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iMessage purgatory (adampash.com)
386 points by mortenjorck on May 13, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 170 comments

I went through this last month when I switched to the Nexus 5, had no clue I wasn't getting messages until someone with an iPhone tweeted at me asking why I as ignoring them.

However, all it took from me was a call to Apple's customer service, I told them I had just switched off my iPhone and no longer got texts from people with iMessage and they immediately sent me to a tech that fixed the problem for me.

Have you been explaining it correctly when you call? All I said was "I had an iPhone until last week, switched to another phone but I'm still registered for iMessage"

Edit: According to my phone I called 1-800-692-7753 (Which is just 1-800-MY-APPLE) and my call took 8 mins 25 seconds total. Not too bad of an experience.

I am incredibly annoyed with Apple about this same issue. I also switched to a Nexus 5.

I called the number you listed, and they confirmed that iMessage is already turned off for that number (which I did on my iPhone after switching to a Nexus 5 as well).

Most of my friends' iPhones will still send iMessages to me, and most of the time their phones don't even say delivery of the messages failed.

The tech support guy at 1-800-MY-APPLE told me that I should ask all of my friends to remove their existing text message threads with me from the messaging app. As the only proposed solution to my problem, this is already annoying enough. To make matters even worse, I just had one of my friends do exactly what they suggested, and his phone is STILL trying to send me iMessages.

It's unbelievable that Apple shows this little regard for their former customers. (Not to mention the fact that as an owner of several Apple products, I'm actually a current customer.)

Do you have another iOS device (iPad, perhaps) that uses the same iCloud account as your iPhone did?

No, not another iOS device.

If you have a recent Mac on 10.9 it tries to iMessage you there as well.

It's encouraging that they actually have the capability to fix the issue, but you really shouldn't have to call tech support to regain control of your phone number. When you sign up for iMessages they don't say "We take over your phone number and route all texts from iphones to it and you'll have to call tech support to make us stop!"

They do not have the ability to fix this. My wife's data plan is capped at 500MB and when it runs out iMessage does not work. She turned off iMessageing and days later when she still reported that she wasn't getting texts. The Apple tech said that she should tell people not to reply to a thread and to start a new one. She uses her phone for her business and she can't preemptively blast text over 150 contacts not to reply to an active thread, but to start a new one. Her iPhone contacts don't even understand the issue. Now she has to upgrade to an unlimited plan or risk missing messages. Apple has broken text messaging for anyone who uses an iPhone.

I have trouble sending texts from my iPhone to my wife after she switched from an iPhone to an Android. In my experience deleting old conversations and starting new ones didn't work. What does work is double-tapping a message after it has been sent, which gives you the option to send via SMS.

Useful to know! Double-tapping would be completely non-intuitive on a phone, how did you discover that?

double-tapping has the same effect as a long-press in this case. It brings up the contextual menu.

Oh of course, it's insanely annoying. It's not even something that crossed my mind since before transitioning to my iPhone I used to carry multiple phones on me and just switch SIMs around (I'm a mobile dev, not a drug dealer, I promise) I'm just saying that it's not hopeless, Apple hasn't done anything about it in years and from the blog it seems like the writer thinks they'll just never get text messages from iPhone users again, which is false.

From what I understand, it's less of a deliberate "HAHA SCREW YOU" and more of a caching issue on their iMessage registration side. The removal of my number took around 24 hours to propagate to their services (e.g. if a person who didn't have a thread with me put in my number, it would show green not blue) and I had to have some friends delete our chat history since my iMessage-ness was cached on their phone.

I think Apple only checks iMessage registration in pull format, e.g. when someone toggles iMessage on/off on their phone, rather than constantly checking it through some "does this phone have service" background test.

If it's not deliberate, then it's just incompetency.

How do you propose they fix it? Integrating with the infrastructure of every carrier to detect when a not-iPhone is activated on a line previously occupied by an iPhone is probably expensive and invasive to carriers.

Also you don't have to call tech support. You can deregister iMessage from Settings (by turning it off) before you activate a new phone.

iMessages go through Apple's servers, right? Then if all messages addressed to a particular phone suddenly stop being delivered, surely they can detect that. If a phone fails to check in for some period of time, there's a pretty good chance that the user has switched to a different device, and the messages should be retransmitted as SMS. Even if the timeout is on the order of days, that would still be better than having your messages swallowed by the void forever.

For bonus points, take care of false positives in this system by storing enough metadata in iMessage to deduplicate the iMessage and SMS copies.

That would mean that Apple have to pay for these SMS messages, which they probably don't want to do.

I don't think it does? The iMessage servers would simply reply to the sender device, saying "Number not active in iMessage", and give the sender a prompt to send by SMS.

The issue is a) communicating that to users. and b) Even if you know that, if your phone breaks and you revert to an older phone or a cheap android to tide you over... you didn't get a chance to sign out.

I'd say the problem is they're keeping you signed in for too long. If my phone doesn't check in for 24 hours, shouldn't it un-register me at least until I next check in?

It sounds like they're intentionally doing this, to create a problem for people migrating away from their service.

Apple: Broken by design, broken at inception.

> How do you propose they fix it?

Making it possible to deregister by logging into your Apple Account over the web would deal with 100% of the problem, which is people not being aware of the issue before switching off of iOS.

