iPhone Not Sending Text Messages? Here’s How to Fix SMS

May 12, 2016 - 41 Comments

Fix iPhone not sending text messages

When an iPhone user sends a text message to a non-iPhone user like an Android phone, the message is sent through SMS, as is indicated by a green message bubble. Sending text messages by SMS is also the fallback when an iMessage doesn’t send for whatever reason. Typically transmitting an SMS text message is very reliable, but sometimes an iPhone won’t send a text message, and in such a situation you’ll likely want to troubleshoot the problem.


Keep in mind that most iPhone users communicate with other iPhone users with the iMessage protocol, which is signified by the blue message bubbles (as opposed to the green bubble which signifies SMS / text messaging). Of course, sometimes the iPhone won’t use the iMessage protocol even if the sender is on an iPhone as well, particularly if the recipient is out of service area or has turned off the iMessage service for some other reason. We’re not really focusing on iMessage here though, we’re focusing on the standard text message protocol instead. Nonetheless, these troubleshooting tips may resolve an iMessage problem as well.

Why is my iPhone not sending text messages? Here’s why, and the fix

There are several reasons why an iPhone may not be sending SMS text messages, often it’s service related. Let’s review those possible reasons and then cover some troubleshooting steps.

Cell Service Issues Can Prevent Sending Text Messages from iPhone

Before proceeding with troubleshooting, let’s cover the most obvious service related reasons why an iPhone won’t send a text message:

  • The iPhone has no cellular signal – no SMS text messages can be sent without a traditional cell signal
  • The iPhone has no service – if the iPhone does not have a cellular service plan active, it will not be able to send text messages
  • The cellular reception is so bad that iPhone can’t send a text message – if service is awful (think 1 bar or 1 dot or cycling between “Searching…” and dots), the phone likely won’t be able to send or receive text messages
  • The cell number you are reaching is disconnected – this is often the problem if the recipient has recently changed a phone number or you have multiple contact numbers for the same person, so be sure you are addressing the proper phone number
  • AirPlane mode is enabled, thereby disabling the ability to send messages and text messages – toggling AirPlane mode off will fix this specific issue quickly

It’s pretty obvious when a text message doesn’t send (or iMessage too), you’ll see a little red (!) bang exclamation sign next to the message, usually with a ‘not delivered’ message.

text message not sending on an iPhone example

If any of those service related issues are the problem, you’ll need to either regain a stronger cellular signal with the iPhone, or reactivate a cellular service plan if applicable, or insure the proper contact is being messaged. If the cellular connection or service is not the issue, continue on with troubleshooting techniques to fix SMS transmission from iPhones.

Turn the iPhone Off and On

Often times rebooting an iPhone is sufficient to remedy problems like this. Simply hold down the Power button and the Home button until the Apple logo appears on the screen. When the iPhone powers back on, try sending the text message again.

How to Force Reboot an iPhone

Be Certain SMS Sending is Enabled on iPhone

Most iPhone users have iMessage enabled, but some may have accidentally (or intentionally) turned off SMS support.

  1. Open the Settings app and go to “Message”
  2. Locate the switch for “Send as SMS” and turn this to the ON position (if send as SMS is already on, try turning it off for about 10 seconds and then turn it back on again)
  3. Return to Messages and try sending the text message again

Toggle Send As SMS to be enabled on iPhone

If SMS sending is disabled, only iMessages will be sent, meaning no Android or Windows phone users could be contacted, and anyone without iMessage enabled wouldn’t be reachable through text either.

Reset Network Settings

Resetting network settings can be a pain because you lose wi-fi passwords and custom DNS, but it can also be a cure-all solution for many common networking issues with iPhone, including the inability to send messages. Here’s what to do:

  1. Open the Settings app and go to “General”
  2. Choose “Reset” and then select “Reset Network Settings”
  3. Confirm to reset network settings, this will reboot the iPhone

Reset network settings

When the iPhone boots back up again, all network data and settings are trashed and so you’ll need to re-join networks, but on the plus side, it usually fixes any weird networking issues. Go back to Messages app at this point and try to send the text message, it should work just fine.

Delete & Re-Create a New Message

Sometimes simply deleting a message thread and recreating a new message is sufficient to resolve a message sending failure. Why this works is anyones guess, but if it works, who cares?

  1. Open the Messages app on the iPhone and swipe left on the message to remove
  2. Choose “Delete”, then tap the new message button and create a new message thread to the recipient, sending as usual

Delete a text message and send again

Other Possible Solutions to Problems Sending Text Messages & iMessage Sending

Know of any other tricks to resolve an inability to send text messages? Let us know in the comments!

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

41 Comments

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  1. Tim lai says:

    Good, It worked for me, just by reset network settings. Thanks you

  2. Phred says:

    The funny thing is, I have trouble with blue. So, unless you specifically tell me to look for blue and green, I will not notice the diffrence.

    I bought an iPad, and never felt the urge to tap the messaging icon.

    I later bought an iPhone 5, then two years later, a 6+, and never noticed the difference. I only learned about iMessage once I read about it in the press.

