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How To Tell If You’re Sending an iMessage or a Text on iOS 5

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iOS 5 and the iPhone 4S have only been out for a short time, but I’m already getting asked a lot of questions about the new iMessage app.

Common questions include, “Why there are green bubbles and blue bubbles?” and “Why can’t I send iMessages to a friend’s iPhone?”

These are all good questions, and I hope to help you figure out what’s going on in the iPhone messages app, so that you can save on text message costs.

The first thing to keep in mind is that there is no individual iMessage app, the standard Message app you know and love will automatically send messages as a text or as an iMessage depending on the device your contact has.

Blue Bubble, Green Bubble – Text or iMessage

When you send a message in the Message app on your iPhone 4S or older iPhone with iOS 5, the app will check to see if your contact has an iPhone.

iMessage iOS 5 iPhone 4S

Blue Bubbles indicate an iMessage

If you are sending a message to an iPhone user, or to the Apple ID of an iPad user, you will see the name turn blue, and your messages will be blue. There is also an “iMessage” indicator in the text entry field. You can see this in the image above.

Text message on iOS 5 iPhone 4S

Green Bubbles indicate a Text

If you are sending a message to someone with any other phone, or to a Google Voice number, the name will show up as green. The text bubbles will also be green, the indicator will also show “Text Message”, where you type.

Why Do You want iMessage?

Group iMessage with Picture on iOS 5

Group iMessage with a Picture on iOS 5

In addition to saving you the cost of sending a text message, you can send group messages easily over iMessage. Even better, you can drop in photos and videos to share with your friends. This is great for instantaneous sharing and coordinating. An iMessage brings the urgency of a text message, so you’ll still get  faster responses from most friends.

Why Can’t I send an iMessage to a Friend’s iPhone?

If your friend has an iPhone, but you can’t send them an iMessage, they don’t have iOS 5. If they have an iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4, they can upgrade to iOS 5 for free in about half an hour. In addition to iMessage, there are a number of benefits to upgrading to iOS 5 which you can share with them. One of my favorites is the new notification center.

Here’s how to upgrade to iOS 5 and 5 Things to Do Before You Upgrade to iOS 5.

You can watch the iOS 5 overview video below for many more of the iOS 5 features.

Josh Smith is Editor of GottaBeMobile and Notebooks.com. He's always looking for ways to help you get the most of your gear and loves to talk about tech on radio and TV. Josh uses an iOS and Android devices as well as Mac and Windows Computers. Josh Smith on Google+ Email: [email protected]

71 Comments

  1. Louis Brusco

    10/25/2011 at 2:34 pm

    How do you integrate the iMessage on your iPad with your iPhone and iPod touch?  Is it one account or multiple accounts?

  2. Davidmorris27

    10/26/2011 at 12:15 am

    My ios5 phone send both sms and imessage at the same time (i.e the same txt) and i also recieve txt and imessages (both same message) from friends on ios5, whats that all about????

  3. Ms

    10/26/2011 at 2:56 am

    Is there only one “user” account ?
    I really don’t want to know my daughters reminders about homework nor have my reminders appear on her iPod.

    Can I send an iMessage to my (child’s) itouch.

  4. Mrsweetv

    10/26/2011 at 3:52 am

    But… My friend gave me their iMessage email cause they have an iPod touch and we try to send each other a message but it doesn’t work. It goes to a regular text message…
    I can’t seem to fix it /:

  5. avicente9109

    10/26/2011 at 9:34 am

    I have an iPhone 4s, and I have three other iPhone 4s’ on my family account, and I text them all day long and it ALWAYS sends it as a text, iMessage has never worked… any reason why?

    • Lime Strawberry

      10/29/2011 at 10:32 pm

      you need to register you apple account and it should work

      • Rendonrea

        11/27/2011 at 6:59 pm

        Our family has the iPhone 4s and my account is registered. All out text messaging is green. We have all updates. What’s wrong?

        • Krausz Raphael

          01/11/2012 at 8:02 am

          Rendonrea – are you all connected via wifi or 3G?

        • Marcus

          01/15/2012 at 5:28 pm

          make sure there number in your phone includes the area codes aswell

        • Pablo

          04/10/2012 at 1:35 pm

          used to have same problem. 
          try sending to email. go to their contact, send message, and select email instead of phone number.