AFAIK this is already possibile

Edit: someone on this thread has confirmed

It's not obvious though. They give you a unified login - Apple ID - but all the services are all over the place. Other than iCloud, I can't tell you what URL to go to, to manage your ID, unregister devices etc. At least give us a portal with links to all the services.

How do you propose they fix it?

They could release an iMessage client for Android and PC.

> How do you propose they fix it?

It's their technology. Why should I provide the fix of a system that's not built by me, and have no control over it?

It's like saying, user x can't use a website, so he/sh should find out that there is a javascript error due to browser compatibility, and then the USER has to propose a solution with the fix in the javascript to the website owner.

Good implementations would not have these kind of issues. This is a technical afterthought to them since you cant be part of their Eco system without their hardware, apparently you can go screw yourself.

I suppose the question is, should you even have to do this?

Can't you assume that if a phone has iMessage open, you assume that number is active and poll to send keepalives. If the user has not opened iMessage for a while, you disassociate the number with iMesage. Before trying to send a message via iMessage, the server would check and reply if that user is still associated, if not the phone will fallback to SMS.

I previously just switched my SIM back into someone's iPhone and used toggled iMessage on and back off again before switching the SIM back again.

This is the proper response. I feel like the linked post is just a reason to bash Apple. As someone who used to work in their tech support (and has no real feeling about the company good or bad), EVERY time someone calls with this issue, it is fixed with the click of a button that deauthorizes their iMessage token.

I know a lot of people are saying that this shouldn't even have to be a step when you switch phones, but the fact is that you chose to use iMessage for the features. It could have been turned off at any time, they are not forcing you to use it.

It would be great if there was a way to fix this without having to call (or unregister your phone number from your apple id), because of not being able to know that it's happening. But it's not like Apple is deliberately trying to keep your messages hostage. Besides, you've already switched phones.

I wouldn't be so quick to say it's just an excuse to bash Apple. According to the writer's tweets Apple doesn't even see his phone number registered in the iMessage registry, so there could be something even worse going on here.

Source: https://twitter.com/adampash/status/466316191230087168

Ah, thank you for the link. I guess I was the one that was quick to judge.

It also just sounds like there was a bad experience with a particular tech support rep, who may be new. In my experience, these issues are ALWAYS exceptions to the $20 fee. If the 'standard' workarounds don't fix it, they will escalate you to a supervisor and put in a ticket with engineering who will resolve the issue within 48 hours.

Maybe OP will see this and give their tech support another shot. If not, the token expires in about 28 days.

*This information is less than a year old, but rules may have changed.

EVERY time someone calls with this issue, it is fixed with the click of a button that deauthorizes their iMessage token.

This is false. I just called 1-800-MY-APPLE (details in my reply to GP) and they said I had already deactivated iMessage for the number and that I needed to tell all of my friends to delete their existing threads with me. And then even that did not fix the problem.

I switched to a Nexus 5 recently. I deactivated iMessage, ensured my phone was no longer registered with Apple and asked friends to delete existing conversations.

It has been about a week and I still cannot receive text messages from iPhone users I've iMessaged in the past.

What is perhaps most frustrating is that Apple seems incapable of changing the situation. Adding insult to injury, Apple is requiring that I pay a $20 fee to speak with a technician.

In my case, my new number (for my android phone) is associated with someone else's iPhone. I could not de-authorize that person's iMessage token. I handpicked that number but had to give it up thanks to iMessage's implementation.

> Besides, you've already switched phones.

This does not follow.

If I change water providers, the previous water provider does have the right to stop me from receiving more water.

I would expect that the "totally wipe my phone" process would include an API call to Apple to disable iMessage for that phone so people don't have to make special calls.

Sounds like that doesn't happen.

Of course if you just throw the phone away without ever doing something to indicate it's no longer in use (to Apple, not your cell carrier) then the results are more sane. That can't happen to every one of these people though.

Not really -- it's a complex problem.

If my phone is stolen, so I wipe my phone via MDM. I still need to communicate, so I can use my Mac or iPad to do so transparently to the other parties.

This is a common issue whenever you do caching. Outlook fubars contacts whenever you migrate Exchange users to or from a system.

I went through this a few months ago and discussed on HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7166955

Here's my update: It's been about 4 months or so since I switched.

Nothing I was able to do or Apple was able to do fixed the problem. I was able to put Messages into debug mode and I sent Apple a full debug log (Apple bug report #15966535). They marked the ticket as "Duplicate" and I was no longer able to view any updates.

After about 3 months, most of the issue has resolved.

The majority of group-texts work now; iPhones now send the whole thread is MMS not iMessage. It's still not 100% but pretty good.

Most of my friends can send SMS without failures, but quite a few still get "iMessage failed" and have to "resend as SMS".

I've completely given up trying to fix the problem. Just hoping the remaining iOS devices resolve themselves at some point, or Apple fixes in next update.

