Having Texting Issues After Switching from Android to iPhone? Here’s a Possible Fix

We’ve heard of disabling iMessage before switching to Android. Did you know the reverse is also true?

I recently switched back to Android from my iPhone 12 mini, and for good reason: I was having trouble sending and receiving text messages with people using Android devices.

The issue was this: I could not send any type of MMS from my iPhone to someone with an Android phone. Granted, I realized that most of my contacts are currently rocking iPhones just like me, but there were a few glaring omissions: my mom, my grandmother, and my uncle. That meant I couldn’t send new photos of my wife and me to my mom, I couldn’t send silly videos of my cat to my grandmother, and when Paramount released a plethora of trailers for new Star Trek shows (Q!!!), I was forced to send a boring text to my uncle rather than sending him the links to the awesome footage. And group text conversations with them were out the window.

At first, I thought the issue was with my carrier. I contacted them (Cricket at the time) and they said the issue was the size of the pictures I was trying to send (they said I couldn’t send files bigger than 1Mb), and I called bullshit on this because A) I’ve never had a problem sending a larger picture through MMS before, and B) it wouldn’t even send tiny GIF files. Then, they said they were going through some troubleshooting steps on their end, but I never heard back from them, and the problem persisted.

Initially, this was just a nuisance, and one that I was able to work around easily enough; I shared photos with my mom in Google Photos, for example, and I figured my uncle has the means to look up the trailers on YouTube for himself. And then, I eventually switched carriers, and figured my problem would go away when I did so; I also switched from the 12 mini to the 12 Pro Max at the same time (talk about a shock to the system). New carrier, new device, problem solved, right?

Wrong.

Image Credit: Sony

Despite switching to AT&T and using a completely different iPhone, the issue persisted, and it was baffling to me. What’s more, I now wasn’t even able to get regular, humdrum text messages from my mom or my grandmother. What the hell was going on?

Since the problem crossed carriers and iPhones, I wondered if there was an iOS issue. A quick Google search seemingly confirmed this suspicion; I found dozens of threads on the Apple Community forums of people complaining that their iPhones- specifically those in the 12 family- were not sending pictures to Android users or not receiving texts from Android users. Great.

I had a glimmer of hope that the upcoming 14.5 update may include a fix, but the forums suggested that previous updates had failed to fix the problem. So, I did some troubleshooting with AT&T to see what they could do. After spending most of the day, off and on, working with the carrier’s chat service, an update was pushed to my network that was promised to “resolve the issue for good.” Short story, it did not.

Image Credit: CBS/Paramount

I tried some home remedies like resetting my network settings, then resetting all settings, and I came very close to resetting the iPhone to factory settings and restarting it fresh without using a backup from the 12 mini, just in case there was a wonky setting that had carried over and I couldn’t find. I turned off iMessage, I turned off MMS, I even turned off 5G trying to solve this conundrum. Nothing worked.

I then started to think of alternative solutions. I could get my family members using Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, which would bypass the need for SMS/MMS entirely. But I wasn’t a fan of relying on a third-party service for the most basic feature that my cell phone should have (especially if any of us found ourselves in a situation where we needed SMS to communicate and couldn’t rely on our data signal). I also considered getting my mom and grandmother on iPhones (my uncle could figure his life out on that one himself), but that would be expensive, and it would only solve the problem for their messages; what if there were other friends out there using Android who were trying in vain to message me?

The good news here is that I did find a solution, and it ended up being so damn simple that I think it needs to be shared (exhibit A). For my texting woes, it wasn’t a weird setting or an iOS bug or a carrier issue. It was Google’s answer to iMessage. The only constant in all of this had been my phone number; I’d ported it over from my old carrier to the new one, and with that, my problem ported over too.

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

Have you ever heard of “RCS Messaging”? I had, once or twice, but it is not a term that is nearly as prolific as iMessage. It should be, though, given that it was exactly what was causing my problem. For someone switching from Android to iPhone, it should be as prominent in your switching conversations as iMessage is when going in the opposite direction.

Put simply, Google has been working on their version of iMessage for a while, an option to bring similar features- read receipts, the little dots when the other person is typing, sending over data and wifi, the ability to send larger files and higher resolution images, etc., and so forth- to Android users. Google called this RCS- or Rich Communication Services- Messaging. Google would like this to replace SMS as the standard. Please note, while it works a lot like iMessage, it doesn’t work with iMessage; in fact, it is just as exclusive, only working between Android devices using a supported messaging app (like Google’s stock Messages app).

