How to Disable iMessage on the iPhone Completely
iMessage is the fantastic free messaging service from Apple that lets iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac users send each other endless free text messages, pictures, and videos. Because iMessage skips the standard SMS/text protocol from cellular carriers and relies on data transmission instead, it can often help you reduce your phone bill by cutting out the text message plan fee, or at least reducing it to a lower cost.
All the benefits to using iMessage hardly matters if you need to turn off the iMessaging service for another reason, so long as you are clear as to why you are disabling it in the first place. No, we don’t mean temporarily sending an SMS text on a one-off basis, though that can be a workaround for some situations. The fact is there may be times where turning off iMessage in it’s entirety is necessary, whether due to cell reception problems, sporadically inadequate cell service, not having a data plan with the iPhone, hitting a data cap, or even switching from an iPhone to an Android or Windows device, be it temporary or permanent. With the latter situation of switching, disabling iMessage while on the iPhone is essential, otherwise inbound messages can sometimes be caught up in a mystery no-mans land, never delivering the intended recipient.
We’ll go a bit more in-depth about some of the common reasons why you’d want to turn off the universally loved service below, but first let’s show how to disable iMessage on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch in iOS.
How to Turn Off the iMessage Service
This disables the iMessage service entirely in iOS. On an iPhone that will force the device to fall back to traditional SMS and MMS messaging services. On the iPad and iPod touch, this will turn off all messaging functions on the device entirely, since there is no traditional texting to fall back on.
- Open the “Settings” app in iOS
- Choose the “Messages” option
- Toggle the topmost switch for “iMessage” to the OFF position
To be perfectly clear, if you disable iMessage you will no longer receive any type of iMessages, though you will continue to receive traditional text messages (SMS and MMS). This means that a user who is trying to text message you from an iPhone or other smartphone will still succeed in reaching you, but a user who tries to iMessage you from an iPad, iPod touch, or Mac, will not fail, since those devices do not have the cellular capability of falling back onto the SMS protocol. Doing so will also turn off the “Read” and “Delivered” Receipts completely, because SMS texting doesn’t offer the same ability.
Note that turning off the iMessaging service will not delete any current message threads, that must be done manually if it’s needed.
Once you’ve turned off the service, all future Message threads will use green text bubbles and the text input box will say ‘Text Message’ to indicate they are going through the SMS protocol. If you continue to see blue text bubbles with the ‘iMessage’ block within the input box for new messages, you probably didn’t turn off the service.
Here’s what a text message looks like within the Messages app:
Why Bother? 4 Common Reasons to Turn Off iMessage
Though we generally recommend leaving iMessage turned on because it’s a great service, there are undoubtedly reasons you may want to disable it, even on a temporary basis. Here are some of the most common reasons to turn off iMessage and allow an iPhone to use SMS/text messaging exclusively instead.
You’re Messaging in a 2G / GPRS / EDGE / Low Reception Area
Because iMessage relies on cell data, you need a reasonably decent cellular connection to be able to send and receive messages. That’s why if you’re in an area with really bad reception on a horrible network you’ll often not be able to send iMessages at all. Sometimes, but not always, turning off iMessage can get the text messages to go through on both ends. Of course you can also selectively send iMessages as Texts through the SMS protocol too, but if you’re in a conversation it’s easier to just turn the entire service off temporarily.
iMessage Uses Data Plans
Yes, iMessage uses a cell phones data plan. Thus, if you have a very small data plan with a low capacity (usually 100MB or less per month) and you’re getting pelted with media messages of tons of photos and videos from friends, you may want to use caution and consider disabling the iMessage service, because all those multimedia messages can add up quick. For simple text based iMessages, each message is tiny, measured in a few KB (rather than MB), and thus there’s usually nothing to worry about unless you have no data plan at all, which brings us to the next reason….
The iPhone is Using a Cellular Plan with No Data but Unlimited Texting
iMessage takes very small amounts of data to use (unless you’re sending a lot of pictures and videos, that is), but that small data use doesn’t matter much if you don’t have a data plan on the iPhone at all. This is a fairly common situation for those who are using iPhones as Pay-Go devices, or when going traveling abroad and using a cheap SIM card with calling and texting support only.
Switching to an Android / Windows Phone (Even Temporarily)
Turning off iMessage is absolutely essential if you plan on using the same phone number and SIM card with an Android phone or another smartphone, even if the usage is just on a temporary basis to try out a new Nexus, otherwise you’ll find that most inbound text messages, be it SMS or MMS, simply won’t appear on the Android device. This is a truly weird side effect of leaving iMessage on if someone has switched phones from iPhone to just about anything else, and one that many people complain about if they have switched smartphone platforms. The only obvious way to prevent that is to disable iMessage on the iPhone before switching out the SIM card or phone number, but a fair amount of users forget to do this and thus they wind up with some of their inbound messages lost. Frustrating, but there will likely be another solution to this introduced in the future that doesn’t require disabling iMessage directly on the iPhone itself.