Skip to main content
Accessibility Resource Center Skip to main content
Get up to $500 when you bring the phone you love. OR get iPhone 13, on us. Online only. With Select 5G Unlimited plans. Ends 1.31. Buy now
end of navigation menu
SMS vs. imessage

Not sure how it works when I'm texting................

I have limited data plan and unlimited call/text. So I keep cellular data turned off and use free wifi everywhere I can. Today I turned my data on and suddenly a whole bunch of texts came through (I was not on wifi at the time). The text were to many people so not all Apple (imessage) users. There was a picture/gif in the messages.


So my questions..........

If I'm not on wifi, and I try to text, it says "imessage must be enabled to send this message." Under settings I have "send as SMS when imessage is not available" turned on, but this seems to make no difference. I understand my Verizon plan is umlimited text and that doesn't include images, but why can't I even send plain texts when on the 4G network?

does cellular data need to be turned on to send and receive texts? (If not on wifi). If not, how come my phone was not receiving any texts until I turned it on?

Does sending texts through imessage count as data usage (If not on wifi)? If so how do I stop that from happening? I have unlimited text and as long as I'm only sending plain text I should get dinged for data usage.

Labels (1)
Re: SMS vs. imessage
Customer Support

We always want to see you have the best experience and be able to enjoy using your messaging feature. I can confirm that if a picture or GIF file is in the message, a data connection will be required to receive the message. Green SMS texts do not require a data connection but an MMS(picture message not over iMessage)will require a cellular data connection to transmit the message using a very small amount of data to send or receive it. Blue iMessages will require cellular data or WiFi access. It is possible you have an existing thread with one of your contacts in iMessage and they only have their email address listed with Apple, not a phone number, which would be the reason it says "iMessage must be enabled to send the message." I would suggest erasing the message thread with one of the contacts that you tested and generate a new message with iMessage turned off if you no longer want to use the service. Please consider iMessage will only use a very small amount of data over the course of the month as the messages and small pictures are not large files being transmitted. Please keep me updated on the status as you test it further once you can erase one of the threads and generate a new message.        YaleK_VZW

Re: SMS vs. imessage

You weren’t complete enough in your subject

It is SMS vs MMS vs iMessage

SMS will work with just cellular connection no data

MMS needs cellular data connection

iMessage needs Internet connection of some sort - wifi or cellular. 

Modern smartphones are not designed not to have a data connection and you are limiting the ability for the phone to work as designed when you turn off data and don’t have wifi. You’d be better off when on wifi to completely turn off cellular (airplane mode) and use wifi calling.