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What is iMessage & is it different to SMS?

Every iPhone user knows the frustration of their messages occasionally switching from blue to green. The blue texts of Apple’s iMessage have become ubiquitous – but how exactly does it work? We bring you a guide on everything you need to know about iMessage. So, read on to find out.

What is iMessage?

iMessage is Apple’s internet-based messaging service for iPhone. It’s a built-in service which lets you send instant messages to other iPhone users for free using your data connection – the only costs are data chargers from your mobile plan provider. It’s also built in to macOS, allowing you to use it on your Apple laptop or desktop.

How does iMessage work?

iMessage is built into the Messages app on iPhones, the same app which lets you send SMS messages (i.e. texts). Messages will send texts to your friends via a blue iMessage by default, but will switch to regular green SMS messages if your contact doesn’t have an iPhone or one of you can’t access mobile data.

What’s the difference between iMessage and SMS?

While they virtually do the same thing – send messages – there are a few key differences between iMessage and the traditional SMS, which are explained below:

  • iMessage: An iMessage is an instant text message which can only be sent between Apple products, but relies on the internet and uses data or WiFi. An iMessage can include text, images, videos and attachments, and is protected by end-to-end encryption, meaning only the sender and receiver are privy to the contents.
  • SMS: SMS stands for Short Messaging Service, and is a text message which contains just text of a maximum of 160 characters, and cannot include pictures, videos or effects. It relies on the telecommunications network your phone provider is affiliated with.

This can be confusing, but don’t worry – all your messages will get sent the same! The major difference between the two services is speed and cost. SMS messages can sometimes be slower to send or receive and may occasionally cost more, compared to iMessage. This isn’t a huge problem though as most current mobile plans include unlimited SMS.

Looking to upgrade iPhones?

Check out some of the latest providers and plans for the iPhone 14 in the table below!

The following table compares a selection of 24-month 128GB iPhone 14 plans as published on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of their standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our phone plan comparison tool to compare plans from a range of providers.

The following table compares a selection of 24-month 128GB iPhone 14 Plus plans as published on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of their standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our phone plan comparison tool to compare plans from a range of providers.

 

The following table compares a selection of 24-month 128GB iPhone 14 Pro plans as published on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of their standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our phone plan comparison tool to compare plans from a range of providers.

The following table compares a selection of 24-month 128GB iPhone 14 Pro Max plans as published on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of their standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our phone plan comparison tool to compare plans from a range of providers.

How do I turn on iMessage?

It’s easy to turn on iMessage, simply follow the steps below:

  • Step One: Open iPhone Settings
  • Step Two: Scroll and open Messages
  • Step Three: Tap the toggle next to iMessage
  • Step Four: Once it is green, it is enabled, and will stay that way until you change it

You can add in some additional features if you want to customise your iMessage settings, including SMS Messaging, Group Messaging, Read Receipts and whether you want to see a subject field or the character count

How much data does iMessage use?

Using iMessage

How much data iMessage uses will depend on what you are sending and receiving. A regular text message will generally use less than 1KB, but an iMessage including text, video or large attachments may use more. If you use iMessage predominantly for plain text messages don’t worry too much, but if you are sending a lot of attachments, it never hurts to keep an eye on it to ensure you don’t go over your data limit.

Why isn’t my iMessage working?

Are you seeing the dreaded red exclamation mark? If you don’t seem to be able to send or receive iMessages, there are a few things you can do.

  1. Check iMessage is turned on. It sounds obvious, but it can be easy to forget that you might have switched iMessage off on a mission to save data. Always double check the toggle is green.
  2. Check you are connected to the internet. iMessage cannot function without the internet. If you can’t access any data or WiFi, stick to good old SMS.
  3. Check whether your phone is receiving messages from your phone number or Apple ID. If it is set to one or the other, you may not be able to receive an iMessage until it is resolved. Check your phone number is set to send and receive messages. Go to Settings – Messages – Send & Receive.
  4. Restart your device. When all else fails, restarting your device often solves mysterious glitches!

Can I use iMessage on Android?

Unfortunately iMessage is not available on Android – it’s exclusive to iPhones. Unlike iOS, Google’s operating system doesn’t include a built-in instant messaging service; the Messages app on Android just lets you send plain old SMS texts.

Google has recently rolled out Android Messages on the web, letting you access your phone’s SMS messages from your web browser. However, these are still SMS messages rather than instant messages – they get sent through your phone rather than over the web, so your phone still needs to have reception even if your computer is connected to the internet.

With that said, there are countless different instant messaging apps available on both the Google Play Store and the App Store, allowing you to send instant messages via the internet regardless of which phone type you have. Some popular apps include Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, Viber, Kik and many, many more, all with different features and layouts.

Original Author: Sam Bloom

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