    Later I noticed that I had a lot of iMessages on my iPad. I closed out iMessage on both devices and put an end to them.

    I work in IT as a Linux developer. If I did not notice, what chance did “john consumer” have?

    I think iMessage was a cruel joke that the Apple developers played on the consumer.

    • Steve says:

      Literally millions of people of all ages, from children to seniors, use iMessage without any problem. No instruction needed.

      So the issue seems to be you and not iMessage. But I admire your courage in publicly admitting your shortcomings.

      • Phred says:

        Steve… It is easy to be a dick and you are out to prove it.

        I doubt that half the iMessage users are aware that they are using it. I am not even talking about those of us with vision imparement. It so happens that 1 in 12 European men are partly colorblind. I happen to have difficulty with blue vs green.

      • Chris NYC says:

        Steve you are pathetic. Typical internet warrior. Tough guy behind those keys….wimp in the real world. Probably still living home with mommy and daddy.

    • Bigger Bird says:

      I use iMessage and SMS. iMessage is a great product, I hope that Apple creates an iMessage for Android app, and iMessage for Windows too – I know that sounds crazy, but that’s what WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are, and it would further help Apple in the messaging business.

      Anyway, to your issue, I notice that many people have a hard time differentiating the blue message and green text bubbles, anyone who is color blind or has vision issues tends to have this problem (along with the tiny text on everything and lack of buttons) this is just one of many ways that Apple has dropped the ball on accessibility in favor of The Jony Ive-ification of user interfaces, which translates to bad user experience in favor of a mockup user interface that looks good on paper in Industrial Design 101 class but would fail any User Interaction Design class. Of course, Jony Ive is untouchable at Apple, he is The King and spends all his days at fashion shows, so maybe he is going to retire soon, it certainly feels that way with the horribly ugly iPhone 6s design!

  3. Phred says:

    Thanks “bird”. “Steve” was being rude. He did not seem to get that I am colorblind.

  4. jason says:

    Apple’s hardware is amazing. Thank you S Jobs. Love my Macbook.

    But when it comes to software….oh my.

    Colorblind is not something Apple’s designers were prepared to design for. Bigger Bird is spot on about their design issues. Apple dumbed-down great hardware in the name of their religion called Software Simplification. Today, Apple’s software is their Apple Achilles’ Heel. It’s great on paper with philosophy but short on designing for real users. While Jony Ive demonstrates his hubris, Jobs must be screaming from the other side.

    • Phred says:

      Yes Jason, you make a good point. I bought a macbook air to replace my Dell netbook that was showing its age. I “minimized” OS-X by removing a lot of the components (Spotlight, Airdrop, IMovie, Quicktime, Messaging, Itunes, facetime, mail….) so the OS would be very compact. I installed VMware. I now run Linux pretty much full time on my macbook. VMware runs fantastically on the macbook.

      We are not allowed cameras at my workplace, so I fixed that problem using some silver paint.

  5. Peter Hartnall says:

    I found a very simple solution to an sms message not going to an android phone from an iOS device. Just leave the subject line blank. It works a treat.

  6. Jack says:

    Ho do I subscribe to osxdaily.com?

    Thanks

  7. JimBob says:

    Wish I could send SMS from iMessages on my Mac. Help says I can, but in fact I can’t even though iPhone is set up to send (and does send) SMS. Tried the other day to send to friend’s Android phone from Mac. Message had blue bubble and the information (I) says “number not registered with iMessage.” No kidding!

  8. Sebby says:

    That isn’t what the “Send as SMS” switch is for, though; that only applies when the recipient is an iMessage user and the fallback to SMS would otherwise happen. It will go through normally for SMS, or at least it’s supposed to.

    Something you didn’t mention but should IMO: tell people who travel to out-of-data-coverage regions to turn off iMessage. Otherwise, iMessages can be “delivered”, to the traveller’s other devices. Your traveller wouldn’t want that, and nor would your sender. Also mention that if you hold on a message that is not yet delivered with iMessage, you can “send as text message”. This sometimes (always???!!!) fails to occur automatically. Apple could (and should) have been smarter about this, insisting that a registered iMessage number-holding device check in with iMessage at regular intervals, so when the registered device goes out of range, so does iMessage delivery for that number.

  9. Nania says:

    Thank you. Resetting the network worked!

  10. Adhib says:

    My partner upgraded to an iPhone SE, and lost SMS contact with her mom (android user) but not with me (android user). Baffled.

  11. Molly says:

    My boyfriend purchased a phone at Walmart and got a prepaid plan to go with it. It’s an LG smartphone, but my iphone insists on sending imessages to his phone even though it’s a new number and new service. The blue bubbles will say delivered and read, but that can’t be possible because it is not an iPhone! The only way I can text him is if I turn iMessage off completely. My calls go through to him just fine, but why is my phone sending iMessages to a NON iPhone. I’ve spoken to apple care and Apple Store, and they have no idea. Any clue?

  12. mike says:

    This helped me a lot, thank you!

