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October 13th 2011 5:16 pm

iMessage - How to properly receive messages that were sent to your phone number?

There's a really weird iMessage behavior: (when a friend of mine told me about it, i was sure he's wrong, but it really does seem to be the current behavior)

I've got both my iPhone and my iPad configured with the same Apple ID, iMessage turned on (and also iCloud, but I don't think this should matter)

Anyway, if someone iMessages me to my email address, it would properly arrive on both my iPhone and iPad. However, if they message my cell number - it would only arrive at my iPhone (as an iMessage), but not on my iPad - what's the point?! (no one should know that he has to SMS my mail address for my devices to show the message as expected)

Are you familiar with this thing? Do you think it's by design? Is there some kind of fix?

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lirand's pick

I have been experimenting with this, and it seems the design is such that any message sent to your mobile number will not reach your iPad or non iPhone iOS device.

It does seem like it might be possible to engineer the system so that an incoming message to a cell number is co-opted into an iMessage thread and essentially forwarded to your iMessage account.

So, when I receive a text or message to my cell, my iPhone forwards that message to my Apple ID, causing the conversation thread to appear on the non iPhone device.

I already have my "caller ID" set to one of my email addresses on both devices, so any replies I make come from an email anyway (I believe).

Not sure how technically possible this is, but the iMessage system would be a lot stronger if more of the threading was done behind the scenes. As it stands, conversations with people who don't initiate communication to an email address become fractured or at least restricted to appearing only on your iPhone.

I hope Apple can clean this up. Would be great. iMessage does seem like a fantastic start to the process of killing traditional text messages and their associated costs and making phone NUMBERS obsolete. It seems apple, like other companies are indeed interested in creating more personal IDs by which to communicate.
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lirand's pick

There seems to be some confusion about how iMessage works and how it decides whether to send a message as an SMS or an iMessage.

When I select a contact to send a message to, my iPhone sends a request to Apple's servers saying "Hey, is this contact an iMessage user?" And then, based on the contact's phone number or email address, the server responds with a yes or a no. That's why, when you select a new contact for the first time, the "Send" button changes from green (SMS) to blue (iMessage) as you're typing the message.

Your iPhone decides before you send the message whether it's going to be delivered via SMS or iMessage. Apple doesn't have any ties into the SMS delivery system other than normal sending an receiving as every phone has supported for years.

That being said, yes: it makes sense that Apple, when they look up my phone number and determine that I use iMessage, should automatically reroute the iMessage to my email address instead of my phone number, so that I can receive it on both my devices. Why they don't I can't say.

What would be really impressive, as lirand suggested, is the ability for the iPhone to receie standard SMS messages and then forward them as iMessages to my other devices.
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Apple nor AT&T should hold onto your cell number(Apple shouldn't know this), or your Apple ID(AT&T shouldn't know this); therefore neither service should be able to reroute your SMS/MMS messages to iMessage. . .
Since they both should not collect your data, keeping you anonymous as in your EULA, that would be the theoretical reason.
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You can see this behavior explained (if not resolved) in the Messages page on Settings.

The iPad version's "Receive at" contains your Apple ID email by default and allows you to add additional email address if you'd like to give out a different one for friends to message you. On the iPhone this defaults to the phone's number as well as the Apple ID email address, and the number can't be edited.

The reasoning seems to be that your iPad has no knowledge that you also have an iPhone.
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I'm pretty sure it's by design, Lirand. You're totally correct that you can only receive iMessages on both your iPhone and iPad if your friends iMessage you to an email address set up to receive on both the iPhone and iPad.

I WOULD LOVE to be able to receive texts sent to my iPhone via my phone # from my iPad, but I think there's a technical limitation because WiFi iPad's cannot connect to cellular networks. If all iPads had cellular connections built it, I feel as if it would be as easy as setting your phone number as another way to receive messages on your iPad.

Alas, I don't think this feature will ever happen though.
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I don't see why there should be any technical limitation (or any other limitation).

If someone messages your phone number and your iPhone receives it, it should just use data services to forward it to all other relevant email addresses that are configured on the device.

This way, Apple doesn't even need to "know" your phone number (as supersic said it is forbidden to).

I am puzzled by the current behavior.
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I noticed this as well and it kind of limits one of the big benefits of iMessage. It doesn't seem that there should be a technical reason for this so hopefully this is something that Apple adds in a point release to iOS 5.
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I to have the same problem, it's strange that as we are using iCloud the message records can't be synced the same way as notes and reminders. All your devices are linked as you specify what devices push or receives data.

Hopefully Apple will look in to this and maybe come up with a solution.
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I'm finding that iMessages sent to my mobile number are appearing on my iPad. Contact names are shown as it looks up the phone number in my contacts. I can reply to the message directly from my iPad and the sender receives it on their iPhone.
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