iMessage Activation Error On iPhone? Here’s Why & The Fix!

You can’t activate iMessage on your iPhone and you’re not sure why. No matter what you do, your iPhone can’t send iMessages. In this article, I’ll explain why you’re seeing an iMessage activation error on your iPhone and show you how to fix the problem for good!

Why Am I Receiving An iMessage Activation Error?

There are many different reasons why you could be seeing the iMessage activation error on your iPhone. In order to activate iMessage, your iPhone has to be connected to Wi-Fi or cellular data. It also has to be able to receive an SMS text message, the standard text messages that appear in green bubbles.

Almost every cell phone plan includes SMS texting, but you may want to double-check your account if you have a prepaid plan. You may need to add funds to your account before you can receive SMS texts.

All this is to say that we can’t be sure if an issue with your iPhone or your cell phone plan is causing the iMessage activation error. Follow the step-by-step guide below to diagnose and fix the real reason why you’re receiving an error when you try to activate iMessage!

Make Sure Airplane Mode Isn’t Turned On

When Airplane mode is on, your iPhone won’t connect Wi-Fi or cellular networks, so you won’t be able to activate iMessage. Open Settings and make sure the switch next to Airplane Mode is off.

If Airplane Mode is off, try toggling it on and off again. This can sometimes fix minor Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity issues.

airplane mode off vs on

Check Your Connection To Wi-Fi & Cellular Data

iMessage can only activate if your iPhone is connected to a Wi-Fi network or cellular data. It’s a good to double-check and make sure your iPhone is connected to Wi-Fi or cellular data! First, open Settings and tap Wi-Fi to see if your iPhone is connected to Wi-Fi.

Make sure the switch next to Wi-Fi is turned on and a blue checkmark appears next to the name of your network. If Wi-Fi is on, try toggling it off and back on.

make sure iphone connected to wifi

Next, go to Settings, tap Cellular, and make sure the switch next to Cellular Data is on. Again, you may want to try toggling the switch off and back on to potentially fix a minor software glitch.

make sure iphone cellular data is on

Set Your iPhone To The Correct Time Zone

iMessage activation can sometimes fail if your iPhone is set to the wrong time zone. This often happens to people who travel abroad and forget to have their iPhone update its time zone automatically.

Open Settings and tap General -> Date & Time. Turn on the switch next to Set Automatically to make sure your iPhone is always set to the correct date and time zone!

date and time settings set automatically

Turn iMessage Off And Back On

Toggling iMessage off and back on again can fix a minor glitch that’s giving your iPhone an iMessage activation error. First, open Settings and tap Messages.

Tap the switch at the top of the screen next to iMessage to turn it off. Tap the switch again to turn iMessage back on! You’ll know it’s on when the switch is green.

turn off imessage in settings app

Check For A Carrier Settings Update

Your wireless carrier and Apple frequently release carrier settings updates to improve your iPhone’s ability to connect to your carrier’s network. Open Settings and tap General -> About to see if a carrier settings update is available.

Typically, a pop-up will appear on the screen within a few seconds if an update is available. If the pop-up appears, tap Update.

Carrier Settings Update On iPhone

If the pop-up doesn’t appear after about fifteen seconds, a carrier settings update probably isn’t available.

Update Your iPhone

Apple releases new iOS updates to fix minor bugs and introduce new features for your iPhone. Open Settings and tap General -> Software Update. If a new iOS update is available, tap Download and Install.

update iphone to ios 12

Sign Out Of Your Apple ID

Logging out of and back into your Apple ID can sometimes fix minor issues with your account. Since iMessage is linked to your Apple ID, a minor glitch or error with your account could cause an activation error.

Open Settings and tap on Your Name at the top of the screen. Scroll all the way down and tap Sign Out. You’ll be prompted to enter your Apple ID password before you’re logged out.

check apple id and sign out

Now that you’ve signed out of your Apple ID, tap the Sign In button. Enter your Apple ID and password to log back in!

Reset Network Settings

When you reset your iPhone’s network settings, all of its Wi-Fi, Cellular, Bluetooth, and VPN settings will get erased and restored to factory defaults. You’ll have to reenter your Wi-Fi passwords and reconnect your Bluetooth devices to your iPhone once the reset is complete.

Open Settings and tap General -> Reset -> Reset Network Settings. Enter your iPhone passcode and confirm the reset by tapping Reset Network Settings. Your iPhone will shut down, reset, then turn on again when the reset is complete.

reset then reset network settings iphone

Contact Apple & Your Wireless Carrier

If you’re still receiving an iMessage activation error on your iPhone, it’s time to contact Apple or your wireless carrier. I recommend starting at the Apple Store, since iMessage is a feature unique to iPhones. Visit Apple’s support website to set up a phone call, live chat, or in-person appointment at a local Apple Store near you.

However, if you found that your iPhone was unable to receive an SMS text message, your best bet is to contact your wireless carrier first. Below is a list of the customer support numbers of the four major wireless carriers. If your carrier isn’t listed below, Google your carrier’s name and “customer support” to get help.

  • AT&T: 1-(800)-331-0500
  • Sprint: 1-(888)-211-4727
  • T-Mobile: 1-(877)-746-0909
  • Verizon: 1-(800)-922-0204

iMessage: Activated!

You’ve successfully activated iMessage on your iPhone! You’ll know exactly what to do next time you see an iMessage activation error on your iPhone. If you have any other questions, leave them in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading,
David L.

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I'm here to help you with your iPhone!

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1 month ago

I am getting an activation error for iMessage & FaceTime. I have tried everything. Even Apple support couldn’t help

1 month ago
Reply to  Atiya

Did you get it fixed? I am having the same problem and i am super frustrated

1 month ago

If you did not have NEW SIM card activated by your carrier, then you will get the message for eternity.
I used my previous SIM card and fixed issue.

2 months ago

Hi, i’ve tried everything on the list and my imessage still says “activation unsuccessful.” i have an iphone 11 and even updated my phone to the latest IOS but it is still not working when i try to activate my phone number with imessage.

2 months ago

My iPad has iOS 9.3.5

2 months ago

Hi, I’ve recently gotten an iphone 5s and imessage isnt working at all, every try it’s the same erroer during activation. I’ve updated it to ios 12.4.8 and tried every possible solution even factory resetted and the problem is still there.

Liam Shotwell
2 months ago
Reply to  Robert

I’m not 100% sure, but I wonder if iMessage won’t work unless you are on the latest version of iOS. In this case, that would be iOS 13 (soon to be iOS 14). Since the iPhone 5s is very old and limited in its updates, you may not be able to run certain applications to their full potential. If you want to take advantage of everything iOS has to offer, like iMessage, you should probably consider getting a new iPhone. This phone comparison tool from UpPhone can help you make a decision based on price, storage capacity, features, and more.

3 months ago

I’ve just changed provider and kept my original number but can’t get any messages on the number. They all come through on my temporary number.
I-message says waiting for activation but it’s been 26 hours now. My new provider says my number has transferred over but it’s still not working. I have restarted the phone several times but nothing seems to be happening and it’s frustrating

Alexandra Jane
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve

Me too!! It’s super frustrating. Have you been able to fix this yet?

Carol Deibert
4 months ago

My new iPhone didn’t set up my iMessages and it’s giving me a waiting to establish error for iMessages I cannot receive SMS or iMessages. I’ve tried all the steps listed above with the exception of the phone reset. Can you give me some guidance as to how I can get this working it’s been two days now.

7 months ago

I have tested all the methods listed above and is just doesn’t work.

amr moahmed
8 months ago

I have a problem erroe on my iphone plz check it