    • Marcus

      01/15/2012 at 5:28 pm

      Mae sure you have the area code with there phone number

    • Pablo

      04/10/2012 at 1:34 pm

      try sending to email. go to their contact, send message, and select email instead of phone number.

  6. Navin646

    10/26/2011 at 10:20 am

    No match to BBM. Apple is trying to copy BBM. But BBM is the best as its secure, fast and very easy to use. And i can keep only my family members on the BBM list and not everyone who uses the BB. Iphone doesnt gives this option and simply is not appealing. Overpriced android phones is Iphone…….. ILoot, looting money from the users!! Gone for good steve jobs

    • Foo_bogus

      01/20/2012 at 10:54 am

      You don’t understand the concept of iMessage as it differs quite a lot form BBM.  iMessage does not require to exchange a PIN,it works right on your contact list with plain phone numbers.  Also if you loose or change your iPhone you can continue to use it with a new one unlike BB where you get a new PIN and have to distribute it again.  Also iMessage integrates into the same application, no need to use different aplpications.  It is a more polished experience IMO.

  7. Ali

    10/27/2011 at 4:29 pm

    I heard that if both users are txting on ios5 on Message than it is free and doesn’t count on your bill if u have I restricted amount of txts… Is this try? Please answer

    • Pablo

      04/10/2012 at 1:56 pm

      only if it recognice it as an imessage (blue baloon)

  8. Marie

    10/28/2011 at 5:39 pm

    Does iMessage use data from my plain or is it included in my unlimited texting?

    • Soccerfan

      10/28/2011 at 7:41 pm

      That is my concern! I have unlimited texting but i only have 2g of data and i dont want to run out by texting imessages

      • Sfgiants185

        11/26/2011 at 10:17 pm

        No iMessage is like email. You can send as many as you want as long as you want without charge… iMessage has nothing to do with your plan

      • Pablo

        04/10/2012 at 1:56 pm

        i would assume it consumes your data.

  9. Geoff

    11/01/2011 at 5:11 pm

    It just “doesn’t” work

    • John56gt

      01/02/2012 at 4:10 pm

      go to SETTINGS > Messages > iMessage > make sure it is ON. Then scroll down to MMS Messaging > turn it ON. now it should work for iPhone numbers.

      • [email protected]

        02/09/2012 at 1:21 pm

        Thank you, at last there is a simple answer that works,

      • Freddie

        02/21/2012 at 5:49 am

        My settings are correct, and it used to work. Any further suggestions? Thx…

        • Pablo

          04/10/2012 at 1:58 pm

          make sure the email you have for your contact is the same email he/she uses for its apple id.

  10. Akritori

    11/02/2011 at 8:55 pm

    Thanks for such succinct descriptions!

  11. ColleenSA3

    11/13/2011 at 4:47 am

    If it’s not working first make sure it’s on in Settings & then also make sure your contact’s number is listed as iPhone & not Mobile. That sorted my iMessage out

    • Pablo

      04/10/2012 at 2:00 pm

      i dont have the iPhone option. just mobile. home. work. radio. etc…

  12. Hshld6

    11/17/2011 at 5:27 pm

    Sometimes I’ll be texting with another iPhone and it’s blue but then the next bubble is green. Then the next is blue. What’s up with that?

    • Scress_17

      02/09/2012 at 7:32 pm

      I would like to know the answer to this as well.

      • Vizsla3

        02/13/2012 at 4:53 am

        Yes me too, One bubble in blue, and the next in green??? To the same person during the same conversation? Could it be that the receiving person is getting two messages at exactly the same time?

        • Vols1925

          02/28/2012 at 8:13 am

           I’d like to know the answer to that also. Blue during the entire conversation, then a green one, then all blue again. Don’t get it..

        • Pablo Quintana

          04/10/2012 at 2:02 pm

          probably connection problems. uncheck the box that allows to send sms instead of imessage in configuration

    • Pablo

      04/10/2012 at 2:01 pm

      probably connection problems. uncheck the box that allows to send sms instead of imessage in configuration

  13. Cj

    11/21/2011 at 9:15 am

    The first time I tried iMessage through wifi, it works I wasn’t charged. But the second time I tried it with wifi again, when I sent it, it first turned out blue, but then a couple minutes later it turned green as a txt message..then it started charging me…why? Is there a way to fix this?