<rant>Everyone thinks this is an Android problem that they can't message me anymore. Really tough to explain to the world that it's _their_ phone that's buggy.</rant>

What is interesting to me always is that my experience trying to send iMessages to people is usually the opposite: if someone's phone runs out of batteries or they start a phone call (on CDMA, which can't do voice and data simultaneously) I nearly instantly am forced to send them text messages. I also have found the "Delivered" notices very reliable: AFAIK they require a device to actually receive the message. Note however that it is "a device": if you have iMessage associated with another random device, it might be receiving your messages for you; I would be very interested in knowing if these people cataloged all devices they have from Apple (including Macs) and logged out of all of them. (It could, of course, just be a bug; but it at least doesn't seem to be some fundamental aspect of the design that it permanently hijacks messages.)

My sister has an iPhone, but no data plan. So, if she's out and I want to text her from my iPhone, she needs to make sure she doesn't have iMessages running on her computer at home. If it's on, I text her a bunch of times and I just get the blue bubbles. Then I get a bunch of SMS messages from her saying "where are you? why aren't you texting me back" and hilarity ensues. I guess I could just call her.

She could disassociate the phone number from her computer's iMessage account (Preferences -> Accounts). Then messages to her number would always go to her phone, and messages to the email account would go to the computer.

Thanks -- that's a good idea. I'll have to point that out to her.

But then you get into a whole heap of problems with multiple threads.

The point is, why should you have to point that out? iOS 8 had better make it obvious -- "oh, I don't have data on my phone, so make sure it gets sent as an SMS too!"

If you know she's out (and therefore unlikely to have access to iMessage) you can force an SMS. Press and hold the blue bubble and you will get the option to 'Send as SMS message'.

I know that game... Trying to grab and hold an iMessage in the process of it sending, to reveal the "Send as a SMS message" button before the option disappears.

So you can't "send as SMS" in between the iMessage having been sent but before it's been delivered?

Its a bit confusing, but in my experience, as soon as the message finishes sending, whether its been delivered or just hit apples server, the send as SMS option will disappear.

Sometimes the message will say its failed to deliver and you get the option back.

You can double-tap it after sending to get the send-as-SMS option in a pop-up.

My friend moved from an iPhone to an Android a while back and I couldn't message him anymore. I had to change the setting for his contact so that it would revert to standard SMS when imessage failed which seems to have worked fine, it's just a silly solution.

And it only solves it for you. The rest of his friends are probably still tossing imessages into a hole if they haven't caught on.

Ugh, I hear you. I had to disable iMessage on my girlfriend's iPad because it kept 'stealing' every SMS I tried to send her.

Or when the first message fails to go green just turn off data?

In my experience after a while the phone will say that it couldn't send the message and give you a little option to resend as SMS.

It would be nice to have that done automatically, but at least it's there sometimes.

Even more frustrating, reading this just reminds me how much better the google voice solution to this problem is and it predated iMessage by several years. Google has just let it atrophy - then they introduced hangouts late (relative to other chat apps in the market) and still have not integrated the google voice features or pushed them with android.

Does anyone who works at/worked at Google know why this happened?

Were they trying to turn the telecoms into dumb pipes with the original Nexus and gizmo5 purchase, but when that failed just abandoned the idea? You'd think the success of whatsapp and facebook chat would make chat a priority. If people communicate using your platform they're more likely to use your account for other things.

To be honest, Hangouts of Google does a pretty nice job of SMS integration and multidevice communication.

First: if a person has SMS and also a google account, they are just put toghether under the same hood, but they don't get mixed, just get sorted. An SMS goes associated with the number so I would not receive a SMS as a talk message or what ever. Second: if I am getting a message ( over Gtalk or Hangouts ) all my devices ( including Chrome) are receiving it in the same (relative) time. No stealing around, all my conversations are sync'd everywhere.

Not quite. I have a Nexus 4 and a Nexus 5. If I turn my 4 on, I'll get notifications (and sound/vibration) only on the 4, until I start using the 5 again. Strangely this doesn't seem to hold true if I use Hangouts on my computer (messages alert all devices)

Word on the street is that they're going to kill Google Voice soon and integrate its functionality into Hangouts. They've taken the first step by integrating regular SMS into Hangouts, so it can't be hard now. I hope it happens soon, but until then there are client-side hacks (such as XVoice+) that you can use to achieve the same functionality.

Mashable wrote about this problem months ago: http://mashable.com/2013/09/16/imessage-problem/

A lot of my friends have complained about this problem as well.

I'm surprised Apple hasn't moved faster to come up with a solution. Seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen.

They're not Apple customers anymore. It's not a problem (in that it's not effecting their customers, it IS their fault).

The best way to get this fixed would probably be for iPhone users who lose the ability to message their friend to complain to Apple, not the former customer.

Sad though. Apple is so good at customer service in many contexts. But sometimes they seem to decide on one of these seemingly purposeful blindspots and treat people terribly.

The people with iPhones are still Apple's customers, and it's their messages that are disappearing. That's a perfectly good case for a CAL.

Suppose that someone tried texting someone for medical assistance (silly, I know...), and that message was not delivered because the recipient changed their phone but kept their number, is that the fault of the person that changed their phone or is it the fault of Apple for not being able to realise that people might someday want to change devices?

>not being able to realise that people might someday want to change devices?

They did realize it. There are two mechanisms for handling this issue - turning off iMessage in Settings before deactivating your iPhone, and calling Apple after deactivating your iPhone. Both are documented.

