Text Message Forwarding in iOS 8.1

Written by BradzTech on Jan 18, 2015

Apple has recently added the ability to send text messages (SMS) and answer phone calls from devices other than your iPhone. Previously, iMessages would sync between your Apple devices, which proved a great convenience to many. For example, when I'm not by my phone, I could still get the message on my computer. On the other hand, regular text messages, most commonly used when communicating with those with a non-Apple phone, didn't sync up until recently.

Text Message vs. iMessage

To understand the text message forwarding functionality added in iOS 8.1 and OS X 10.10 Yosemite, one must first comprehend the difference between a traditional, SMS text message and an iMessage. In the early days of the iPhone, text messaging always utilized SMS technology, meaning Short Message Service. Likewise, sending a picture using the Messages app would use MMS, or Multimedia Message Service. SMS is still the standard in text messaging in smartphones not manufactured by Apple. Unfortunately, SMS messages have a number of limitations, such as a very annoying 160 character limit per message. These pitfalls prompted Apple to create their own, proprietary messaging network. Starting in iOS 4, the messages could be sent to any fellow Apple device users. Because iMessage uses Internet data, this group includes iPad, Mac, and iPod Touch users. Apple's hidden motive of developing the iMessage platform was probably as a marketing point for the iPod Touch. It's very easy to tell what type of message you're sending from an iPhone: just look at the color of a sent text. If it's green, it is a text message, or SMS. If it's blue, it is an iMessage. If you observe enough messages, you will start to notice a pattern. Granted you have iMessage enabled, blue messages are used in conversations with Apple device users. Green messages are used with any other brand cell phone-owner. This pattern is formed since iMessage takes precedence over SMS, but iMessage is exclusive to Apple products. iMessage eventually grew to have many advantages over SMS, like read receipts, and virtually unlimited length messages. For more information, check out Apple's page advertising iMessage. Plus, owners of multiple Apple devices could start texting on one device and continue it on the other. Until recently, this was a major disadvantage to SMS.

Text Message Forwarding Comes In

In the days before text message forwarding, to text your friend who doesn't have an iOS device, you would then have to, say, hobble up multiple flights of stairs and rummage through your purse for your iPhone.

In iOS 8.1, Apple benefitted its customers by making this a thing of the past. Now both types of messages can be sent from not only an iPhone, but also an iPod Touch or iPad. It even works on a Mac, granted it has been updated to Apple's latest OS X 10.10 Yosemite. Text message forwarding is, well, forwarding. As iPads and Macs don't have cellular chips, they can't directly send text messages, as they can do in the case of iMessage, which only involves the Internet. Instead, your phone communicates back and forth with other devices via iCloud. When you send a text message from your computer using this new text message forwarding functionality, your computer is actually "telling" your phone to send the message. For this reason, you must own an iPhone to send text messages.

Setting up Text Message Forwarding

A screenshot of the text message forwarding submenu in Settings on iPhone.Text message forwarding is not enabled by default; some may find it as an annoyance. It only takes a minute or two to enable this functionality if you use the directions I outlined below.

  1. Make sure your devices are on the same iCloud account. If you're unsure, go to Settings > iCloud on an iOS device or System Preferences > iCloud on a Mac.
  2. Go to Settings on your phone. Tap Messages. Tap Text Message Forwarding.
  3. Turn the slider on for devices you want to forward to.
  4. A verification code will appear. Unlock your target device, if necessary, and enter the code on it. If this doesn't work, you may need to enable your email for iMessage.

A screenshot of the window that pops up on a Mac when a verification request for text message forwarding is initiated from an iPhone.That's it. For now on, any SMS messages you send on your phone will be forwarded to your other device. To test it out, open Messages on your non-iPhone. Start a conversation with a person who you know doesn't have an Apple device. If the name turns green, text message forwarding is working properly. If it turns red and doesn't let you send a message, then you didn't properly set up SMS forwarding. If you haven't already, make sure all of your devices can send iMessages as well. This way, you can now send both types of text messages on all your iOS devices. I hope you appreciate this new feature in Apple software; I know I do.

About BradzTech

Welcome! I'm BradzTech, a Computer Science student at Rochester Institute of Technology. I am passionate about computers and analyzing the latest happenings in the rapidly developing modern field of technology, specifically, using it to help people. I share my thoughts on Twitter and, occasionally, here on my blog. Learn more about me.