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Thursday December 8, 2011 9:35 pm

Ask Andru: Apple iMessage Follow-Up


Posted by Andru Edwards - Categories: Apple, Cell Phones, Features, Handhelds


How does iMessage work?

The first ever Ask Andru column featured a question about Apple's iMessage, a proprietary method the company uses to allow owners of iOS devices to send text messages, pictures, and videos to each other through Apple's servers, bypassing the traditional wireless carrier. This allows users to send as many messages as they want without having to pay a text message fee (or being docked against their texting plan if it isn't unlimited.)

We got a couple of follow-up questions from our readers, and we figured we'd address them here. First, from Rob, who had two questions:

Is there a way to force a message to go via the carrier? I was in a text messaging conversation with a friend, they went to Eastern Washington for the weekend and thus no 3G. iMessage doesn't seem to work on EDGE.


From what I've seen, the only way to force a message to go through the carrier is to send the iMessage, and wait for it to fail. When it does, you'll see a red exclamation point to the right of the message. Now, tap and hold on the message. A pop-up menu will come up offering to send the message as a text message instead. Select it, and the message bubble will turn green for that message only, and your iPhone will attempt to send it as a text message. Of course, the other party needs to have an iPhone for this to work - if they're on an iPad or iPod touch, then they can't receive "real" SMS messages.

I was traveling out of the country and I had my phone in Airplane Mode not wanting to have any roaming charges. iMessage did not seem to work.

iMessage requires a data connection in order to operate. Turning on Airplane Mode can easily sever that connection. Airplane Mode disables the following five services on your iPhone:

  • Cellular (voice and data)
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
  • GPS
  • Location services

This means that you've effectively severed your connection to iMessage. I assume you enabled Airplane Mode because you didn't want to get hit with the ridiculously massive data roaming fees. Understandable. That said, to get iMessage working, you'd have to then go back into your iPhone settings and re-enable Wi-Fi, and then connect to a hotspot in order to use iMessage under those circumstances.

Next, we have a question from Ismael:

Do you think or know if iMessage is ever going to be able to send text messeges to a cell phone that is not an iPhone?

Unless Apple is the maker of this new device, no. I don't suspect that we will see any iMessage integration in Android, BlackBerry, or Windows Mobile devices. This is a proprietary Apple technology, and therefore you'll only see iMessage integrated into Apple products.

That's it for this installment of Ask Andru! Hopefully we've been able to fully clarify how iMessage works and what it's all about. Remember, I'm here to help give you advice on all things related to consumer electronics and gadgets, so make sure to drop me a line at AskAndru@gmail.com, and I'll be sure to get you taken care of.

Andru Edwards is the Editor-in-Chief of Gear Live, a digital strategy consultant, and does speaking gigs focused on startups and social media. He's a true lover of all things digital. You can find him on Twitter at @andruedwards, watch his technology videos on YouTube, and/or subscribe to him on Facebook.

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