There is no way for your iPhone to know it's been deactivated and still communicate with Apple. If anything it's the fault of the carriers for not providing Apple with an API hook for "this iPhone was just deactivated."

Also SMS is many times more lossy than iMessage. I've had messages show up to my friends on AT&T several days after they were sent, and not all. SMS messages longer than the length limit almost always arrive out of order, and sometimes parts don't arrive at all. Relying on non-iMessage texting for medical assistance is stupid to begin with.

The problem is that there are so many edge cases with this. iMessage is a group messaging platform. Replacing SMS is just a small part of what it covers. You might be switching away from you iPhone but you still want to be able to use it on your iPad or Mac. It would be much better if Apple introduced a separate SMS application or created / supported iMessage on other platforms.

I wipped my iPhone which required my Apple ID and password (so Apple knows the device was deactivated) and I called technical support to confirm iMessages is deactivated for my account and three weeks later I am still not receiving messages from people with iPhones. The problem isn't that you have to call Apple but that even after calling them they are not able to help!

They are, but they're not the people posting articles like this. Whenever I see someone bring this back up it's always "I went to Android and something happened...".

I think Apple would be much more likely to respond if a bunch of people posted "My friend went to Android and now my iPhone won't text him". Frame it as issues of current customers.

They've let it go this long, so I somewhat doubt they'll make it easier; they probably would have done it by now. Re-framing it might help push it though.

> They're not Apple customers anymore.

That a fact? There are still 3 Macbooks, an iMac, my wife's iPhone, two iPads, and an Apple TV in the house that didn't just up and disappear when I switched to an Android phone.

Scary rationality.

An ex-customer who is being irreconcilably inconvenienced by your product through no fault of their own may not produce any additional revenue for you but seems pretty unnecessarily disrespectful to treat them that way.

It would be like a restaurant refusing to increase food standards because you stopped being a regular.

I don't think it's good at all, it's a terrible experience. Even if someone is becoming an ex-customer you should treat them better than that in case they might come back to you later. Burning your bridge for an anti-halo effect is just a bad business decision.

Sadly it just doesn't surprise me. In some ways/places Apple pulls this kind of crap.

It's good that Apple has a way to fix this if you call support (a few years ago I don't think they did), but this should all be fixed.

> They're not Apple customers anymore.

Really? I didn't stop using iTunes for music just because I stopped using iPhone.

IM and SMS are different ideas. SMS moves a message from one device to another. SMS also knows nothing about the receiving device or whether the message got there.

IM (under which I include iMessage) is user-to-user, not device-to-device. It can know about the recipient and whether messages are received.

Each of these things has advantages.

SMS works because the phone network is always tracking a device. It is very addressable. The receiving device is mobile, rarely changes, and is singular.

IM has a notion of sessions. The user signs off and on. It can travel over any IP connection. The device on which the user is addressable changes a lot. There may be multiple devices, making the definition of “delivered” a bit less deterministic.

Conflating these two makes for a confusing mental model for the user, and for failures like this.

For what it's worth, I switched to Android and did not have to pay Apple $20 to disable my iMessages, despite not having an active support contract.

I did, however, have to do a quick Google search, log in to my iTunes account through the web, and de-register my Apple devices. The problem was solved relatively quickly and for free.

This should be simpler, but I'm not sure how much easier Apple can make it. They can't make an iOS app to help you because you got rid of the iPhone. It seems strange to make an Android app to help you. That leaves the web. Better luck to you!

> This should be simpler, but I'm not sure how much easier Apple can make it.

You have to keep in mind that your steps don't work for everyone. There is no definitive set of steps that consistently work. I say this is as someone who has gone back and forth between iOS and Android a couple of times. What worked last time doesn't necessarily work the next time.

I switched to an Android phone 3 weeks ago and I am also still not receiving texts from iPhones. Apple's customer support said the same thing to me as they did to you. They told me that one customer had to wait 40 days before they were fully removed from the system. I am just hoping that it gets fixed for me by the time 40 days has come around.

I filled a complaint with the FCC at https://esupport.fcc.gov/ccmsforms/form2000.action?form_type.... It is a form for complaints against wireless carriers for number portability issues.

Wow, this has been going on for at least a year. I can't believe that Apple hasn't already fixed this problem, it really calls into question their commitment to doing the right thing.

Yeah it's stupid issue but extremely easy to resolve. My messages went to purgatory for about 15 minutes. http://phandroid.com/2014/04/07/turn-off-imessage-iphone-to-...

Does that work if you've wiped and resold your iPhone without disabling iMessages on it first? The impression I've gotten is that Apple will still think you're signed in even though you no longer have the phone (and can't sign out).

Yeah I tried that one too. Deactivated my number on imessage on my phone and turned it off everywhere else I used it. People sending me texts still send as imessage rather than SMS and still show as delivered on the senders end. My new HTC never gets any of it. Even worse none of my existing imessage devices get the message either. It's simply gone. An Apple support rep actually suggested that I have everyone that I text with delete their conversation thread with me in their app in order to fix the issue. Seems like an unreasonable burden to put on the user. Needless to say attempting that on a few friends phones did not seem to work.

Sometimes this process just doesn't work. I've switched to android twice (and back to iPhone) in the last year cause of phone breakages and the moving off of iMessage the second time was a nightmare.

