The Full Potential of iMessage

iMessage is an amazing messaging network, originally introduced with iOS 5. Essentially, iMessage gives you the ability to send SMS- and MMS-like messages from one iOS device or Mac to another, for free (data charges may apply based on your data contract). Because it’s such an interesting twist on an existing and simple technology, I thought I would give you a couple things to keep in mind so that you can take full advantage of the service.

Color Matters

When sending messages, you may notice that the chat bubble turns blue when sending/receiving messages with some, while it's green for others. Blue indicates that your using iMessage, while green indicates that you are sending a traditional SMS/MMS message. Here’s how I remember the difference between the two colors: “Green is good but blue is best”. In the example below, we're using iMessage with Mom, while we're using old-fashioned text (SMS/MMS) with Natalia.


This is important to remember because unlike traditional texting (green), iMessage (blue) uses your data plan as its mode of transport. This matters for a few reasons outlined below.

Save Money on Your Monthly Bill

Using iMessage could actually save you money on your monthly bill. If you find that most of your friends, family members and colleagues are using iMessage (i.e.: an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Mac), you can reduce the number of text messages you pay for on your plan each month. While I still have some colleagues that I text with, the vast majority use iMessage. As a result, I was able to reduce my texting plan to 200 texts/month (which saves me $15/month when compared to the unlimited texting plan). 

Using iMessage at 36,000' 

Most airlines now offer in-flight WiFi. While you're not able to send a traditional text message from 36,000 feet, you are able to send an iMessage from 36,000 feet (as long as you are connected to the in-flight WiFi service). I use this feature on every single flight I'm on to keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues while flying.

iMessage on Your Mac

The real power of using iMessage is when you carry a conversation from one device to another. For example, I can begin a conversation on my iPhone, continue it on my laptop, then finish it up on my iPad. Every message, photo and/or video sent or received through your iMessage account will show up on every device you have. This would be impossible with traditional texting.

For this to work, you need to enable iMessage on each of your devices and make sure you are logged in under the same iMessage account (Apple ID). For iOS devices, you can enable the service by going to Settings > Messages. For Macs, open the Messages app (found in Finder under Applications).

Who’s Calling?

iMessage requires you to set a “Caller ID”. This is a designated registered address that all sent iMessages will appear to come from. While it can be set to either a registered phone number or email address, I prefer to set my caller ID to my personal email address. This makes it easy for the recipient to know who's sending the message if they don't have my cell number in their address book. Any iMessage I send out will appear to come from my address.

Note: you can actually set a different Caller ID per device, so make sure that all your devices' Called IDs match, otherwise it could result in confusion for the recipients.

Added Benefits

As if it weren't enough to lower your monthly bill and allow a single conversation to span from device to device, there are more benefits to using iMessage over standard SMS/MMS. Namely, iMessage sends system information back and forth in real-time during your conversation. We see this in 2 ways during every conversation thread:

  1. When the other person is typing, we see a bubble with three dots inside (...). This indicates that the other person is typing. This may not sound significant, but if you see the other person typing, you'll think twice about sending that next message until you receive their response. Once you experience this notification in action, you will definitely miss it with traditional SMS/MMS.
  2. When a message is sent AND delivered to the recipient's device, a status of "Delivered" or "Read" is shown under the message, confirming that the recipient has received and/or read the message.  Note: the status "Read" will only be displayed if the other person has enabled the "Read Receipt" feature).


Posted on September 10, 2013 and filed under How To, iOS, iPad, iPhone, Mac.