Fixing Your Apple iMessage: How to make group message use iMessage and not text

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Dividend Earner

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Our family of four recently had issues with iMessage using text message within our groups.

It was a bit weird initially and confusing. Is it the phone carrier? Is it the settings? What is happening?

For the records, all four family members are using an iPhone and are all setup with an Apple ID and signed in properly.

When Did The Issue Started?

We first started to notice the issue when two of us upgraded our iPhone iOS due to getting an Apple Watch 8. Getting the new watch forced an upgraed to iOS 16 which brought features that were not compatible with other iOS with iMessage.

The issue got compounded once we switched carrier not long after. We basically got 4 new sim cards for the new carrier that we needed to use the new network.

How Was The Issue Seen?

The four of us have groups together and we know we all have iPhones, iPads and Macbook. So it’s the full Apple ecosystem. Nothing to do with Android.

For simplicity, I will outline the family member as A, B, C, and D and show the permutation that were working and those that weren’t.

It was really puzzling … Why is this situation working and not this one … I can’t really tell why but we resolved it.

Working Group Chat Permutation

  • One on One: no issues. All iMessage work fine. Pick any permutation.
  • A + C + D: Parent A with C and D kids is all good.
  • B + C + D: Parent B with C and D kids is all good.
  • A + B + C + D: All of us together was good.

Problematic Group Chat Permutation

  • A + B + C: Both parents with one kid is NOT working with iMessage.
  • A + B + D: Both parents with one kid is NOT working with iMessage.

How To Resolve The Issue In 4 Steps?

We went through a few steps to get everything resolved, and it’s important to understand that it needs to be coordinated across all those contributing to a group chat that you want to see go through iMessage.

Step 1 – Ensure OS versions match

If someone is on a new iOS, make sure that everyone upgrades to that version. I believe you only need to match the major version like moving from iOS 15 to iOS 16 and not really move from iOS 16.1 to iOS 16.2.

iOS covers both the iPhone and the iPads. Ugrage all devices where the Messages app is installed.

I have not upgraded the Macbooks to Mac OS 13 though. It is still on Mac OS 12.6.

Step 2 – Make the default conversation ID your email

Under Settings -> iMessage, select the “Send & Receive” menu and select your email for the “START NEW CONVERSATION FROM” as it will guarantee Apple will try with iMessage and register you as iMessage in the group chat.

This step is critical before you start the next step. Make sure all of those in the group chat do that.

Step 3 – Delete ALL group messages not working

Delete all the problematic group messages from all your devices across all the members in the group. Everyone has to do it.

This is like doing a reset on the group message at the Apple server level. Without doing this, Apple seems to remember someone’s setting and keep it as is.

Remember that as an Apple user, if you are using iCloud to sync, you need to delete the group messages across all devices and that includes your iPad and your Macbook.

Step 4 – Start group chat in Airplane mode

Since we happened to resolve our issues while travelling, I initiated the group chat in airplane mode which guaranteed the carrier text would not be used. Obviously you have to be connected to a wi-fi.

That fixed it for us and the problematic permutation were resolve. What we essentially ended up doing is deleting all traces of our chat in the Apple servers that identifies the participants and preferred method of communication.