Last updated: April 2, 2014
Many iPhone users have long looked in envy at Blackberry's BBM messaging network, which allows users to send free messages to each other and know when people have read their messages. That envy ended with the introduction of iOS 5, which brings with it iMessage. IMessage, which is a feature of the Messages app available to all iOS users, offers free user-to-user texts, read receipts, and much more. Read on for answers to some of the most common iMessage questions.
How Is iMessage Different From Messages?
Messages is the app that comes pre-loaded in the iOS on any iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad. It's the default way to send text messages on iOS. IMessage, on the other hand, is simply a feature of the Messages app. You can use other apps to send texts, but if you want to use iMessage, you have to use Messages.
How Do You Get iMessage?
If you've got iOS 5 or higher, you don't need to do anything--you've already got it! The same Messages app that you've always used to sent text messages on your iPhone now also sends iMessages. Just look for the green app icon with the word balloon in it.
Do You Need to Enable iMessage For It To Work?
No, iMessage is enabled by default. It's possible to turn it off, though. To do this, tap the Settings app. Scroll down to Messages and tap that. Move the iMessage slider to Off/white.
Do You Have to Have an iPhone To Use iMessage?
No. IMessage works on all devices that run iOS 5 and higher; it also works on Macs running Mac OS X 10.7 and newer.
Does That Mean I Can't Text People Who Don't Have iPhones?
No. The Messages app on iOS lets you text anyone whose phone or other device can receive text messages. You just can't use iMessage with those people (and remember, iMessage is a feature of Messages, but they're not the same thing).
If You Don't Have an iPhone and Aren't Online, What Happens to iMessages Sent To You?
You must be connected to either a Wi-Fi network or a 3G/4G phone network in order to send or receive iMessages. If you're not connected to a network when a message is sent, it will be delivered when you next get online.
How Can You Tell When You're Sending an iMessage Rather Than an SMS?
In the Messages app, traditional SMS messages are indicated in three ways: your message is in a green balloon, the Send button is green, and the text-entry area says Text Message in it. On the other hand, iMessage messages have a blue balloon/Send button and say iMessage in the text-entry area. Depending on Read Receipt settings, some iMessages will also say "Delivered" beneath them.
What Does iMessage Cost?
Nothing! Sending an iMessage to another iMessage user is free. Traditional text message still cost whatever your texting plan charges. The app itself is also free; it comes pre-loaded with iOS 5 and up.
Does iMessage Use Read Receipts?
Yes. With this feature, you can tell whether someone has read your iMessage or let others know you've read theirs (this feature only works with messages sent to other iMessage users; it doesn't apply to regular text messages). To send Read Receipts to other people when you've read their messages, tap on the Settings app and then tap on the Messages menu. Move the Send Read Receipts slider to On/green.
What Multimedia Can Be Sent Using iMessage?
All the kinds of multimedia that can be sent with regular SMS messages can be sent using iMessage: photos, videos, and audio.
Can You Use iMessage on Multiple Devices?
Yes. One of the benefits of iMessage is that it can let you continue conversations across multiple devices (again, this applies only to iMessage messages, not regular text messages). To do this, though, you can't use your iPhone's phone number as your iMessage address. That won't work because the iPod touch and iPad don't have phones in them and aren't connected to your phone number. Instead, use an email address (the same on all your devices). To control this, go to Settings -> Messages and tap on Receive At or Send & Receive (depending on what version of iOS you're running). Make sure all your iMessage devices have the same email address here.
Want tips like this delivered to your inbox every week? Subscribe to the free weekly iPhone/iPod email newsletter.