Question for readers: free texting from iPhone to iPhone anywhere

iPhone users: please educate me.

I have been told that if you have an iPhone running 5.0 or higher, you can text to any other iPhone, anywhere in the world, for free.  Apparently, you must use the app iMessage.

Anyone?  What’s up with this?  Have you gotten into this?

With my numerous contacts out there, this could be very useful and save me some money.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. lpscott says:

    Fr. Z.,

    By default iPhone-to-iPhone texts will use iMessage, which goes over the data connection rather than the text connection. It’s “free” in the sense that you can therefore text other iPhone users without paying for a text plan, but if your use of iMessage puts you over whatever monthly limit you have on your data plan you’ll be charged for data overages.


  2. Vecchio di Londra says:

    Father, I know very little about this, but came across these links that might be useful to you:-

    It really does look revolutionary – but you can only use it (over Wifi) to another IOS 5 phone/iPad, so that would restrict its universality.

  3. Edward C. says:

    Fr. Z,

    To add to what Louis wrote, iPhone will indicate whether your contact can receive iMessages for you. You simply go to the normal text app, and when you type in your contact, iPhone will check to see whether he has an iPhone with the required iOS. If he does, his contact name (and the send button) will turn from green to blue, and a little word balloon will pop up next to his name and number.

    Furthermore, iPad 2 and higher can send iMessages, meaning that you can use your AppleID/e-mail as a contact point. Ideally, the iPhone and iPad iMessages will sync. It’s not perfect, but it does usually work.


  4. Edward C. says:

    I’ll add…it works fine over 3G and uses very little data. You’d have to send quite a few to go over your 3G limit for the month.

  5. cregduff says:

    Think of this as “messaging over IP” in a like manner as VOIP (voice over IP) uses an IP network to send voice.
    When you are connected to the internet by wifi or 3G, imessage will use that network to send and receive messages to/from your iPhone or other device; this is opposed to using the carrier’s sms network which can have a per use cost (if you are not on an sms plan).
    You can do this with ANY iOS device (iPhone, iPod Touch & iPad) with version iOS 5.o and higher.
    You will notice that imessage messages have a blue background, as opposed to sms which are green.
    You will also notice that latency in general is less (messages go out and are received faster on the network).
    You can also, of course, message using email address, which makes this easy.
    Have fun!

  6. B Knotts says:

    As Louis said, it is automatic. When you text someone who has iMessage, it tries to send the message that way (although it doesn’t always work for some reason). The newest twist is that iMessage is available in the latest Mac OS X, Mountain Lion, so you can message from your computer as well. I don’t know how useful it will be, but it’s there. My Mac is not my main computer (my Linux desktop is), so it’s probably not as useful for me.

  7. nykash says:

    Confirming what others have said about iMessage – I use it on both my iPhone and iPad. The Text-over-IP analogy is spot on.

    My biggest frustration: getting people with older iOS versions to upgrade. I don’t like having to pay for text messages:-)

  8. I am experimenting. I fired up my jailbroken 3GS with my UK Vodafone sim. It looks like all my messaging, even to those who have iPhones, were ordinary sms rather than this iMessage. So, it doesn’t seem to be working.

    If there is someone NOT in N. America who would be willing to have an experiment with this, drop me a number by email.

  9. iPadre says:

    I love it, because it syncs over all Apple devices – iPhone, iPad, and Macs.

  10. APX says:

    It doesn’t work for me texting my family members in the US from Canada, but my brother seems to have success texting his friends in Canada from the US. That’s as helpful as I can be.

  11. I had an email from Apple saying that my 3GS (with the UK sim) had signed in to iMessage.

    I tried texting to my US phone, but the box was green (not the desired blue).

    Do I have to clear out my old messages… or something else?

  12. cregduff says:


    In the jailbroken world, on 3Gs and 4 iPhones, there are known issues, as I understand, this has to do with signed apps. Try using your iPad just to verify it works for your accounts.

    If you are game, and it’s always a risk, right, there’s this workaround…


  13. disco says:

    You may have iMessage turned off in the settings menu on the receiving phone.

  14. disco: No, iMessage is switch ON on both iPhones.

  15. Konrad says:

    You may think about WhatsApp, You can send messages also to Android phones. The drawback is that both sides have to have the app.

  16. cregduff says:

    I sent you another message with a link – but it’s likely caught in a moderated cue.

  17. RATS! I just had a message from Vodafone UK saying my credit is low. I might need to ask some for some help.

  18. threej says:


    Are you familiar with google voice?
    It’s a terrific service, that, among its many features, gives you free texting over your phone’s data plan.

    Additionally, it allows you to have one phone number that will forward to whatever your current phone/location is.

  19. BaedaBenedictus says:

    Father, were you on wifi when you texted? For me, iMessage only works when I’m on wifi. When I’m not, and I send a message to another iPhone user, it gets sent as a text. I have an iPhone 4S with the most recent software.

    Perhaps try it when you are connected to wifi and see if it works.

  20. threej: I am not familiar with that. This entry is, however, about iMessage and… now, alas, … my urgent need to top-up my UK number!


    I will need help with this from a UK resident, I’m afraid. I can’t do it online from the USA.

  21. trad catholic mom says:

    You can also text for free between iphone and the mac messages app.

  22. kolbe1019 says:

    Get an iPhone 4s and a Mac. They just work. I’m not even typing this I’m speaking to my Mac and it’s typing it for me. Integrated hardware and software…

  23. acardnal says:

    iPhone 5 to be unveiled mid-September.

  24. AnnAsher says:

    Once I updated my iPhone 4’s software I automatically had iMessage between any other iUsers. Also true in iPad and Mac. Perhaps the trouble is the jail brokenness ?

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