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iPhone to iPhone texting while overseas?

Tech savvy, American iPhone users who go to Europe, we are stumped, can you please advise? I had a previous thread about texting while overseas and several T-Mobile users said they had no trouble. But I wonder if you/they were texting people with Android phones or iPhones?

We will be overseas for 39 days next April and May. We have T-Mobile Go5G 55plus plan which includes international plan with unlimited text and up to 5 GB of high speed data, then unlimited data at up to 256Kbps.

Fine print-I think the unlimited texting in our plan refers to “green text”, not blue text (iMessage). When we text Android users, the texts show up on our end as green texts. When my husband and I text iPhone users, the texts are blue. Makes sense.

My husband and I have been testing this at home to see if we can send green texts to each other. We think we were recently able to toggle off iMessage and still text one another(but haven’t been able to confirm). We try toggling different options in settings to see if we can figure it out. No go!

The salesman at T-Mobile said we would need to turn off iMessage while overseas to be able to avoid using cellular data to text while out and about. But when we turn off iMessage, we are not able to text one another (usually). We are prompted to turn on cellular data so we can text. Then it’s blue text(iMessage), which uses cellular data when not on WiFi. We suspect the salesman was wrong with his advice. It sure would be nice to know before we go overseas.

We read articles online that iMessage requiring internet to text is an Apple issue, not a service provider issue. It’s possible to disable iMessage and only send SMS messages, but I’m hesitant to do that, in case there are good reasons to keep imessage(better security, maybe?).

We thought of going to our local Apple Store to ask for help, but someone posted a negative review that staff were rude.

We may try to get tech help from a local person, but he doesn’t travel like all of you.

Do you text others using iMessage while on cellular data? Maybe you have a killer plan with unlimited high speed data while overseas? Can you send green texts to other iPhone users?

We’d like to know how much data our iMessage texting will eat up, though we will use hotel WiFi and other public WiFi when available. Our billing cycle ends part way into our trip, so we will have more data available in the second half of our trip.

Do any of you purchase a different overseas plan from what you use at home in the U.S.? I may wish to text pictures but I can wait for WiFi to do that. Also will plan to email some folks.
Thank you for considering!

Posted by
1799 posts

iMessages use data. Either by way of WiFi or a cellular connection. In my experience simple messages that are just verbiage don out consume much data. It’s when you start adding pics and especially video clips that it becomes data intensive. You can check for yourself

Go to settings>>cellular>>system services>>messaging services

Make note of the current usage and then check again at the end of the day or after a few days. That should give you a feel for how much data messaging uses.

Posted by
2285 posts

up to 5 GB of high speed data, then unlimited data at up to 256Kbps.

iMessage won't be a concern, won't even make a dent.
.
Replying to @Mardee's comment below

Messages using iPhones consume very little data over cellular if you avoid sending photos, etc.

You would have to send hundreds of photos to make it be a concern

Posted by
6257 posts

I agree with the above. Messages using iPhones consume very little data over cellular if you avoid sending photos, etc. And If you want to send messages with photos, just wait till you have wifi available.

FWIW, you can also use Apple apps like FaceTime to talk to someone back home (or your husband) using video if you want. Again, to avoid high data usage, make your calls at your hotel. I video-chat with my grandkids while traveling, and also call a couple of my sisters and some friends.

We thought of going to our local Apple Store to ask for help, but someone posted a negative review that staff were rude.

I would take that negative review with a very large grain of salt. Not that you need the services of the Genius Bar, but some people leave negative reviews when their problems can't be solved.

Posted by
7496 posts

I think what you are looking for, is when they say unlimited texts, they mean SMS messaging, which android and most of the world uses. iMessage uses data and a Apple unique system, which, yes, if you do text only, should not impact your data much. You should be able to use SMS on your iPhone, not sure of the settings you would need to set or check, or if you need a separate app (not an Apple user, just an investor). Of course then, your texts will appear in the dreaded "green", you may not want close friends thinking you have stooped to using an Android. ;)

Posted by
303 posts

Agree with all the commenters that iMessage is not going to make much of a dent in your data usage. iMessages count toward your data plan, SMS is the unlimited text. You might try going to settings/messages on your phone and turn off iMessage and turn on "send as SMS" and "MMS Messaging" and see if that works.

iMessages are encrypted, SMS is not. You might also try using WhatsApp - also encrypted - although I think that also uses data (but also works over wifi).

