Own an iPhone and always wondered why some messages in the message app are blue and others green? You’re one of (most likely) many.
The short answer? Blue messages are those sent or received using Apple’s iMessage technology, while green ones are “traditional” text messages exchanged through Short Messaging Service, or SMS.
If you’re pondering why you should care about this at all, the answer is yes….and no. Let’s start with SMS.
Any standard SMS text message gets delivered over the same voice networks used for phone calls. In days of yore, carriers were charged by the message, usually 10 to 25 cents per text. A fixed number of messages were bundled into a calling plan, whereas now most plans offer unlimited text messaging.
Eventually Apple launched iMessage, which looks and performs like standard SMS but relied on cellular or WiFi data networks. This provided freedom from carrier rates for SMS if dealing with a capped plan or similar issue, and also offers a sizable set of messaging features. iMessage makes it possible to do things standard SMS simply cannot, such as send walkie-talkie-style voice messages, check message delivery, and whether someone is currently writing you back or not via three dots appearing below the last sent message.
However, iMessage only works with other iDevice owners. Using the Messages app to contact Android, Windows Phone, and Blackberry users means an automatic switch to SMS mode, or green instead of blue word bubbles.
Surprisingly, it’s also possible to “see green” even when communicating with a fellow iPhone user. This occurs when iMessage isn’t activated on your or your recipient’s device, or there’s no data network available. If your phone can still connect to a voice tower, it will automatically return to SMS.
So what does this all mean? Are there times when it makes sense to opt for one messaging method over the other? Text messages may be small, but picture messages often eat a large chunk of data, so if your service plan features unlimited texting but limited data, you may want to switch off iMessage for SMS. The flip side of this is when communicating with other iPhone users and still only seeing green messages. Request that the other person enable their iMessage service so you may enjoy the numerous benefits of said service.
Many users don’t even know iMessage is “a thing,” and therefore do not realize it’s not enabled.