

So get out there and start messaging! iMessage makes staying in touch with friends and family completely seamless.


I hope this complete guide gives you a clear walkthrough of how to get iMessage activated on your iPhone or iPad in just a few quick steps.

With over 1 billion active users, iMessage has become one of the world‘s most popular messaging apps thanks to its great features, ease of use and seamless syncing across devices.

Activating it with your phone number or Apple ID allows you to message anyone else in the Apple ecosystem totally free.

Follow the steps outlined above, and you‘ll be set up and messaging on iMessage within minutes. If any activation issues occur, try the troubleshooting suggestions provided.

Now get started sending unlimited messages, engaging in fun group chats, sharing high-quality photos and videos, and more with the power of iMessage! Enjoy!