What to do when iMessage won’t activate on your iPhone (2024)

By Kevin Hollington - Staff Writer
3 Min Read

If you are seeing an error message suggesting that iMessage on your iPhone is “Waiting for activation” or “Activation unsuccessful”, we have the solution here.

If you see any of the following error messages you may need to activate iMessage again. This may be the case if you have recently changed network supplier or got a new iPhone.

  • Waiting for activation
  • Activation unsuccessful
  • An error occurred during activation
  • Could not sign in, please check your network connection

If you are having this problem, you won’t be able to send or receive iMessages on your iPhone. This is because this error prevents iMessage activation and you need to activate iMessage before using it. In general, activation is usually a very simple process. However, if you are seeing an error message suggesting that iMessage on your iPhone is “Waiting for activation” or “Activation unsuccessful”, we have the solution here.

Here’s what to do if you aren’t able to send text messages because iMessages isn’t activated.

How to fix iMessage activation problems on iPhone

1. Make sure that you’re connected to the internet

You can’t activate iMessage if your iPhone can’t reach the activation servers. To check if your iPhone is connected to the internet, open Safari and visit GeeksModo.com. If our website doesn’t load, you’ve found the culprit. Here’s what to do:

  • Turn on Airplane Mode, wait 10 seconds, and then turn it off (Settings > Airplane Mode)
  • If you are using a VPN service, disable it and try again (Settings > VPN)
  • Restart your iPhone (Settings > General > Shut Down)
  • Restart your Wi-Fi modem/router by unplugging it from the power outlet and then plugging it in again.
  • And if your issue persists, you may want to reset your iPhone’s network settings. Please note that when you reset your network settings, your Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or cellular settings will be erased. For example, your Wi-Fi passwords will be deleted. Go to Settings > General > Transfer or Reset iPhone > Reset and then tap Reset Network Settings.

2. Check that your time and date are correct

If the time and date on your iPhone are incorrect, it can mess with your connection to Apple’s servers. Please ensure that the date and time settings on iPhone are set correctly for your time zone. Here’s how to check:

  1. Launch the Settings app and tap General.
  2. Tap Date & Time.
  3. If Date & Time are incorrect, change them.
  4. Also, make sure that the Set Automatically button is toggled on. If it’s not, swipe it to the right and restart your iPhone.

Once the iPhone restarts, check iMessage.

3. Update your iPhone

Make sure your iPhone is running the latest version of iOs. Here’s how to check:

  1. Launch the Settings app and tap General.
  2. Tap Software Update.
  3. If an update is available, tap Update Now unfollowed the on screen instructions.

4. Turn iMessage Off, Reboot, And Then Back On

If you are still having this problem, turn off iMessage, restart your iPhone and then turn iMessage on again. Here is how:

  1. Launchthe the Settings app and tap Messages.
  2. Tap the button next to iMessage to turn iMessage off.
  3. Once I message a standoff, restart your iPhone.
  4. Now go back to Settings > Messages and turn on iMessage.
  5. You may have to wait a while while iMessage is activated This can take up to 24 hours.

5. Sign out and back into your Apple ID

iMessage is connected to your Apple ID account; this account is used to access iCloud and other Apple services that require ID. Refreshing your iPhone’s Apple ID might fix the issue.

  1. Launch the Settings app and tap your name at the top of the page.
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the page and tap Sign Out. You might have to enter your password to fully log out.
  3. Once you’re signed out, restart your iPhone.
  4. When it starts back up, return to the Settings app and sign back into your Apple ID.
  5. Again, you may have to wait up to 24 hours for iMessage to activate.

6. Check Apple’s server status page

When iMessage "activate," what it’s really doing is contacting Apple’s servers to see if you’re using a legitimate Apple ID. So if Apple’s servers aren’t working, your apps can’t activate. You can find out if iMessage servers are down. Here is how:

  • Launch Safari and visit Apple’s System Status page.
  • Locate iMessage in the list of services.
  • If you see a green circle next to it, iMessage servers are up and running.
  • If the dot is yellow or red instead, the iMessage servers are having issues. If that’s the case, just wait for Apple to repair the servers.

7. Factory reset your iPhone

Now that you’ve ensured all the most basic settings are properly configured, if iMessage still isn’t turning on, try resetting your iPhone. This can flush out any corrupted data, crashed apps and other digital debris.

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Transfer or Reset iPhone.
  4. Tap Erase all Content and Settings.

8. Contact your carrier

If you have tried all the steps above and you’re still getting an error message saying “Activation unsuccessful. Turn on iMessage to try again”, it could be that iMessage is failing to send that important activation SMS. Contact your carrier and make sure you’re able to send and receive SMS messages.

Once you’re able to send and receive SMS messages, you might get a pop-up that says "Your carrier may charge for SMS messages used to activate FaceTime and iMessage."

If so, tap OK.

Now wait and see if the iMessage will activate on your iPhone.

9. Contact Apple Support

If none of those troubleshooting steps solved the problem, you should contact Apple support for assistance.

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By Kevin Hollington Staff Writer
Kevin Hollington is a seasoned tech journalist based in Los Angeles with a penchant for all things Apple. He started writing about Apple products in 2007 and it’s been a love affair ever since. He has spent over a decade testing and writing about iPhones, iPads, Macs, and other Apple products. In his spare time, he likes nothing more than catching up with the latest news and sports podcasts on the beach.
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