iMessages are one of the best reasons for using an iPhone. Apple’s messaging service is end-to-end encrypted, easy to use, and is packed with cool features like Memojis. Plus, Apple’s Messages (also known as iMessages) let you send and receive texts not just on your iPhone, but on all Apple devices, including iPads, Macs, and even the Apple Watch. But for some reason, people occasionally get the deaded iMessage activation error when trying to set iMessages up.
The good news is a fix is possible, the bad news is the fix isn’t always the same for everyone. That being said, I’ve compiled a list of methods below that people on various forums said worked for them. If you’re having iMessage activation problems on either your iPhone or iPad go through the list below. You’re sure to find one method that works for you.
A few things to keep in mind before beginning troubleshooting:
If you are trying to activate iMessage on your iPhone check to make sure your carrier supports the feature (a rare few still do not). Other things to check:
- On your iPhone make sure your phone number is listed in the “You” card in your contacts app. If it’s not there go to Settings > Phone > My Number and enter the phone number you see there.
- For iPhone, it’s best to set up iMessage using a cellular connection and not a Wi-Fi one.
- Make sure you’ve updated to the latest version of iOS on all your devices.
Now, if you’ve made sure of the above and are still seeing “Waiting for Activation”, “Activation unsuccessful”, or “An error occurred during activation” errors, try these methods:
Method #1: Airplane Mode
As strange as it sounds, sometimes Airplane mode can solve your iMessage activation errors. Of course, if Airplane mode is enabled you won’t be able to activate iMessage (or connect to the internet at all), but sometimes toggling it on and off can fiddle with the setting on your iPhone enough to get iMessage around any bottleneck that is preventing it from activating. The following instructions come from an Apple support forum member:
- Open Settings and scroll down and select Messages. Toggle the iMessage switch to OFF (white).
- Now, turn on Airplane mode. This will shut off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on your device.
- Next, manually turn ON Wi-Fi.
- In Settings return to Messages and enable iMessage (toggle switch to green).
- If prompted, enter your Apple ID.
- Return to Settings and now turn OFF Airplane mode.
- If you are on your iPhone you’ll probably be shown a notification that says ‘Your carrier may charge for SMS’. Tap OK.
- If you don’t see this, go back to Messages’ settings in Settings and then turn OFF iMessage and then turn it ON once again.
- It could take a few minutes, but if you’ve followed the above steps iMessage should now successfully get activated.
Method #2: Sign In And Out Of Your Apple ID…Repeatedly.
If the above doesn’t work, sometimes that suggests the issue is with a login problem with your Apple ID. So try this next:
- Open Settings and scroll down and select Messages.
- On the Messages settings screen tap where it says ‘Send & Receive’.
- If you are currently logged in with your Apple ID (you should be if you are trying to activate iMessage), tap the Apple ID at the top of the screen.
- In the popup that appears tap “Sign Out”.
- Return to the Messages settings screen and toggle the iMessage switch to OFF (white).
- Give it a few minutes and then toggle the iMessage switch back to ON (green).
- Now enter your Apple ID details again.
Keep in mind you may need to try this several times for it to work.
Method #3: Reset or Restore
This is what I call the “nuclear option”. If you aren’t having any luck with enabling iMessage on your iPhone or iPad many people have found success resting or restoring their device completely. Yes, this is annoying, but if you want iMessages, this is sometimes the only option you have left.
The most non-invasive option here is Reset. This simply resets your location and other settings on the iPhone and iPad–all your data remains intact. To reset your iPhone follow these steps here. If Resetting doesn’t work, pull out all the stops–restore your iPhone to factory settings. Here’s how to restore your iPhone. Hopefully, a Restore will solve the issue if nothing else has. But if it doesn’t work we recommend contacting Apple directly.
Apple expert and novelist, Michael Grothaus has been covering tech on KnowYourMobile for the best part of 10 years. Prior to this, he worked at Apple. And before that, he was a film journalist. Michael is a published author; his book Epiphany Jones was voted as one of the best novels about Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly. Michael is also a writer at other publications including VICE and Fast Company.