How I got out of iMessage purgatory (iOS 9.2.1 problem)

This isn’t normally a tech blog, and I’m not a tech person, but this seems to be an unsolvable problem for some folks, so here’s how I solved it.

The problem: Texts from iMessage disappear when texting some contacts. I recently bought an iPhone, and today I was texting a friend who also has an iPhone, but who had iMessage switched off. My texts looked like they were being delivered, and they were… to his iMac, in his house, but not to his phone in his pocket.

The problem seems to be that if someone uses iMessage to text someone who used to have iMessage but has it switched off on their phone (or has switched to Android), Apple wants to send the texts as iMessages, not as SMS’s. And off they go, sometimes to an iMessage account that is no longer active on any devices at all. If two people both have iMessage switched on, no problems – if they both have it switched off, also no problems. But one off, one on – texts get stuck in purgatory, with no error message alerting the sender that they’ve gotten lost.

I tried most of the fixes listed online, and eventually went for a complete nuke-it-from-orbit approach, which fixed it. This consisted of the following:

  1. Totally remove my Apple ID from iCloud and all associated apps on my laptop – not just log out / disable the account on Messages, this wasn’t enough. Remove. Obliterate. (Possibly overkill? Not sure.)

    Settings > iCloud > Sign Out > Delete From Mac (and yes to all “Delete X from Mac” queries.

  2. Also delete my Apple ID from Messages on my phone, and then turn iMessage off.

    Settings > Messages > Send and Receive > Apple ID > Sign Out

    back to Settings > Messages > then toggle iMessage off

  3. Deregister my Apple ID from iMessage at the following link, using the text message feature under “No longer have your phone” (not just turning iMessage and FaceTime off like it says at the top): https://selfsolve.apple.com/deregister-imessage

And lo, I can now both send and receive texts with other iPhone users, whether or not they have iMessage turned on or off. Magical!

This seems ridiculous, but it does seem to be the only way to ensure that you can both text other people *and receive texts*. Simply turning iMessage off worked fine for texting my friend, since then we both had it switched off and we were both trading SMS’s. But that put me in purgatory with him – when another friend with iMessage turned on tried to text *me* after I’d turned iMessage off on my phone and logged out on my laptop, his own texts went nowhere. So if you leave it on, you can’t talk to people who have it turned off; if you turn it off, people who have it turned on can’t talk to you. Nuke it from orbit seems the only way to ensure full functionality, as far as I can see. Seems mad, but there you go!

(Related: A different friend was having the same problem messaging me, in turned out, because of a similar problem with Signal – I was still registered on my old Android, and when I texted him, his replies were piling up in Signal on my old phone (no notifications), not coming to my iPhone. Simply deregistering from Signal in my Android phone fixed this immediately, though.)

 

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