  14. Sharon_milonas

    11/21/2011 at 1:38 pm

    I have an ipod touch with ios 5 and my husband has an iphone4 with ios 5 and I CANNOT send him imessages…it is turned on, we are registered, everything. When I type the message, the send button does not send…what gives here????

  15. Bayleewhalen

    11/22/2011 at 7:53 pm

    I have an iPod touch and my friend has an iPod touch and I can’t get apps but I got iMessages through iCloud. But we don’t know how to send messages to each other…. Please help :(

  16. CS

    12/11/2011 at 6:20 am

    My friend has ios5 but my text message goes through as text message 20% of the time and iMessage 80% of the time. Why is this?

    • Kipperfritz

      12/29/2011 at 6:59 am

      CS; did you ever get an answere to why some of your text show up green and some show up blue in the same conversation?

      • Pablo Quintana

        04/10/2012 at 2:04 pm

        try unchecking the “send an sms”box in the settings.

  17. Ebeckle

    12/14/2011 at 7:29 am

    I get charged for sending texts from Canada when I visit there. Would I get charged for sending iMessages?

  18. Tazz 123

    12/24/2011 at 3:42 am

    I dont see why apple didn’t make a seperate app for iMessage

    • Pablo Quintana

      04/10/2012 at 2:04 pm

      wouldn have been as simple.

  19. Izyelisha

    12/24/2011 at 2:51 pm

    When i try to send a IMessage its not workin it says message failure and i have internet connection that is working i do not know why its not really working please help with this!

  20. Rick

    12/29/2011 at 5:42 pm

    I sent a message ( IMESSAGE ) to my friends to see if it works, yes it does work, but my email shows up when they get the message.. Does anyone know why? i want my number to show up. 

    • Cole_ann_7

      12/30/2011 at 8:13 pm

      In settings go to messages then ‘receive at’ then ‘caller ID’ that will let you change if your number or email show up.

  21. Reeceowen12

    01/01/2012 at 5:43 pm

    Does it cost to use like is there a txt charge

  22. schlily

    01/11/2012 at 2:23 pm

    Do you have to pay if u wanna send a text to a person that doesnt have a ipod touch, ipad, iphone etc…???

  23. Marcus

    01/15/2012 at 5:26 pm

    MAKE SURE THE PERSON YOU ARE IMESSAGING IS THERE FULL NUMBER INCLUDING AREACODE.

  24. Martina McGarry

    01/21/2012 at 12:26 am

    Both my husband and myselft have iPhone 4s iOS 5 and the messages are in both colours and sometimes i get the meassage twice. Can anyone answer why????

  25. Scraggle

    02/06/2012 at 10:20 am

    My friend had an iPhone but now he has an android, my iPhone refuses to acknowledge this and continues to send iMessages instead of texts, which he obviously never receives. How can I change it?

    • Scott_kt

      05/23/2012 at 9:22 am

      Go into your contacts> click edit your poor friend (the one with the android) > change his mobile device from iPhone to mobile > click ‘done’ and now it should recognize him as a welfare wannabe phone and text him

  26. Sparhawk

    02/16/2012 at 7:47 pm

    My understanding is that the difference is what mode of sending was used.  From an iphoneforums post:

    Green = Sent thru SMS.

    Blue = Sent thru iMessage (i.e. the internet, which doesn’t count against your SMS usage).

    Which means it is possible for both people to have iMessage but because
    there was no internet connection to use, it will fall back to SMS. 

  27. Ktheno

    02/28/2012 at 11:34 am

    what is the little bubble at the bottome left of the screen when i am texting another iphone user?

  28. Qwho

    03/01/2012 at 5:26 pm

    you can, in settings, specify imessage on and send as sms off, then it will only send, charge free, imessages, but I assume they will not go thru if send as sms is off, as there is no backup way to send them, but since I pay for texts, I will only imessage. I think that is why the usually blue ones go green, if send as sms is on and imessage is not available, it will go thru but you will be charged if you pay per text

  29. Weebswobble

    03/21/2012 at 12:16 am

    What i like about iMessage is that I can receive texts thru my metal roof, as it uses the internet and not my cellular network.  