And like iMessage on iPhone, it comes with the same big caveat: when you have been using RCS Messaging and switch to a phone that doesn’t use it- like an iPhone- you must first disable RCS Messaging with your phone number before you switch. If you don’t, your phone number will remain enrolled with RCS Messaging, and texts being sent to it will hang in limbo trying to reach your Android device instead of being sent as SMS/MMS to your iPhone.

If this story sounds familiar, you aren’t imagining it; this has, for a long time, been a complaint of people switching from iPhone- and iMessage- to Android. But now, with Google’s RCS Messaging, this issue now swings both ways. The problem is that every cellphone carrier knows to warn iPhone users to turn off iMessage before switching to their new Samsung or Pixel or (RIP) LG phone. But I’d wager very few know to warn Android users to do the same; the guy who set me up with AT&T definitely did not, nor did any of the tech support people I spoke to while trying to resolve this issue.

There’s a larger fix to be had here, but let’s first talk about how I actually fixed this on my phone.

Google’s support page for turning on RCS chat features suggests that the issue may resolve itself within 8 days of switching to a device not supported by RCS (but it is kinda buried within the article). I wasn’t that patient, and I’m pretty sure the issue persisted for far longer than 8 days when I was on Cricket. But if you forgot to do this and are now struggling with sending and receiving texts and pictures to your green-bubbled contacts, there are a couple of solutions.

Mine was to take my AT&T SIM card out of my shiny, new 12 Pro Max and pop it back into my Pixel (thank goodness the Pixel is unlocked and supports most carriers). As if confirming that I was on the right track, as soon as the Pixel connected to the SIM, all of my missed messages from my mom and grandmother came streaming in. I then went to the Messages app, tapped the menu and selected Settings, and then tapped on Chat Features (listed at the very top). Since I was using a SIM and carrier that the Pixel wasn’t familiar with, I actually had to turn on the chat features, wait for a beat for it to recognize that it was the same phone number that was previously registered, and then turn it off again. If you are using the same SIM/carrier that you’d originally used in your Android device, you may simply just need to turn off chat features once you plug in the SIM. It took a few minutes after I placed the SIM back into the iPhone, but my messages with my mom started to come in with no issues.

Image Credit: CBS/Paramount

Keep in mind, this will only work if you still have your Android device and if your current SIM is compatible with it; before I put the AT&T SIM in, I tried to do it using the now-defunct Cricket SIM- the one that was actually registered with RCS Messaging- and that was a no-go. Google has also published a form that you can submit to have your number removed from RCS Messaging after the fact; I didn’t discover this until after I completed the above steps, but it is there if you can’t simply plug your SIM card into your old Android device.

Look, I like that Google is trying to answer the iMessage problem from their end, finally giving Android users similar benefits to what Apple users have for a long time been so addicted to (after all, iMessage seems to be a deciding factor in many people’s buying preferences). But I can’t help thinking that by creating RCS Messaging, Google has only made the text messaging waters that much more confusing.

And I think that, as these new messaging standards become… well, standard, Google needs to do more to make it apparent that this service needs to be disabled before switching platforms. I don’t imagine it would just affect switching from Android to iOS, but even switching to a Samsung phone or any phone that doesn’t use Google’s Messages app as the default text messaging program (hell, it could even cause some head-scratching if you switch your messaging app on your phone without switching devices).

If this is the future Google sees for SMS/MMS messaging, honestly, they need to find a way to make it as well-advertised a feature on Android as iMessage is on iPhone; at least until it becomes a more universal standard. I think that starts with finding a better, catchier name than “RCS Messaging” or “Chat Features”, something prominent that you know you only get with Android and you know whether you’ve turned it on or not (my mom didn’t even know she had it activated on her phone, and I guarantee my grandmother didn’t know that either). Make it a selling point, make it obvious, so that when someone decides to switch platforms, it is obvious that they need to complete some steps to remove it, just like we do with iMessage.

Until then, hopefully this article will help anyone else out there who has encountered an issue like this; maybe this will save you from frantically ripping your hair out while trying desperately to figure out what the hell is wrong. I can’t guarantee this will solve every problem, but if you’ve just switched to iPhone from Android, know that RCS Messaging could be the author of all your pain. Perhaps it is Google’s payback for all the irks iMessage has caused Android users for so long.

Image Credit: MGM/Columbia Picture/EON Productions

I am just clever enough to get myself in trouble…

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store