My usual strategy is to use wifi to send photos, make calls, check email, update social media, etc. I also buy Verizon's international monthly plan if I am traveling internationally for more than a week. It's $85, which gives me 20GB of data, and frees me from having to be strategic about using Google maps, etc. while traveling. Lots of folks on this forum will recommend e-sim cards to save money, but the Verizon option has always worked for me and I consider it money well-spent for not having to fuss with it.

Posted by
206 posts

Mardee, I appreciate the thought that we don’t need to worry about not having enough data for our texting needs while overseas, that’s so kind!….BUT…..Have any of you tried turning off iMessage and then tried texting someone with an iPhone? We are not able to text at all, no SMS, but we *should *be able to do so, especially since we have enabled SMS when iMessage is not available. We are just prompted to turn on iMessage.

We will definitely consider going to the local store for advice, after the busy holiday season.

My husband has been checking threads on the Apple forum and this is an issue for many users.
Sometimes it’s just knowing what to toggle. Or it’s a bug to be fixed in an upcoming software update?

I will check data usage, thanks Rocket.

Regarding pictures and texting them, if you like high quality images as I do, it’s my experience that they take up more space, and how about those “live” images that feature a touch of video? It seems texting those images at the same high quality would consume more data, so emailing is the fix, as I wrote in the original post. But for those who do text images while on cellular, it would be good to hear it doesn’t make a dent in your data usage.

I was accidentally on cellular data and viewed a short video from my sister. She has Verizon, I have T-Mobile. Is it correct that viewing the video over cellular data, for example, would eat up some allotted data for that billing period? When we were both on Verizon, I didn’t think twice about it. Now I make sure to view videos at home on our WiFi. I turn off cellular data. I toggled off background app refresh also.

Paul, I had a Google Pixel 2 with Android, but they only support their software for two or three years, no updates, so it annoyed me enough to switch to Apple. Android itself was fine. However, Apple backs up their phones for many, many years(if that’s how to phrase it). But that’s another discussion..LOL..regardless if it’s Android or iPhone, you still need to configure cellular data and how it’s used to avoid nasty surprises on your bill….

I found this article, some of the advice is more basic than most may need, but there was helpful info.

I’m still going to try and figure out how to text while overseas using green text. Just in case we need to back off cellular data….or it isn’t available, perhaps. While on WiFi, all electronic communication methods seem to work best.

Posted by
206 posts

To the ordinary Rebecca,
Regarding this suggestion:

You might try going to settings/messages on your phone and turn off iMessage and turn on "send as SMS" and "MMS Messaging" and see if that works.

Yup, tried that before I posted this thread. Many many times. It’s frustrating because it doesn’t work. But thanks anyway.🤔🤷‍♀️

Agree wholeheartedly with this:

My usual strategy is to use wifi to send photos,
make calls, check email, update social media, etc.

Emphasis mine regarding making calls—as part of our experiments, we proved we are able to call one another without needing WiFi or cellular data.

TOR, how do you prefer WiFi calls while overseas- using WhatsApp? Or FaceTime? Other app?

Yes, we also always relied on public WiFi or hotel WiFi to communicate before we started bringing smartphones overseas. We had a flip phone and our iPads and we got an international phone with prepaid and pay as you go options, mostly for emergencies.

Ditto sending photos and emails, had our iPads for that and used at hotel.

But once you bring your smartphone overseas, listen to an audio tour while out and about, it’s easy to forget to turn off cellular data and run up your allotted data or unnecessarily waste the phone’s battery power. So, bringing a portable power bank solves one problem.

We switched to T-Mobile from Verizon in November because the Verizon international plan would have cost us $100 each plus daily rate since we are going to be there for 39 days. We are under contract for two years, so no other SIM card is allowed but T-Mobile’s, and T-Mobile’s plan includes international talk and text.. We are fine with all of this,

It’s just weird that we can’t send SMS messages to one another using our iPhones. Yes, we have toggled off iMessage. Yes, we enabled SMS.

Is anyone overseas right now and having no problems sending SMS to one another with their iPhones? Or are you/they just using cellular data (iMessage)?

Posted by
2499 posts

Just a comment on sending photos or videos. If you're using a service such as iCloud, Google Photos, or One Drive to store your photos, you don't "send photos." You create albums and send links to them. So all you send is a simple hyperlink

Posted by
635 posts

Per Apple support, iMessage must be turned off on all your Apple devices. Do you have it turned on on your iPads?

