Fix the iMessage “Waiting for Activation” Error

Dec 20, 2012 - 13 Comments

Waiting for Activation error in iMessage

Despite setting up iMessage properly, some users occasionally encounter a “Waiting for Activation” error either upon updating to a new version of iOS or getting a new device. It’s a pretty annoying error since so much dialog is reliant on messaging these days, so we’ll run through a series of troubleshooting tips to fix the problem once and for all.

First things first, make sure you are connected to a wi-fi connection. There are various reports out there of iMessage not initially activating for some users over cellular connections, and thus connecting to a local wireless router will either resolve that or rule that out. Also, if you have iMessage working on one device and the issue is with syncing, jump to the bottom of this article and you’ll see some tips recommended for that situation instead.

Next, try these two tricks in any particular order:

1) Set “My Info” As Yourself

This should have set itself, but if not, here’s how:

  • Open “Settings” and go to “Mail, Contacts, Calendars”
  • Scroll down to the “Contacts” section and tap on “My Info”
  • Select your own (yes, yourself) contact card from the list

This identifies your phone number and your email address as yourself, which iMessage uses to activate, thereby knowing where to deliver messages to and where to send from. This fixes the iMessage activation issue for most people by itself.

2) Reset Network Settings

Many connection errors can be resolved by simply resetting network preferences. Be sure to have wi-fi router passwords handy before doing this, because you will need to re-enter them again.

  • Open Settings then go to “General” and scroll down to “Reset”
  • Choose “Reset Network Settings”

Reboot the iOS device and give it a few minutes. iMessage and FaceTime should be working.

If you’re still having issues, you can try completely restoring your iOS device to factory settings and then recovering with a backup. It’s a bit of an extreme approach, but it can help to resolve continued problems.

Extreme: Erase Everything & Restore

This is obviously a less-than-ideal solution, but it has been reported with some success for various iPhone, iPod, and iPad users. This puts your iOS device back into the original state when you bought it, which you can then restore from a backup.

  • Back up your iOS device manually either through iTunes or iCloud – this is important or you will lose everything
  • After backup is complete (no really, did you backup?), go to “Settings” > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings to initiate the factory restore
  • Confirm the reset and wait, when finished restore from the backup you made

This entire process can take a while, depending on the size of the backups, what’s stored on your device, amongst other things. You may want to go with the fastest way to restore and backup using iTunes rather than iCloud, simply because it’s quicker to transfer data over USB than the internet.

Some Additional iMessage Troubleshooting Tips

Once you get iMessage working on one device, you’ll probably want to be sure it syncs across all your iOS devices and between iOS and OS X as well. Sometimes they don’t happen by themselves, and they’re both resolved with separate fixes.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting

13 Comments

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  1. Erbo says:

    I haven’t run into this, but I do wonder if this corresponds with mixed reports of battery life suffering after the iOS 6.0.2 update? Perhaps the device is constantly trying to activate, and the nonstop pinging of services is draining the battery faster than expected? Just a thought.

  2. Vlad says:

    It might be nonsense, but I’ve this problem once after a trip to another country AND using a sim card from an telecom from that country AND messing with the time zone field and “set automatically” buttons.

    After trying all (yes.. all) the steps mentioned in this article, what finally solved the issue was entering my then actual time zone manually and, after that, enabling the “set automatically” button…

    Nonsense but… it worked.

  3. Ishap says:

    Great post! Though it might be a good idea to link to Apple’s support documentation.

    iOS: Troubleshooting FaceTime and iMessage activation – http://support.apple.com/kb/TS4268

    iOS 6 and OS X Mountain Lion: Link your phone number and Apple ID for use with FaceTime and iMessage – http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5538

  4. amamiau says:

    the easiest way and always work is to turn off MMS Messaging before you activate the iMessgaes, try it, its easy dont have to try all annoying step above, i hope it help, hehe

  5. Ben says:

    You can also checking the time & date setting.

  6. Cameramen says:

    This is working for me finally https://discussions.apple.com/message/20632625#20632625

    Let me know if this works, thank you.

  7. iHateiPhone(sometimes) says:

    I tried ALL of the other suggestions, but the only thing that worked was a total restore using iTunes. I made a manual backup before restoring, ran the restore to factory settings then when iTunes opened to the screen asking whether to setup as new iPhone or restore from previous backup I selected the backup that I just had created previously. Worked great!

  8. alfred says:

    I had the same problem with locked Sprint Iphone 5. Im using R-SIM7 for unlock and couldn’t activate my phone, sms, 3G, imessages and facetime wasn’t working(Waiting for activation). Long story short, I managed to fix:

    1. To fix this you need to jailbreak with evasi0n and download iFile from cydia(or you can just use ifunbox).

    2.Go to (CarrierLab.bundle or 00101 folder) /System/Library/Carrier Bundles/iPhone/00101/carrier.plist

    -back up the file carrier.plist (just in case)

    Go to the following line and add +011 so it looks like +011447786205094

    PhoneNumberRegistrationGatewayAddress+011447786205094

    SAVE

    3.Now go to /System/Library/Carrier Bundles/iPhone/Unknown.bundles/carrier.plist

    ADD -> “+011″ To all the 10 numbers you see.

    PhoneNumberRegistrationGatewayAddress+011447537410207

    SAVE

    4.Now go to /System/Library/Carrier Bundles/iPhone/*carrier that your phone is locked to*/carrier.plist

    Find SMS perfix under international and delete “011” value so it looks like

    SAVE

    5. To fix 3G go to /System/Library/Carrier Bundles/iPhone/Unknown.bundles/carrier.plist find SIMs and copy all those “xxxxx” number from there and now go to /System/Library/Carrier Bundles/iPhone/*carrier that your phone is locked to*/carrier.plist4. and find this line intldataroamingallowed *paste here*

    SAVE then reboot.

    If 3G still not working change to correct APN using unlockit.co.nz

    Hope this helps anyone having the same issues.

  9. Bree.jpg says:

    YAY! Thank you so much! i have been trying to fix this problem for hours! I was so frustrated.

    10/10 !!!

    Thank you! (:

  10. Ankit says:

    Worked for me. Great work!!!!

  11. John says:

    After reading so much on various websites … And using various PAYG SIM cards on iPhones in different countries… I came across this problem often.
    After an initial couple of hours pulling my hair out .. I noted that each time I turned iMessage ON … I got a message “your provider may charge you for this sms”.
    Indeed, after a 50 minute discussion with Vodafone, I discovered that although having bought 10.00 gbp top up … This had been converted to a few hundred free “”””UK”””” texts, data and calls. In the end Vodafone agreed with me that the iPhone (5 and 6 running iOS 7 and 8 at the time) actually had to send a text message to USA. So they put 1.00 credit on my card and then I tried … And was instantly connected.
    Various persons have this problem and on each occasion I have noted they could not send a foreign text message. The activation does not take place on wifi. So, before throwing mud at apple … CHECK … New SIM card ? Do you have credit to allow the activation process text to go to USA …

  12. Lonnie neace says:

    I need u to fix my imessages for me please i really do u need to i am so sad cause it dont work

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