  30. Weebswobble

    03/21/2012 at 12:20 am

    iMessage will automatically default to iMessage if the iPhone detects iMessage coming from what ever iPhone you are texting..now say that 10 times really fast

  31. iMessage Question

    04/08/2012 at 2:32 pm

    I used to have an iphone, but recently switched to an Android phone. My friend still has her iphone, and when we text, she says the bubble is still blue. I totally wiped my iphone clean and her texts are coming in on my new phone now. I thought the blue bubble was exclusive to imessages with other iphone users with ios5, so why would the texts on her phone still show as blue?

    • Scott_kt

      05/23/2012 at 9:34 am

      Its not your android it your friend… They need to Go into your contact listing> click edit your information) > change your mobile device from iPhone to mobile > click ‘done’ and now it should recognize your phone as a wannabe phone and text you…

      The surprising thing is that it hasn’t cleared itself as when iPhone friend gets repeated bounces thru iPhone and repeated incoming from you via text it should flag your info to default to text… I think if your contact info is altered in any way that it may have to repeat the cycle but should still drop back to text after a few days

  32. Steve Dervish

    04/13/2012 at 5:21 am

    I have a iPhone (with IOS5). My friend has a iPhone (with IOS5). Both Phone have iMessage.
    So why does it sometimes show that my message will be sent as a text and not as an iMessage? It’s like its got a mind of its own!
    IMO, it should have a seperate App for sending iMessage only. The BBM way.

    • Scott_kt

      05/23/2012 at 9:44 am

      It’s because one of your Internet conductivity failed… It drops back to txt should oth of you not have Internet for whatever reason. If you watch it will go out ‘blue’ (note caveat below) and then turn green after a few moments due to you not having Internet – longer if it goes out and your friend doesn’t have Internet… The caveat, after several messages failing thru iPhone, normally it will automatically drop back to txt for some time ….

  33. Mike

    04/20/2012 at 5:52 pm

    can I receive messages/texts sent to me from a regular cellphone that doesn’t have iMessage (like Nokia or SonyEricsson)? and will they incur charges (we’re in Canada and I’m assuming iMessage is based in the US)

    • Scott_kt

      05/23/2012 at 9:58 am

      Yes to texting to any phone. Yes to occurring charges per your rate plan. No to iPhone being located in USA… iMesage is located in the phone and on the Internet… I spend time in both US and Canada so I have a Canadian network iPhone and can use iMessage in both countries IF I have an Internet connection … Fwiiw I can also txt in both countries and due to my rate plan I only get charged if I exceed my US limit (in my case I think it’s 100 outgoing free/month while in the US — I’ve never hit it as I am not chatty on txt)

  34. Czechmate1976

    04/25/2012 at 12:10 am

    It’s all well and good this concept of smart switching, yet I would sometime prefer to have an easy choice of manual switching in the app without having to go to the setting every time. Here’s the case: my wife and I both have an iPhone with iOS5.1 on it, with iMessage switched on and it’s ok but the problem is when she travels abroad for work (no data roaming) and every message I send gets sent as iMessage but she doesn’t get it until in a vicinity of a wifi network. Thus sometime very late. Certainly a room for improvement in the app. :-)

    • Scott_kt

      05/23/2012 at 10:05 am

      So, when she is abroad go into her contact info and change her iPhone to mobile… Should solve the problem… When she is state side if u want her to be an iMessage user you’ll have to switch her back…

  35. Beckt

    05/22/2012 at 1:17 am

    It is also possible that your friend/partner may have the iMessage turned off, I found this out due to my sister Gavin an iPhone and myself unable to send iMessages to her, so check in your settings and make sure iMessage is turned on if that’s what you want to use

  36. Lisa

    06/21/2012 at 4:54 am

    My issue is strange. My sister and I both have the iPhone 4S. We can iMessage other iPhone users, but we can only text each other. We’re both running 5.1.1, have iMessage on, and have our devices listed as iPhones. How can we fix this issue?

  37. Debbie Caudill

    09/18/2012 at 7:34 am

    my daughter and i both have iphones and have always sent imessages back and forth. Starting yesterday my messages to her are going as text messages and i don’t know how to fix it. Messages to other iphone users are going through fine as imessages so i know my setting are right.

  38. Kelsey

    10/01/2012 at 9:28 pm

    I have changed my caller ID to show my number & not my email in iMessage but it’s still showing my email to everyone I iMessage with. Why is this?? It’s very annoying

  39. DAWN

    04/26/2013 at 4:50 am

    What does SMSstand for in settings ?

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