Messages Out of Order on iPhone? Try This Solution

May 11, 2018 - 8 Comments

How to fix Messages showing out of order

Have you ever opened an iMessage conversation on iPhone to discover that the messages are out of order? If so, you’re not alone. While it can be annoying to have the Messages appear out of order in the Messages app of iOS, it’s usually a simple fix to get them to be in proper sequential order again. And yes, this applies to the Messages app on iPad as well, so while our focus is primarily on iPhone the techniques to resolve messages appearing in the wrong order is the same on other iOS devices too.


First things first; realize that though the iMessages may appear out of order or as the wrong time, they aren’t actually sent that way and message timestamps of sent/received has not changed – you did not accidentally discover a time machine or warp the space-time continuum. The reason the messages can sometimes appear out of order in iOS is likely a bug, and it can typically be resolved rather quickly using the methods below. There are also a few other reasons that iMessages conversations can appear out of order, usually as a result of a settings adjustment that was made. Let’s dig in:

How to Fix Messages Out of Order on iPhone and iPad

First we’ll cover enabling a Messages in iCloud feature that should resolve messages appearing in the wrong order on iOS devices, and then we’ll address troubleshooting steps to fix Messages showing up out of order on iPhone and iPad too.

0: Enable Messages in iCloud to Stop Messages Showing Up Out of Order on iPhone and iPad

The latest versions of iOS system software allow Messages to sync through iCloud and be stored in iCloud. You may have thought Messages already worked that way but it turns out they do not, instead you have to manually enable Messages in iCloud on iOS or enable Messages in iCloud on Mac, each of which requires updating to the latest versions of system software. Here is how you enable Messages in iCloud on an iPhone or iPad, you will need iOS 11.4 or later on the device to have this feature:

  1. Open the Settings app on iOS and tap your name to access iCloud settings
  2. Locate the “Messages” toggle and flip that to the ON position to enable Messages in iCloud on the iPhone or iPad
  3. How to enable Messages in iCloud to fix Messages appearing out of order on iPhone or iPad

Using Messages in iCloud should completely resolve any iMessages appearing out of order issues if they are lingering or persisting, though it can take a little while for messages to sync with iCloud and then to correctly display.

It can be helpful after enabling Messages in iCloud to then restart the iPhone or iPad, which seems to force Messages to reload and then appear in the proper order as intended.

If you are still experiencing Messages showing up out of order, follow the troubleshooting steps below to help fix the problem.

Troubleshooting Messages Showing in Wrong Order on iPhone / iPad

Here are the primary troubleshooting steps to resolve iMessages appearing out of order on any iPhone or iPad running iOS. For best results, you should enable Messages in iCloud as described above first.

1: Force Quit Messages & Force Reboot iPhone / iPad

The most common resolution for getting Messages to appear sequentially and in order again is to simply forcibly quit the Messages app, then reboot the iPhone or iPad. The process of both force quitting and rebooting varies per device as Apple has changed it several times, but the end effect is the same. If you already know how to force exit apps and force reboot, go ahead and do that with the Messages app and then restart your device, otherwise follow instructions below:

1: Force Quit the Messages App

Using the guides below, target the “Messages” app to force quit it:

2: Force Reboot the iPhone / iPad

After “Messages” has been forcibly closed, go ahead and initiate a forced reboot of the device using the guides below appropriate to your device:

Once the Messages app has been forcibly quit, and the iPhone or iPad rebooted, open the Messages app again. The Messages should be back in order as intended.

2: Check the Date & Time Settings in iOS

Sometimes people may manually set date and time, roll back their iOS device clock to use a particular app or game, or disable automatic time setting, and having the improper date and time set on an iPhone or iPad can lead to messages appearing out of order or non-sequentially. This is easy to check, and to fix:

  1. Open the “Settings” app and then go to “General”
  2. Choose “Date & Time” and make sure “Set Automatically” is ENABLED and your time zone is correct
  3. For good measure, toggle “Set Automatically” off for about 10 seconds, then turn it it back ON – make sure this is enabled ON

Return to the Messages app and check if your iMessages are back in order as intended again.

Do note that if an iPhone or iPad has no internet connection, the automatic time setting may not work precisely, and if the iOS device has never been connected to an internet connection then you may want to use the manual time setting adjustment.

3: Install iOS Software Updates

Some users have reported various issues with Messages appearing out of order after installing a particular software update, or while running an older software version. Back up your iPhone or iPad first, and then install any available software updates.

  1. Back up the iPhone or iPad to iCloud and/or iTunes before beginning, don’t skip a backup
  2. Open the “Settings” app then go to “General” and to “Software Update”
  3. Choose to “Download & Install” any iOS software update that is available

There are some versions of iOS that appear to be more prone to message syncing errors than others, so if at all possible try to run the latest version you can.

Regardless, after you update iOS, go ahead and relaunch Messages app. If they’re back in order as intended, you’re good to go.

4: Turn iMessages Off & Back On

Another trick that can work is to turn iMessages off and back on again.

  1. Open the “Settings” app on the iPhone or iPad
  2. Go to “Messages” and toggle the switch for “iMessage” to the OFF position
  3. Wait a few moments, then turn the “iMessages” switch back to the ON position
  4. Re-open the Messages app to check the message order

Another alternative option is to turn imessage off, then reboot the iOS device, then turn iMessages back on again. That can work sometimes too.

Did the above tricks work to fix your iMessages from appearing out of order? Are your imessages now back in order on the iPhone or iPad? Let us know what worked for you in the comments!

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

8 Comments

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  1. Mat says:

    Force reboot the phone? Seriously?

    Will this myth never die? Of course not, that would be like expecting journalism to make a comeback.

    Reboot the phone the normal way, there is only one reason to use the non-maskable interrupt to reboot the phone and that is if the UI or input devices are unresponsive.

    A force reboot like you suggest is exactly the same as pulling the power cable out of the back of your PC while you’re using it. We’d not give that advice with a straight face, so why is it given or iPhone?

    It is just that “Force Restart The Phone” sounds better to you than “Turn it off, and then back on”.

    Don’t even get me started on the banal concept of terminating the background processes of a NON RUNNING app, and then terminating the entire phone. Sheesh. Pathetic.

    • Paul says:

      Thanks for your thoughts and feedback Mat. Do you have a solution to iMessages being out of order, or are you just here to criticize the methods offered?

  2. Jack D says:

    This happened to me and the problem was fixed when T-Mobile updated their carrier settings. Took about 3 weeks for them to figure out what happened.

  3. Martok says:

    You sound lonely. Are you OK? Why do you have a phone if nobody is calling?

  4. Yyz says:

    If never connected to internet for time set, how would any messages be received?

  5. MB says:

    Only IOS update worked for me, at some point it was very annoying, now it.’s fixed thanks to the update!

  6. Michael Spencer says:

    I’m a very longtime Mac user since 1984. I’ve owned all of them, well, except those crappy Centris.

    So I’m smart about Macs. And I read this page every damn day. Reading is how I GOT smart. Some of the hints are pretty basic, some not, but all reliable.

  7. Gump says:

    I’ve seen this problem manifest on both the iPhone and iMessages on the Mac. Because this began happening with the recent updates of iOS and the messages pass through Apple’s systems first, I am blaming this on Apple’s oversight of a bug — that they should probably consider fixing.

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