What’s the difference between iMessages and Text Messages?

If you have a Microsoft or Android mobile phone then this doesn’t apply. iMessages are only available on an iPhone.

SMS Logo

SMS = Short Message Service = text message

Whatever your phone type and operating system, sending a text message is normally handled by your mobile connection provider (Vodaphone, EE, O2 etc). They route the message through to the recipient using their own servers. Depending upon your data plan (service agreement) with your provider, you may pay individually for all text messages sent from your phone, you may pay for any text messages over a certain “free allowance” per month, or all of your text messaging may be included in your plan.

Things change slightly if you have an iPhone (irrespective of your mobile provider), but only for the text messages that you send to someone else who also has an iPhone (and irrespective of their mobile phone provider). In this case, the message doesn’t get as far as being transferred to your mobile provider for onward transmission to the recipient. Instead, Apple intercepts the message and sends it via its own servers to the recipient (with whom Apple is in communication, of course, as that recipient also has an iPhone). In this case, Apple has intercepted your message and sent it as an iMessage (as opposed to a text message).

iPhone iMessageApple chooses to provide this service free of charge. If you don’t do an enormous amount of texting and/or your texting requirements are covered by your data plan, and/or you’ve got loadsa money, then it won’t matter very much whether your message is sent for free as an iMessage or charged as a text message handled by your provider.

I dare say, though, that it does make a difference to a young teenager responsible for funding their own mobile phone usage. In which case, Apple is probably being very canny in offering youngsters something that they will value as it will undoubtedly help in building brand loyalty. Part of the reason that Blackberry mobile phones were so popular at one stage was that they had their own private messaging service (BBM – Blackberry Messenger) that allowed Blackberry users to communicate freely and privately with each other.

On that subject,four years ago when we had the summer riots in London (yes, it really was that long ago – August 2011), I suddenly noticed a large increase in visitors to my website who seemed to have clicked on my Google Ad after they had searched for the term “PC World”. At that time, I thought that it was quite clever of me to use “PC World” as a keyword (a trigger) for Google to show my ads as I thought that anyone looking for PC World might well be looking for the kind of computer support service I provide. In the end I stopped using that keyword because it became apparent from the enquiries I was getting that people searching for “PC World” thought my ad appearing must mean that I am actually PC World!

iPhone Text MessageYou’d be very surprised just how often that happened. A lot of people seem to thing of Google Search as being a telephone directory rather than a search engine. Anyway, I concluded that for that brief, tense, strange time, lots of youngsters who didn’t have Blackberrys (Blackberries?) started enquiring about getting one as they were missing out on all the news and info because they didn’t have Blackberry Messenger. So, I ended up paying Mr Google lots of money for displaying my ads to irrelevant people. My fault – not Google’s. Since that time, Blackberry Messenger has been extended so that it is now available on iPhone and Android phones as well as Blackberry.

Back to the point, you can tell whether your text message is being delivered by iMessage or text message. When you are about to compose your message (after you’ve defined the recipient), the message area rectangle will include the grey word “Message” if your message will be delivered by text message, and “iMessage” if it will be delivered by Apple to an iPhone. When your delivered message is then displayed in a speech bubble above the message area rectangle, text messages have a green background and IMessages have a blue background.

© 2011-2018 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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