iOS 5: iMessage

ios 5 imessage

It seems that a lot of people don’t understand how iMessage works in iOS 5, so I thought I’d make a quick post to explain it so you can begin using it properly.

First of all, on the iPhone iMessage is built into the Messages app, there is no separate iMessage app so don’t be worried if you don’t see it. On the iPad and iPod Touch it will be an iMessage app since there is no Messages app on those devices. iMessage uses data instead of texts, so make sure you have a data plan or only use iMessage over wifi (which won’t use your cellular data plan, but there’s no way to force it to only use iMessage while on wifi).

So if iMessages is built into the Messages app then how do you use it… simple, just send a message like you normally would. Once you start typing a message to that person their name as well as the “send” button will turn blue and this is how you know that you’re using iMessage. It will only do this if the person is on iOS 5 so make sure your friends update. I did have an issue this morning where the first message I sent to someone went through as a text, but as soon as they messaged me back we were in iMessage. So if you 100% know that a person has updated to iOS 5 and it still shows green, I would suggest sending them one text and having them message you back to see if it switches over.

Once you have messaged a person once in iMessage  you will see a blue chat bubble next to their iMessage enabled contact in the quick list when you start typing a name in the “to” field in Messages (not the address book).

If it doesn’t seem to be switching over to iMessage with a friend you know has iOS 5, try sending a text to their email address instead, I’ve had an instance of this happen as well. It only seemed to be because she had both an iPhone and an iPad, so it defaulted to her email instead of phone number.

Delivered notifications will appear by default, but you must enable the read notifications in the settings>messages menu in order for your friends to see if you’ve read a message or not.

Also in Settings>Messages you can tell it to try iMessage first and if that fails (due to lack of internet or whatever) it will send a text. Don’t worry though it will automatically go back to iMessage as soon as it can. You’ll also still be able to send texts to people without iMessage as this setting only pertains to iMessages that failed.

I’ve also seen a lot of people asking how to add people to iMessage. Since it’s not a separate application like BBM it uses your address book. So in order to add someone to iMessage you’ll need to have either their phone number or email address in your address book on the device. This is a little annoying since you can’t automatically see who has iOS 5 installed until you try to message them for the first time. So what I like to do is start a message in the app and just start typing, if the send button turns blue you’re good, if not, back out and try their email address instead of their phone number (or vice versa).

I also recommend you change your iMessage CallerID address to an email rather than your phone number, that way when you message someone in iMessage that may not have you in their contacts list, it will show them your email and not your phone number. I know personally I don’t want everyone I may message having my phone number. You can do this in Settings>Messages>Receive At>Caller ID

I think that about covers it in regards to iMessage. If you have any issues or questions feel free to leave a comment or if you just want to test your iMessage to see if it’s working feel free to message us using the instructions below.

Here’s a quick tip, if you’re worried about giving out your real email address to people you may not want to give it to, go over to gmail and setup a new email address specifically for iMessage, then go into Settings>Messages and setup a new authorized email address. This will allow you to receive iMessages at that email address (in addition to the other ones you have setup) and you can then give that one out to people instead of your real one. Just make sure to change the CallerID settings I mentioned a couple paragraphs above, otherwise you’ll still send out your own email if you message them first. (Once they’ve messaged you under the new email the conversation will continue to be on that email regardless of your CallerID default). [This is exactly what I did to setup the iMessage email account you see below. I still get messages to my phone number and real email address from friends, but all the random people that read this site can message me at the email below and it also comes through my phone.]

To iMessage us add a contact called AC Slater with the email address and then send us a message. 

Update (2/16/12): Download the Beta of iMessage for your Mac Computer!