  13. Nancy Speer says:

    Found this article, might help ya. 🤔

  14. Cher says:

    I appreciate your answer to my problem. It not only helped me solve the problem it helped me understand how the variables work .I am over 60 and all my devices are Apple but I still need simple easy to understand steps in lay terms.5⭐️’S

  15. Janet says:

    Thank you, the “Reset Network Settings” worked!

  16. Cleo says:

    I’ve tried numerous things included “reset network settings” and it didn’t work. I was able to send a text message to a particular person last week and this week it doesn’t work. Can send texts to others, just not this particular person. Don’t know what has changed from this week to last week. Very frustrating.

  17. Cleo says:

    So. This morning the other people that I was able to text…..well I can’t now. Get a “not delivered” error.

  18. Tity says:

    I thank everybody for trying to help me.
    But the question still the same, i receive every message but I can’t receive anyone!
    I don’t know what I can do!

  19. Tity says:

    Excuse me! I would like to say that I can’t send any message

  20. Rebecca says:

    Have trouble sending texts to android users. It’ll be fine for a while and then Randomly it’ll say not delivered, even when they are delivered and then other times they’ll stick. I have a iPhone 7 plus.

  21. Nick says:

    I have a Chinese Uhans ,, android phone, had sms “failed to send” notice.. you must set the native messengers setting with the call centre number applicable to your carrier, Telstra, Optus, Virgin etc..

    set the number then test it….
    install your favourite sms app as default…. textra, signal etc..
    enjoy!!!!

    Happy New Year 2017

  22. Anon says:

    Reset network plus delete and rewrite message — finally, it worked. Thank you for sharing info!

  23. Luke says:

    iPhone 6 not delivering texts to 3 T mobile Android phones. Tried all these suggestions. Only 1 solution works for us. Disable iMessage. Now SMS works as normal. And watch out this Apple send to turn iMessage on when updating phone. Sneaky buggers.

  24. Glo says:

    I tried all of these troubleshooting stuff and it Still doesn’t work. Any other options

  25. Shahbaz says:

    My problem is strange.. i wonder if anyone can help me.. whenever i try sending a msg to more then one receipent it says ‘not delivered’ i have reset network. Reset all settings. Even reset factory settings… still the problem continues… and its more frustrating when i try the same thing from my friends phon and his phon works properly in this matter

  26. Chis s says:

    Resetting the network settings worked for me!!! Thanks!!

    Steve. You must have voted for Trump. You have his sense of Tweet deplomacy!!!!!

  27. Joe H says:

    By deleting the previous messages and recreating new messages, it fixed my problem of not being able to send messages using an international SIM. Thanks for the help!

  28. Bae says:

    Nothing is working for me

    • Roger says:

      Have you tried searching at both websites of 1. support.apple.com and 2. discussions.apple.com ?

      You can usually find an answer there; lots of power users (and regular users) as well as helpful employees. Very cool websites!

    • Chase says:

      Just got my iPhone 6 Plus put on Straight Talk and literally everything in my phone works except for being able to send sms texts, and in the send/receive section in Setting>Messages not only is not there at all sometimes, but also when it is ONLY my email shows up, my phone number is not even an option to choose…… so frustrating

  29. Roger says:

    Anybody know exactly what the options of “Group Messaging” and “SMS Messaging” do? Having trouble finding a clear answer at support.apple.com. I’m thinking of adjusting those since someone in my group list can’t receive MMS. The 1 person in my group can only receive SMS.

  30. Kent says:

    Like to clarify some information that some people are mentioning but apparently are not paying attention to. First off, whether your color blind or not in terms of blue or green in the messages; you can still know whether it is a imessage or text message based on what the text box shows(the box on the bottom where you type the message ). It will say “imessage” which corresponds to blue or “text message” which corresponds to green. Most people don’t pay attention to that but it is a good way to know whether it is a imessage or text message. The imessage is based on the “Apple” ID that you are using whether the phone number or your email; and would like to point out that some devices like the Ipad which uses email ID can only send text to those people who are also using a “Apple” device. Also, imessage is done with wifi usage while text is done with cellular data

  31. Sezny says:

    I had this problem for months SMS nor sending reiceving ok Apple and EE could not help tried everything new device changed number still no iMessage activation. Got new sim and worked straight away. Was talking sim out when pawning phone and using in a cheap model must of damaged it but it works now so relieved

  32. Denzel says:

    I kelt getting not delivered when trying to send text messsge. I tried reset network, forced hard boot, turn of and on iMM, MMS, SMS, buttons, did everything you mentioned, but it would not deliver my message. So I dropped down the page, and in the hot IPHONE issue, it said if phone running hot, close down all apps. I double tap my home button, then cleared all running apps. Went back to the text and it was already sent my closing down all background apps. Thanks

  33. LWalk says:

    My problem is iPhone to iPhone. All text messages are received except for mine. Any advice?

  34. Jane Roberts says:

    My problem is that I can call a Samsung phone number and have a conversation but my text messages don’t seem to be being received, even though they are showing as being sent. And it’s only a problem with one/two particular numbers!!!???? Any suggestions? Thank you

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