A big part of iOS 5 is iMessage, Apple’s new unified messaging platform for communicating between iOS 5 devices. It’s a great tool, but new users might have a hard time setting it up, since it’s tied so closely to the existing Messages app. Here’s how.


A big part of iOS 5 is iMessage, Apple’s new unified messaging platform for communicating between iOS 5 devices. It’s a great tool, but users new to the tech might have a hard time figuring out how to get started, since it’s tied so closely to the existing Messages app. Here’s how it works.

Setting up iMessage

To clear up one point of confusion I’ve been frequently asked: While the service is called iMessage, the actual app where you use it on iOS is called Messages. To setup iMessage, go to Settings and then Messages. Make sure you are signed in with your Apple ID email address. Tap Receive At and make sure your phone number (on the iPhone only) and relevant email addresses (on iPad and iPod touch) are correct.

You can set up multiple email addresses at which to receive the same iMessages. When you add a new email address, a verification email will be sent to that address. When you click on “Verify Now” in the email, you will be sent to an Apple site where you enter your Apple ID and password to verify the new address. I have both my me.com and gmail.com addresses registered in iMessage.

Using iMessage

To take full advantage of iMessage, all participants need to be running iOS 5. To send a message, in Messages press the New Message icon in the upper-right-hand corner of the app.

Start typing your recipient’s info, and the field will auto-fill with possible choices in a manner similar to the Mail app. If you’re sending the message from your iPhone, the Send button will turn green if it will be sent as an SMS, or blue for iMessage. On the iPad, if the address you’re trying to send to isn’t registered with iMessage, you’ll get an error message, like the one below.

Limitations of iMessage

To ensure your Message is received on all your connected devices, you must have them sent to your Apple ID email address. In limited testing, if someone sent me a test message to just my phone number, I only got the text on my iPhone. However, if they sent the message to my me.com address (which is my Apple ID address), I got it on all devices. This is because Apple can’t associate your phone number (assigned by your carrier) with devices other than your iPhone. Also, if you’ve added multiple email addresses to the “Receive At” setting on one iOS device, you’ll need to make sure you add them manually to any other iOS devices you own, too, if you want to receive messages at that address on all devices.

While AT&T has changed their SMS plans, most likely in preparation for people lowering their text message plans, for me, my SMS usage won’t change. Most of the people I text with don’t have an iPhone. Still, since it operates automatically behind the scenes, detecting who can and can’t receive iMessages, there’s definitely no harm in having it enabled, regardless of who you message with.

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  1. So it looks like if my wife and I share an Apple ID, any message sent using the Apple ID will go to both of us (or any device that has that Apple ID associated with iMessage) But, I would assume since you can use a second Apple ID for iCloud, you could put the iCloud Apple ID in the iMessage settings while keeping the purchases Apple ID in the store settings. I guess I’ll just have to install and test.

    1. Do let us know how this works. My wife and I are setup the same way as you !

      1. I just finished loading the software on my husband’s and my iPhones and I’ve got it working. We also have the same id that is associated with my email. On his iPhone I added his personal email as a second email to the iMessage setup on his phone. I kept only my email in my iMessage set up. I used his contact in my phone, that already has his email address (the secondary email I listed on his iMessage), to send his phone some test texts. Then I did the same from his phone to mine. It works just fine without any problems. Also, if it’s important, we have any AT&T text messaging completely turned off on our phones. Prior to this we were using WhatsApp, but I think we will move to iMessage now.

    2. Here are some observations. There are two ways iMessages are delivered. One is via the cell number, and the second is via the Email Addy. This is why you will have two conversations from the same person on one device. The only way to work around this is to create two seperate emails via your ISP. One email must be linked to one device (Main account holder) and the other device (Secondary, aka… Add a Line) to the other email. Once you have two email addy’s, on the device you wish to stop the incoming messages, go to “Settings” then “Messages” and Receive At. Notice it says “2 addresses”. When you open this you should see your (Main) Apple ID at the top. Then you should see your phone number and your email addy. Tap “Add Another Email”. Now type in the email addy for the owner of the device and the email password. You will also receive an email to verify the email account. Now tap the old email that was already there and tap “Remove Email”. (You can not remove the old email until you create another one.) Now you should only revice the iMessages on the intended device, however, every device that shares one of the email addy’s will still receive on both devices. For every device to be independent, each device would need to have its own email addy. ie.. Dad@abc.com, Mom@abc.com and Home@abc.com. In my case I have an Iphone and an Ipad, and my wife has an Iphone as well. I would receive mesages on all three devices at the same time. Once I dedicated each device to its own email all is well..

      1. THANK YOU! My son and I were receiving ALL of each others imessages…even when he wasn’t a recipient. You saved me!

  2. I have a similar problem. My wife and I share an Apple ID as well. In addition to that she is still on Leopard with her MacBook, which she syncs w/ her iPhone 4. Not sure how many iCloud/iOS 5 features she will be able to use.

  3. I have disabled SMS on my iphone (AT&T). Looks like i have to enable SMS inorder to use imessage. This doesnt work for me because i do not want to chat with anyone else other than those who have iOS devices :-(

    1. You can set it so that it won’t send messages via SMS, only iMessage

  4. didnt work for me

    1. i had trouble as well. to get it to work, I had to only have my cell number in the receive at. Then I had to delete all existing sms messages and power down the iphone. When it finished rebooting I was able to send an iMessage.

  5. UAE is not listed in the setup, what to do? help!

    1. Move to the United States.

  6. Still don’t see it anywhere help !

  7. I share one too….why isn’t there a profile in ios?

  8. Stuck at connecting when im logged into it dont know what to do

  9. why wont any of my contact’s names show up on my inbox? its just their phone numbers.

    1. same problem! help!

    2. Power down your phone, when you turn it back on the names should be in your inbox instead of numbers.

  10. i have an iphone 3gs and when i updated i realized that i couldn’t receive any text messages. i went to settings > messages, and imessage doesn’t have my phone number under the receive area….. help?!
    i have reset, restored, turned off/on phone and imessage…. and nothing helps! i’m lost for what to do…

    1. Back up your iPhone, and then restore the device etc… Maybe that’d work? :S

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