iOS 5, the operating system that Apple released in October for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, introduced many exciting features. My favorite feature, My Favorite New iOS 5 Trick!, is a handy shortcut, but there are plenty of other amazing features you should know about, including iMessage.
iMessage is a feature that not only is handy, it might also save you money. iMessage allows users of the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch to send free messages, similar to text messages.
What You Need to Know
- With iMessage, text messages you send to another iOS device (iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch), are free. Your carrier will not charge you for either sending or receiving an iMessage.
- iMessages do not count against your monthly allotment of text messages for your cell phone plan.
- You can send text and/or photos in iMessages.
- iMessages can be sent from your iPhone or 3G iPad even if you don’t have a Wi-Fi connection.
- Unlike text messages, there are no character limits for iMessage so you can write as much as you want.
- iMessage works with Siri so you can tell Siri to send a message for you.
- iMessage works across international borders.
How to Use iMessage
To use iMessage, go into Settings => Messages and turn iMessage On. You also can choose to turn on Send Read Receipts. That means that people who send you iMessages will be notified when you read the message.
If you own an iPad or iPod Touch, you can enter the email address you want to use with iMessage. On the iPhone, you use your cell phone number plus you can add an email address if you want to use an email address for iMessage as well. This comes in handy if you own both an iPhone and an iPad or iPod Touch and want to receive your messages on both devices.
Using iMessage on an iPhone
On an iPhone, using iMessage is easy but can be confusing. There is no separate app for iMessage, you just use your regular texting app.
In Settings on your iPhone, you can turn off “Send As SMS.” With this option off, the message won’t be sent out if message can only be sent as a text message and not an iMessage. You want to turn this option off if you’re not sure whether someone has iMessage and you’re concerned about being charged for sending a text message.
Using iMessage on the iPad and iPod Touch
You can receive iMessages on your iPad and iPod Touch. Go into Settings => Messages and turn iMessage On. You may be prompted to log in to your iTunes account the first time you set up iMessage. You then choose an email to be assigned to the device.
Go to the Message app and open it. Choose from your contacts and send a message to someone else with iMessage. You need to use an email address instead of a phone number even if you’re sending an iMessage to someone with an iPhone.
To send an iMessage to someone on his iPad or iPod Touch, use the email address that he has linked to iMessage. If the person does not have iMessage registered to that email address, you won’t be able to send the iMessage.
iMessage in Action
The app will recognize whether you have sent a message to someone with an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch who uses iMessage (Team Blue!). Your sent message will appear in blue:
If the person receiving the message doesn’t use iMessage, your sent message will be in green (this message was sent to someone who has an iPhone but hadn’t yet upgraded to iOS 5 so didn’t have iMessage).
Unfortunately, there is no way to know whether the person you’re sending the message to uses iMessage (Team Blue) or doesn’t (Team Green) until after you have sent the message.
Sometimes iMessage doesn’t work. If you’re counting on iMessage working, make sure to turn off “Send As SMS” (see above). If you send a message to someone who has iMessage, but iMessage isn’t available, your message will appear in green and the notice “Sent as Text Message” will appear below your message.
These text messages were sent to me from a Wonder of Tech reader in Jamaica this weekend who has iMessage, but it wasn’t working:
Whether a person is Team Blue or Team Green may not matter to you if you:
- have an unlimited text plan,
- don’t send images in your texts or
- don’t send texts to people internationally.
After you have been using iMessage for a while on your iPhone, check to see how many monthly text messages use your cell phone plan. If you have a lot of friend who use an iPhone you may see that the number of text messages you have sent and received has dropped significantly.
If you use Verizon, you may be able to save money by reducing your text plan from unlimited texts at $20/month to 1000 texts at $10/month. Unfortunately, AT&T only offers a “one-size-fits-all” unlimited text plan at $20/month.
iMessage on the Mac
Last week, Apple announced Mountain Lion, an update to the operating system for Mac computers due out in the Summer. Part of the update includes Apple bringing iMessage to Macs so you will be able send and receive iMessages from your computer. Learn more about using iMessage on your Mac here: iMessage and Mountain Lion
If you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, make sure you’ve upgraded your device to iOS 5 and activated iMessage in Settings. Then enjoy sending messages to your Team Blue friends around the world for free!
Have you used iMessage? Have you wondered why some of your messages were in blue? Have you tried iMessage on your iPad or iPod Touch? Let us know in the Comments section below!