I've done all of that. The number is no longer associated with my Apple ID, but other iPhones still send messages to that number via iMessage — which means they go nowhere.

Well shit. Sounds like Apple has an issue clearing cache.

In the hopes of actually solving your issue, I hate to suggest this, but try reconnecting your number to imessage (and make sure you get any new imessage texts), then properly turn off imessage from that device. The defacto unplug it plug it back in.

I briefly switched from an iOS phone to an Nexus 5 and had the same issue. For other reasons, I switched back. A colleague of mine liked the Nexus a lot and made the switch after I did. He has been fighting this for months. Everything works properly for a while. Sometimes, several weeks will go by. Then, out of the blue, my phone tries to send the message to him as an iMessage. It's bizarre and frustrating.

Even more of a disaster with iMessage group threads. I had a thread w/ two friends, and when I switched to my Moto X, I didn't realize that I was no longer receiving messages on the thread from ONE of them.

Turns out, one of their iPhones recognized that it should start texting me, while the other's iPhone kept iMessaging me w/out delivering failure reports. So frustrating that I forced them to get WhatsApp!

Sounds like it would be easier to find new friends.

Seriously though, iMessage should have some sort of interoperability on other devices, even if its just a web interface you can log into to make configuration changes, including the deletion/deactivation of an account associated with a mobile phone number.

Edit: Or even monitoring iPhones associated with a number and disabling iMessage if said phone is no longer online with that number? Could possibly even forward unread messages, etc.

It does. Log into your Apple ID at https://appleid.apple.com and un-associate your phone number.

Though this only works if you attached your iPhone to your Apple ID in the first place. The phone bugs you about it repeatedly but many people do not do so.

> Log into your Apple ID at https://appleid.apple.com and un-associate your phone number.

The only thing available related to the web interface accessible from that URL that is similar to that is that you can alter contact phone numbers (daytime, evening, and mobile) associated with your Apple Account, it doesn't say anything about iMessage associations.

So, if that's the way to do it, its interesting that: 1) There is nothing in the UI that indicates that it has that effect, and 2) Apple's own help page directs you to call support rather than doing that.

Then I fail to see why this is really an issue - blog explains no proper solution, need to pay $20, engineers can't figure it out, etc... Sounds like hogwash.

Unnecessarily dismissive.

The OP has said [1] that he dissociated his number from iMessage and people who text him from iPhones are not getting through to him. That is problematic if you want to receive text messages on a non Apple phone.

It would seem he wrote in his blog in order to get help or bring it to a wider attention.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7740438

No reference made to this in the article.

The solution is there however, Apple just needs to fix their iMessage software to properly disassociate the number with iMessage.

Again, like my unnecessarily down voted comment suggested, unlike this blog suggests, the solution is there, it just doesn't work.

If it doesn't work, it's not a solution.

When you held your iPhone 4 wrong and the connection dropped, people didn't claim that there was no antenna.

An antenna is defined by physical characteristics, not whether or not it functions suitably for a given application. A solution is something that solves a problem -- it is only a solution with respect to that problem, and only to the extent that it actually solves it. If it doesn't work, it doesn't solve the problem, and isn't a solution.

It is really an issue because the above workaround doesn't always work. You can apply that to every single suggested fix in this entire thread: it might work for one, but it doesn't work for all. The Apple discussion forums are littered with evidence of this, and my own personal experience of swapping back and forth a few times convinces me that people aren't just making it up.

Then isn't the real issue that the proper solution doesn't work? Doesn't the blog unjustly criticize Apple, as if they don't even have a single solution?

Sorry, just realized I am arguing over the formality of someone's self opinionated BLOG...I'll show myself to the door.

I had this same issue. Apple wouldn't help me, unfortunately. If I recall correctly, I had to disassociate iMessage from my AppleID completely, which seems to have worked. Although I still can't be sure.

I have a weird feeling the messages still aren't going through and a lot of my friends think I'm being an asshole.

This feels exactly like the dark days of Microsoft[1], where they would support a protocol halfway, and then make it impossible for people to switch away from their version of the protocol.


I ran into this issue 2 years ago when I dropped iPhone for Android - I seriously can't believe it's still a problem. Even following Apple's official KB article, it will still take a few days for all of your messages to start going through again.

Well it seems that Apple has little incentive to fix this and have been dragging their feet: They're hoping that a brand new Android user will blame non-working SMS messages to their phone and return it for another iPhone.

Just another lock-in behaviour from them.

The easiest way to avoid this problem is to make sure you turn off iMessage on your iPhone before you switch devices then you don't have this problem in the first place.


As someone who regularly switches between Android and iPhone, this is the answer everyone is looking for. It's as simple as turning it off before you switch to a device which is SMS-only.

Moreover, before you sell your device or give it away, make sure you turn iMessage off.

When I switched from an iPhone to an Android handset, I found that I not only had to switch off iMessage, I had to switch it off while my SIM card was still in the iPhone. Switching iMessage off after the fact didn't seem to work.

Yes, you need to do it before porting your number.

My friends and I have never ran into this issue switching from iOS to Android. The main thing to do is to disable iMessage on your old iPhone before you get rid of it; that should unregister it on Apple's servers. If you do that, then you should be unregistered unless you have another device hooked up (i.e. Mac).

