iPhone: If you can’t send or receive text messages

Posted on December 12, 2010


This article outlines how to troubleshoot issues with sending and receiving SMS or text messages using the Messages application on the iPhone. If you are having difficulty sending or receiving MMS messages, see this article.

f you can’t send or receive text messages

  • Check the top left corner of iPhone’s display to make sure you have a strong signal: If you don’t have a strong signal, try moving to a different location. If you’re indoors, try going outdoors or moving close to a window.
  • Update to the latest iPhone Software. For more info, see Backing Up, updating, and restoring your iPhone and iPod touch software.

If you still can’t send or receive text messages:

  • Ensure that you are first tapping in the text-entry field at the bottom of the screen (highlighted below) to bring up the keyboard. Until you begin typing, the Send button will remain grayed out.

[Text-entry field screenshot]

  • Power off iPhone, then turn iPhone back on.  Press and hold the Sleep/Wake button until the red slider appears. Slide your finger across the slider to turn off iPhone. To turn iPhone back on, press and hold the Sleep/Wake until the Apple logo appears.
  • Make sure that every phone number in your contacts list includes an area code.
  • Make sure Airplane Mode isn’t on. From the Home screen choose Settings, then turn Airplane Mode off.
  • If you are trying to send a text message to multiple recipients and you type in each number manually instead of using the contacts list, make sure you tap return instead of space to separate each one. For more info, see Sending SMS messages require a valid 10-digit mobile number (United States).
  • If you have recently ported your number from another carrier, please contact your current carrier to verify that the porting process has completed successfully.

Note: Both SMS and MMS support text messaging. If Show Subject Field is enabled in Settings > Messages > MMS > Show Subject Field, you can only send messages after you have typed content in the Body field. Until then, the Send button will be grayed out, and you will be unable to send the message. If you add text to the Subject and Body field you will automatically send via MMS. If you wish to send via SMS, not MMS, either type text in the Body field only, or disable the Show Subject Field option. The following table illustrates this relationship:

Subject Field only Will not send
Body Field only SMS
Subject Field and Body Field MMS

Additional Information

You may also see the message, “Error sending message”. Troubleshoot as above.

For more information on SMS, see the iPhone User’s Guide (you can also view the iPhone User Guide with your iPhone: tap Safari, then Bookmarks, and then iPhone Users Guide).

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Categories: iPhone

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