Friday, February 1, 2019


Does the iPhone Use Data to Text People? iMessage Tutorial for Apple iPad mini

About iMessage and SMS/MMS

Learn why some of your message bubbles are blue or green.

You can  use the Messages app on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to send messages . Those messages are sent as iMessage or SMS/MMS. Learn more about the difference between the message types.



iMessages are texts, photos, or videos that you send to iOS devices and Macs over Wi-Fi or cellular-data networks. These messages are always encrypted and appear in blue text bubbles. To turn iMessage on or off, go to Settings > Messages.



If you aren’t using iMessage, you can use SMS/MMS. These messages are texts and photos that you send to other cell phones or iOS devices. SMS/MMS messages aren’t encrypted and appear in green text bubbles on your device.


To use SMS/MMS on an iPhone, you need a text-messaging plan.  Contact your wireless carrier  for more information. You can also set up your other Apple devices to  send and receive messages from any Apple device .

If Wi-Fi is unavailable, iMessages will be sent over cellular data. Cellular data rates might apply.


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Does the iPhone Use Data to Text People?

by Erik Johnson

Text messaging can be expensive.

Text messaging can be expensive.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images News/Getty Images

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  • 3 Why Does the Message on My iPhone Sometimes Come Up Blue & Sometimes Green?
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The iPhone is a powerful communication tool that many owners use for its text messaging capability. Business owners who send many messages a day can rack up large bills from their wireless carriers quickly unless they have unlimited texting plans. Knowing the ways that the iPhone can send text messages to your contacts can prevent the use of your data allowance on the phone and save money. The iPhone sends both traditional text messages and Apple’s proprietary iMessages from the Messages app.


By default, the iPhone sends text messages over your cellular network through a service called Short Messaging Service. While SMS messages don’t count against your data plan, your carrier charges for each message sent and received if text messages aren’t included in your plan. Long messages can be even more costly, as each 160 characters in a message may be charged separately. In the iPhone’s Messages app, texts sent via SMS have a green background.


Messages that include a photo or video use a technology called Multimedia Messaging Service. Your cellular carrier likely charges for MMS messages separately from SMS messages, but they don’t consume your data plan. There’s no character limit for MMS messages, although your carrier may set a limit on the size of the image or video clip. MMS messages also display a green background in the Messages app.


Apple includes a service called iMessage with iOS 5 and later, which allows users to send messages to iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Macintosh OS X users over a Wi-Fi connection without incurring SMS or MMS fees or using any of your cellular data allowance. IMessages can also be sent over a cellular connection when Wi-Fi is unavailable, and these messages use your data plan allowance. Messages sent as iMessages over Wi-Fi display a blue background in the Messages app.

Preventing Cellular Data Use

You would need to send thousands of 160 character messages to use a megabyte of data, but photos and videos consume data much more quickly. Use a Wi-Fi network to send images. To prevent accidental cellular data usage on the iPhone, open the Settings app, scroll to the Messages section and turn off “Send as SMS” and “MMS Messaging.”

References (5)

  • Wireless Developer Network: Short Message Service: What, How and Where?
  • Time Magazine: Guess What Texting Costs Your Wireless Carrier?
  • Space scientist Says Texting Is Four Times More Expensive Than Receiving Scientific Data From Space
  • Apple: Messages
  • Apple: iPhone User Guide

Resources (2)

  • AT&T: Wireless Plans
  • Verizon: Text Messaging FAQs

About the Author

Based in Colorado, Erik Johnson has been writing professionally since 1996 and has worked in real estate, management and technical fields. Recipient of the 3M Richard G. Drew Recognition of Creativity, Johnson is the author of three books.

Photo Credits

  • Sean Gallup/Getty Images News/Getty Images
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Topics > Apple > Discussions

This discussion is locked

    3 Replies

    Latest reply on Apr 2, 2015 1:12 PM by Verizon Wireless Customer Support

    Can I receive text messages when cellular data is turned off?


    harpersfancy May 27, 2016 7:18 AM

      New to iphone.  Looking at conserving data.  Turned off cellular data and no unable to receive text messages despite good cell service.  Do you absolutely need the data to send and receive a simple text with iphone 5s?

        This content has been marked as final. 

        Show 3 replies

        • 1.

          Re: Can you receive text messages when cellular data turned off?  Doesn’t seem to work, but old phone used to.



          Apr 2, 2015 9:57 AM

          ( in response to harpersfancy )

          No. You must have cellular data turned on for MMS, but not standard text only messages.

          • 2.

            Re: Can you receive text messages when cellular data turned off?  Doesn’t seem to work, but old phone used to.



            Apr 2, 2015 10:38 AM

            ( in response to harpersfancy )

            If the messages are iMessages, sent and received via Apple’s servers, then YES you do need data enabled.

            If they are standard text (not group or picture) messages then no data req’d.

            1 of 1 people found this helpful

            • 3.

              Re: Can you receive text messages when cellular data turned off?  Doesn’t seem to work, but old phone used to.

              Verizon Wireless Customer Support

              Verizon Wireless Customer Support

              Apr 2, 2015 1:12 PM

              ( in response to harpersfancy )

              That is a great question harpersfancy! I want you to be  able to get your messages if data is off or on. My question to you is what application are you using for your messages? If you are using Verizon Messaging +. You are able to receive text and picture messages if you are connected to Wi-Fi. If you are using any other application then no you will not be able to receive. Keep me posted.
              Follow us on Twitter @VZWSupport
              If my response answered your question please click the “Correct Answer” button under my response. This ensures others can benefit from our conversation. Thanks in advance for your help with this!!

              Go to original post

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