This happened to me when I got my android phone with a new number. When my friends with iPhones texted me, the text always shows up as iMessage and I would never receive it.

The thing is, I have not owned ANY smartphone before this one. My guess was the previous owner of this number had an iPhone and registered for iMessage service. iMessage route sms through its own server it never reached my carrier's network. I tried to get help from Apple store technician, but since I am not an apple customer, past or present, employee did not see a need to help.

Problem is I really liked that number. After 2 months of struggle I gave up and changed to a new number.

I will admit I never liked Apple and do my best to purge iProducts from my life. But I guess you just cannot avoid being screwed, anyway.

A friend found this


TLDR; Deactive iMessages on your iPhone before switching or go here if you don't have access to your phone. http://supportprofile.apple.com/MySupportProfile.do

Sounds like that's not enough from reports below tho

Easy (yet long) fix:

on iPhone - Disable iMessage from the settings menu. - Go back to messages and send a standard text message to the phone number. - Enable iMessage from the settings menu.


How can the engineering team be clueless on how to fix this? Now I admit that I don't know the inner workings of the iMessage protocol and servers, but presumably all that needs to be done is to disassociate the number with the Apple ID. If I were to guess this would involve dropping a row in a table somewhere.

Google Hangouts on my Android phone keeps bugging me to intergrate SMS into Hangouts, as well as to "confirm" my mobile number. My fear is that something analogous to the iMessage "purgatory" might happen, though I haven't heard of anyone experiencing it.

As of now, there's nothing to worry about. The problem with iPhones occurs because (1) Apple's implementation is apparently crappy, and (2) Apple tries to treat SMS and iMessage as just two identical channels through which a message can be received. You send a message to a person, not a phone number or iMessage account, and Apple figures out how to route it. The problem occurs when they guess wrong.

Google isn't doing #2. The SMS integration with Hangouts is limited to just showing your SMS and IM messages in one view. When you send a message, you send it through one channel or the other explicitly. Google doesn't ever guess how you wanted to send it, so they can't guess wrong.

> When you send a message, you send it through one channel or the other explicitly. Google doesn't ever guess how you wanted to send it, so they can't guess wrong.

Well, that's potentially misleading. Hangouts (at least, the Android app) does show an icon showing how the message will be sent, but it sets the default based, I'm fairly certain, on the last message sent either direction in the conversation with the recipient (I do know it gives you a message explicitly telling you when it changes the default and why.)

You can tell it to send by a message other than the default (there's a button right on the main UI), but it does guess.

The part that concerns me with Hangouts is that it wants to know my mobile number for some reason. They say it's for discovery purposes. For now at least.

If you're using Google apps on your phone, they already know your mobile number. I'm not sure what you're concerned about.

Google as an organization has my mobile number from a variety of sources, but that doesn't mean I want to associate my mobile number with my Hangouts usage in such a way that other people with my phone number can automatically contact me via Hangouts.

That won't happen.

Worst case is that you will get e-mails instead of SMS's.

Also the SMS + Hangouts combination is on YOUR end, if other people start using the app and sending you messages on Hangouts it's because they wanted to.

Worst case scenario here is that you add a friend via Hangouts and you assume it's going to their phone but they only ever reply to you when they're checking their email.

I ran into this too and ended up calling Apple. Their solution was to tell everyone who had my number to erase their iMessage history with me.

Somewhat odd - I can receive individual texts from two people that have iPhones but if one of them sends a group text to both of us, I do not receive it.

There was a story posted the HN that was very similar to this semi-recently, in fact I though it was a repost until I saw this was published today. I can't seem to find the previous post, does anyone else remember that/have a link? Thanks!

From 100 days ago, 398 points: iOS holding my phone number hostage = the worst bug I’ve ever experienced (blog.benjaminste.in)


Apparently I need to re-evaluate my usage of the term "semi-recently", thank you very much for the link! I bow to your superior searching skills. I used the HN search site [0] if you don't mind me asking what did you use to find or did you just have it bookmarked?

[0] http://hn.algolia.com

I posted in that thread, so I was able to find it in my comment history without too much digging.

Google "site:news.ycombinator.com imessage phone number"

Google beats any site search I've used.

I submitted this one pretty recently: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7555146

I've been here for almost a year.

It's not clear why this seems okay. "We've stolen contact for a year. We're working on it."

Seems like anti-competitive behavior. Stopped buying Apple 100% immediately once I found out.

I encountered this problem recently on a smaller scale. I disable iMessage for various reasons, but recently had to factory reset my iPhone, which led to iMessage being enabled. I completely forgot about it and after I remembered to disable it, I suddenly could no longer receive text messages from my friends with iPhones.

I gave Apple a call and initially the only response I could get from them was "Just turn on iMessage" and general confusion about why I had it turned off in the first place.

Eventually someone I talked to said they could fix it, and shortly after I started receiving messages again.

I have read about these issues plaguing people. It is strange because whenever I have roamed overseas or have disabled data for whatever reason. People still can text me, albeit I am sure there is a delay between when they hit send and when I got the message.