Posted by
5496 posts

I have an Iphone and T-Mobile and I have always gotten free unlimited texting regardless of whether it is ”green” or ”blue”. I’ve had the older plan FOR 10+ years; my plan includes no high-speed data, only slow data. From 2014 to 2019, I only used slow data on my trips and it worked fine for all the basic activities like googlemaps or checking websites or texting photos while out and about. The last 2 years, I have spent about a month traveling so I paid the extra $50 to get 5 GB of high speed data for a month; I used less than 5 GB over the course of a month. As a caveat, I don’t stream movies on my phone or do really data intensive activities, but I do send photos and texts.

I’m not sure why you would care if a text uses iMessage. The T-Mobile plan includes free data; it is just that it will use a slower speed if you have reached the cap. Do you really care if your text is sent at a slower speed?

If you happen to be approaching the 5 GB limit, T-Mobile will send you a message and you can always choose to pay to buy additional high-speed data. Alternatively, you can just live with the slower data until your new billing cycle starts. Personally, I’d just plan to use your service as normal with the exception of streaming. If you are going to do any streaming, do that when connected to wifi. I doubt you will have any issues.

Posted by
206 posts

Wonder of wonders…we were able to send and receive green texts this afternoon. Woohoo!

My husband read a tech help thread that suggested we toggle the phone to airplane mode, turn the phone off and wait a bit, then turn it back on.

So we tried that and now we can text with WiFi and cellular data turned off. Just like we should have been able to do all along!

Laura wasn’t sure why we needed to do that. There may be situations we want to save our cellular data and now we know we can. Maybe we would want to use data to run an audio tour, so that might require downloading while we are out and about(which is not ideal), or maybe we would need GPS for directions and we would forget to toggle off cellular data when finished. I’m thinking as we get closer to the end of the billing cycle, this would give us a tool to try and conserve it.

From what Laurawrote (thank you so much for your useful info), we don’t have to worry about which type of texting we can do. Mardeewas saying much the same, however—Once you know there is a problem you want to try and solve it. We still do not know what changed to make it work, but it’s nice to know things to try!

Markcwhad a good idea and we actually didn’t have our iPads on WiFi( we have the ones without cellular option).

Another hint my husband found was to toggle off iMessage in settings and turn off the phone, then turn it on again and that can fix it. But we didn’t need to try that fix because the airplane mode reset worked!

Thanks to all who tried to help us.

Posted by
6257 posts

To the ordinary Rebecca,
Regarding this suggestion:

You might try going to settings/messages on your phone and turn off iMessage and turn on "send as SMS" and "MMS Messaging" and see if that works.

Yup, tried that before I posted this thread. Many many times. It’s frustrating because it doesn’t work. But thanks anyway.🤔🤷‍♀️

I just turned of iMessages in my settings and was able to send a green "dreaded" Android text to my daughter (who has an iphone). :)

Posted by
206 posts

Mardee, I had no idea there was a “haves” (blue text) vs. “have nots” (green text) thing going on. 😱Seems like that’s going to be resolved in 2024 for Android users with the advent of RCS, according to the article you linked.

Posted by
6257 posts

Well, they'll get most (hopefully) of the benefits of RCS, but the bubble will still be green. 😊 Apple refuses to give that up.

Posted by
2285 posts

but the bubble will still be green. 😊 Apple refuses to give that up.

And they shouldn't acquiesce - people purchase IPhones for a number of reasons iMessage being a strong part of that. Messaging on the data side allowed people like my mother to have an iPad and get iMessages from her friends and family without having a cellular plan.

That people feel lessened in life because they get green instead of blue - those people should pick a higher mountain to die on.

Posted by
6257 posts

That people feel lessened in life because they get green instead of blue - those people should pick a higher mountain to die on.

Ha ha! I have no opinion on the green vs. blue, but I am glad that Apple is releasing the technology. As an iPhone owner, I like the ability to see better tech when communicating with Android users.

Posted by
85 posts

Very happy the OP has her question answered. 5 GB of high speed data is a very large amount. Unless you are streaming movies or TV, gaming, or doing a whole lot of FaceTime off of WiFi, I can't imagine data being a concern. I'm an avid iPhone user and use my mobile plan when traveling internationally including using my iPhone religiously for navigation - driving and walking, texting, sending photos, etc. I've never even come close to using that much data.

Posted by
206 posts

Two wandering nurses,
Thanks for the info! Much appreciated, so if we forget to toggle off cellular data, it might end up just fine.