Barbara writes: How do I get my iPhone to “text” rather than “iMessage?” The phone seems to have automatically started “messaging” to other iPhones when I try to text, but the delivery of iMessages has not been nearly as reliable as texting.

Hi Barbara! Yep, the whole iMessage thing began a couple years back, with the debut of iOS 5 in 2011.

In a nutshell, iMessage is Apple’s answer to garden-variety text and pictures messaging. Unlike standard text (or “SMS”) messages, iMessages are sent over the Internet, bypassing the SMS and picture-message services offered by your wireless carrier.

Of course, there are pros and cons to iMessages. Among the pros: you can iMessage with Mac users as well as iPhone and iPad buddies, and you can get notifications whenever an iMessage is successfully delivered. Best of all: you can iMessage your fellow iPhone, iPad and Mac users all you want, for free.

The cons: iMessage doesn’t work on Android phones or other non-iOS handsets (an iMessage sent to an Android phone, for example, will arrive as a standard text message), and as you point out, Barbara, sometimes it just plain doesn’t work.

iOS iMessage settings

Not a fan of iMessage? It’s easy to turn off.

Now, in my experience, iMessage has proven pretty reliable—or at least as reliable as text messaging is.

That said, if you’ve had enough of iMessage and want to disable it on your iPhone or iPad, it’s easily done.

Here’s how…

  • Tap Settings, then scroll down and tap Messages.
  • At the very top of the next screen, you’ll see an “iMessage” setting with the switched turned on. Go ahead and flick the switch off.

And yes, that’s all there is to it; from now on, all the messages you send from your iPhone will arrive as text messages.

Keep in mind, though, that your cellular carrier may charge you extra for text and/or picture messages, depending on your monthly plan.

Hope that helps, Barbara. Have more questions? Let me know!

Bonus tip

Want to force a single iMessage to send itself as a text message, all without turning iMessage off entirely? Here’s how.