Friends of mine have moved from iPhone to Android, when I send them a message it tries with iMessage - and I get the message failure exclamation mark. It then resends as a text and doesn't try iMessage again for some time. Haven't really had the black hole experience yet...

1. Validation seem to happen when you send the first message to check if given number is associated with iMessage 2. Second time onward it only checks if the sender is in Data Network or not. 3. There is an option in the iMessage settings > Messages > "Send as SMS" if this option is not selected once the device/iAccount knows the other device is iPhone and you are on Data ... it just sends an iMessage.

Turn "Send as SMS" so that it falls back to SMS if the destination is not available for iMessage.

Their support page makes it sound like they can just de-register iMessage with your account.


A few comments here seem to suggest that this is a carrier or cellular infrastructure issue. It isn't! iMessage doesn't route over SMS-- that's the whole point. It routes to Apple's servers, which should be capable of doing a lookup to see if the number still has an associated iCloud or iMessage account.

There is (or at least used to be) an option on your iPhone that forces the messages to be sent and received over SMS rather than iMessage. I wonder if one could turn on that option on their old phone before switching numbers.

There was a fairly recent change in how iMessages are handled. In one of the iOS updates, you can receive iMessage messages on numerous devices tied to your Apple ID such as your iPad. I wonder if that's where the bug comes from.

The other option is to switch to Android at home and get new friends.

I wonder if one could turn on that option on their old phone before switching numbers.

Yes, one can, and this is the correct and documented way to avoid this problem. Unfortunately, people don't generally think about it before asking their carrier to swap out phones on their line, and your iPhone has no way of knowing you intend to deactivate it.

I had a very similar problem when I drowned my iPhone and switched my SIM to an old Windows Phone 7 I had lying around. If you have your old phone, you can disable iMessage while the SIM is still in it, which apparently works -- but if you don't, you're basically up a creek. I ended up changing the email address on my iCloud account.

It baffles me that online iCloud doesn't have a dashboard for controlling this. Doesn't seem it should be that hard to unlink phone numbers from iMessage.

I had the same issue, but I was able to still retrieve the messages via another apple device that was still connected to the iMessage service. I was then able to disassociate my number with the service.

When I had my iPhone, I had originally linked both my email and my phone number to the same iMessage account, so fortunately I never lost messages.

If it was tied to your email as well, you might be able to disable the service via another apple device.

It's even worse if you want to keep an iDevice registered for facetime/iMessage use. You can't toggle it on and off on demand.

Unfortunately I'm in the same boat right now. Tried calling them and having the number removed, etc...

Been going on like this for over a month.

I've been having the same issue and it ruined part of my vacation as people I was meeting up with on vacation thought I was ignoring their texts and we never met up.

What adds insult to injury is that all ios devices are shipped by default with the setting set to not send by sms when user not found on iMessage.

Apple should own up to this problem publicly and compensate users.

The only reliable fix I've seen for this is to have your friends remove and re-add your mobile number from their contacts.

Whenever I look at the iMessage icon on my iPhone/iPad, I feel it had so much potential when it came out but Apple just squandered it like a brat. If only they had opened the gates on interoperability ..sigh !

Sometime back they were arrogant and brilliant, not just the former.

What's wrong with iMessage on Android app? http://imessageonandroid.com/

Why this exact same issue is poppup up in HN every now and then...

Sorry my fault. It's a scam.

Had a friend recently go through this. She called up Apple, had her number deregistered and about a day or two later everything started flowing correctly again...

Same story here. Switched to an android decide and no one could text me for months. Months! It's almost unbelievable.

frustrating, indeed. the short answer is, if you are in the know, and you switch from iphone to android, disable iMessage on your iPhone first.

It would be great to see an interoperable solution replace iMessage, but for now, it is (purportedly) secure and often more reliable than text messaging. I still pay for an unlimited sms plan.

> I still pay for an unlimited ams plan

I just couldn't bring myself to be extorted 25 or 50 cents per text. Why is there no government investigation in to this? No class action?

I thank Apple for at least allowing me to text the majority of my friends for free.

Why aren't they making sure there's an active iPhone number associated before delivering any iMessages?

Obvious solution.

I have similar issues with an iPhone and iPad synced to the same account. Stuff is always out of sync.

Is it conceivable that Apple are deliberately ignoring this issue as it does exactly what they would want?

It punishes people who move away from their platform with social isolation.

It's easy for them to overlook this issue and not put any effort into fixing it, because the investment would result in a better experience for everyone who switching away from Apple.

No. This is not conceivable. In fact, Apple has never taken a single documented action which would be at all similar to this.

If one thinks about it for just a moment, one can see the hilarity of even suspecting this. Apple has very consistently provided the best overall experience and service in the industry over the last 15 years. They have done this regardless of whether you are using one of their products (PC users who use iTunes) or their entire ecosystem of products.

It strains credulity to think that Apple would attempt to punish a customer who is moving away from a given iPhone (perhaps even to a new iPhone!). That customer could very well still use several other Apple products for years or even decades in the future. You expect us to believe that Apple would antagonize that customer in a grade-school fashion, out of spite?

It's just nonsense to even think this.

This again? FFS RTFM...

Hey look, the new comment-approval policy totally fixed trashy low-effort comments on HN.

