What is iMessage? How Does It Work?

We previously wrote an article titled “iMessage frequently asked questions“. In that article, we briefly explained the basics of iMessage. This article provides more detail. In this article, we explain what is iMessage, how it works and what you can do when it is not working.

What is an iMessage?

You can use iMessage to collaborate with others. iMessage is a free, secure encrypted messaging service for iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch. iMessage is Apple’s own messaging service. It was introduced in 2011.

iMessage can be called an “Over The Top” (OTT) service that does not require a cellular data connection. Your messages will be sent over Wi-Fi or cellular-data networks. If Wi-Fi is not available, your message will be sent over cellular data. If you use Wi-Fi to send or receive iMessages, there’s no cost. This means that iMessage may use your cellular data which will be deducted from your cellular data plan. And iMessage may use a lot of data especially if you are sending pictures or videos over iMessage. However, the iMessages you send over cellular don’t count toward your monthly text message allowance if your cellular data plan sets a limit.

iMessages appear in blue text bubbles.

Regular text messages (SMS or MMS) require a cellular data plan with text-message abilities. Wireless carriers usually have three types of text message plans:

  1. Unlimited text plan. As the name suggests, you can send unlimited text messages.
  2. Limited text plan. In this type of plan, you have a messaging allowance, usually monthly, which says you can send a number of text messages.
  3. And pay per message. Your carrier charges you for each message you send or receive.

Regardless of your data plan, you can send unlimited iMessages.

How to send an iMessage

To be able to use iMessage, you need to have Apple’s Messages app on your device running iOS 5 or later, watchOS 1 or later or OS X Mountain Lion or later. You and your recipient will need a compatible iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac or Apple Watch to use iMessage.

Everything works automatically. Sending iMessages require a two-way, iMessaging-capable device. On your device, just open the Messages app and type and then send your message. Then Messages will check with Apple servers if your recipient is set up for iMessage. If yes, your message will automatically be sent as an iMessage. If no, your message will be sent as a regular text message (SMS/MMS).

iMessages will appear in blue bubbles and regular text messages will appear in green bubbles.

To turn on or off iMessage on your device:

  • On your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, go to Settings > Messages and iMessage.
  • On your Mac, to turn off iMessage, open the Messages app and click Messages > Preferences, then click Accounts and select your iMessage account.

iMessage features

iMessage has a lot of cool features. You can send and receive text, pictures, videos, sound, location, money, heartbeats and more easily. Here are some features:

How to troubleshoot iMessage problems

If you are experiencing issues with iMessage, please see the tips below:

Dr. Serhat Kurt worked as a Senior Technology Director. He holds a doctoral degree (or doctorate) from the University of Illinois at Urbana / Champaign and a master’s degree from Purdue University. Here is his LinkedIn profile.

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2 thoughts on “What is iMessage? How Does It Work?”

  1. I want to know.. If I am trying to reach an Iphone user and it goes directly to voicemail without even rining, I hang up right before the beep of the voicemail, does it still leave a notification that I tried reaching the Iphone user?


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