Please don't reply to trashy low-effort comments on HN with trashy low-effort comments on HN.

> save the green vs. blue bubbles, which are in their own way a sort of weird social/status indicator

Save your opinionated anti Apple rhetoric. The color coded indicator allows people to know which features are included in the service, or whether your text was delivered and read or in your case, not delivered...

While color coding totally serves a useful purpose, it's also DEFINITELY used by some as a indicator of status or inclusion in a group. People are super tribal, and will use any indicators available to indicate inclusion or exclusion.

Think different...

Oh cmon, how is this any different from Google Hangouts? Messages sent from Google Hangout's are green, and default SMS is grey.

iMessage uses shading based on transport (SMS/MMS vs. iMessage) for both your messages and others, but from looking at my own mixed SMS/MMS/Hangouts threads, Google uses green for your outbound messages sent with Hangouts, and grey for your outbound SMS/MMS messages and all incoming messages (with "via SMS" and "via MMS" alongside the time display on in- and out-bound SMS/MMS messages.)

So, to the extent that the Apple behavior can be seen as signalling in-group membership with color of messages, it is distinctly different from Google Hangouts, since the only person whose messages are colored to indicate delivery method in Hangouts are yours, not the ones you receive from others.

I would find it VERY surprising if those colour choices were purely accidental, wouldn't you?

On iOS, messages were always green, until the introduction of iMessages. The blue colour is therefore associated with newness. Like when you open a skeuomorphic iOS 6 app and no matter if you like the interface or not it's associated with an older.. dare I say "dated" look and feel.

On Android I don't know the history, but I do know that grey is definitely less vibrant than green... grey is dull, faded, old, etc.

I mean, we can argue about the size of the impact of these choices, but you must agree there was some intention to them.

This was hardly anti-Apple rhetoric, it was sociocultural commentary.

I find it interesting how so many people still find it acceptable in 2014 to be using a "phone number" as their id.

It's a number you can't even pick yourself: you _pay_ to get a randomly assigned digits, at best with the ability to reroll (also not always free).

To me, it feels like someone using an `@aol.com` email in 2014. Or a rotary phone.

The phone number is a backwards compatibility feature. We have modern ways of locating a user (see SIP, Email), but those won't be compatible with POTS.

The use case here, Apple's iMessage, in fact allows users to use alternate methods of user lookup, including multiple email addresses.

If you don't find it acceptable, what do you propose as an alternative?

> If you don't find it acceptable, what do you propose as an alternative?

So far, the best alternative for id that I've found is...

Email address.

It's highly available, free to create, and you can pick your own letters/numbers that are meaningful. It can even be your name. Definitely better than phone number digits at being an id that I can share with my friends or those who I want to be able to contact me.

(For voice calls, I primarily use FaceTime Audio because they support email as id. But I also have skype, voip number for backwards compatibility, etc.)

Phone numbers are portable between providers, email addresses are not. So email addresses make worse identifiers (where consistency rather than encoded meaning is the important thing) than phone numbers.

(Also, the "pay to get a randomly assigned number" isn't always true: my Google Voice number was free, and I got to ask for particular digits string to be included and got to choose from a list of numbers that met that requirement.)

In one foreign country that I know of (Mongolia), can pick from a list of available phone numbers when you sign up for service. They also hold them as commodities which can be bought or sold, as some of the older numbers had a numbering scheme which made them seem more prestigious. Each network has different numbering schemes, so you can tell what network someone is using by their number. Unfortunately, networks also charge more (or at least used to) for texts/calls between networks than within the network.

This site has a solution:

1. Reset your Apple ID password and do not log back in on your device(s)

2. Send a text to 48369 with the word STOP

It won’t happen immediately but over a 12-hour period, you should start receiving texts on your Android device that are sent from iPhone users.


Official Apple knowledge base info: http://support.apple.com/kb/TS5185

I think it's important to note that the Apple KB explicitly states that the steps outlined in the parent comment and article do not work.

Which conflicts with http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5538 (under Unlink a phone number).

What that doesn't say is that when you call, they will tell you that a support incident will cost $30.

"Performing these tasks won't deregister iMessage" from: http://support.apple.com/kb/TS5185

What is the point of that section then?

Because the steps in that section keep getting passed around as possible fixes. Some of them are mentioned in this very thread. Sadly, it's been my experience that the fix Apple does suggest doesn't work reliably (works for some, not for others), either.

EDIT: holy crap, as toddn points out above, apparently that section is also to contradict the bad information that is passed around in Apple's own KB articles: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5538

I did all this a few weeks ago but still had to wait a few weeks for my friends' iPhones to realize my number was no longer iMessage enabled. During that time they all had to "Resend as SMS" on their messages to me.

We all ended up on Google Hangouts in the end (the iOS app is nice!)

Is the destruction of SMS as a technology necessarily bad? I don't think so. Like ripping off a band aid, get it over with and move on.

This isn't about destroying SMS, it's about Apple's OS blocking communication to a number because they make permanent assumptions about the device at the other end.

This article is not arguing against a replacement of current SMS technology. It addresses specific issues iMessage users are experiencing and the fact that it is controller by a single corporate entity.

SMS isn't that bad. http://jimkeener.com/posts/sms I like it and find it useful in many circumstances.

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