Troubles with Messages? Read On for Ten Possible Solutions

Apple’s Messages app for iOS and macOS generally works well, but when it doesn’t, figuring out what’s wrong and how to fix it can take some doing. Here are a few of the most common solutions we’ve come across for problems with sending and receiving messages.

Help Android-switcher friends turn off iMessage

Do you have a friend who previously used an iPhone but later switched to an Android phone? People like that can confuse your copy of Messages, which doesn’t know if it should send to them via iMessage (no) or SMS (yes). If you text with someone in this situation, get them to deregister from iMessage.

Check device connectivity

If messages aren’t flowing when you think they should be, the first “is it plugged in?” thing to check is connectivity. Make sure that your iPhone has at least cellular service (for SMS) and cellular data (for iMessage) and that your iOS device isn’t in Airplane mode. In the case of a Mac, make sure it’s connected to your network.

Relaunch the Messages app

Force-quitting in iOS isn’t something you should do willy-nilly, since it slows down your device and hurts battery life, but it’s worth trying if Messages isn’t sending or receiving messages correctly. Double-press the Home button on Touch ID devices or swipe up and to the right from the bottom of the screen on Face ID devices, then swipe up on the Messages app thumbnail to force-quit it. On the Mac, just quit and relaunch Messages.

Toggle iMessage off and back on

Here’s an easy one. In iOS, go to Settings > Messages and turn the iMessage switch at the top off and back on. iMessage may take a minute or two to reactivate. On the Mac, go to Messages > Preferences > iMessage > Settings, uncheck Enable This Account, and then log in again.

Toggle Messages in iCloud off and back on

With the new Messages in iCloud feature, Apple syncs conversations through your iCloud account. If messages from one device aren’t showing up properly on another device, in iOS, go to Settings > Your Name > iCloud and turn Messages off and back on. On the Mac, go to Messages > Preferences > iMessage > Settings and uncheck and recheck Enable Messages in iCloud.

Verify your phone number and email addresses are correct in Messages settings

SMS relies on a phone number, and you can be contacted via iMessage via a phone number or email address. Make sure you can be reached at all the appropriate ones. In iOS, go to Settings > Messages > Send & Receive to check. On the Mac, look in Message > Preferences > iMessage > Settings.

If they’re not right, fix them in iOS in Settings > Passwords & Accounts > iCloud > Your Name > Contact Information, by tapping Edit in the Reachable At section. On the Mac, you add these addresses with the plus button in System Preferences > iCloud > Account Details > Contact.

Verify that SMS fallback is enabled

When you’re in an area with sketchy cell service, there may not be enough of a data connection for iMessage to work. In such a situation, SMS text messages are more likely to get through, but Messages will try to send to iMessage users via SMS only if you turn on Send as SMS in Settings > Messages.

Check text message forwarding settings

If you’re receiving SMS messages on your iPhone but not any of your other devices, make sure Text Message Forwarding is enabled for the relevant devices (they need to be signed in to the same iCloud account). On your iPhone, look in Settings > Messages > Text Message Forwarding.

When in doubt, restart

Restarting can resolve all manner of problems, so it’s always worth a try if all the settings and accounts are correct. On the Mac, of course, just choose Apple > Restart. For iOS devices with Touch ID, press and hold the top button until the Slide to Power Off slider appears. For those with Face ID, press and hold the side (iPhone) or top (iPad) button and one of the volume buttons until the slider appears.

Reset network settings in iOS

Finally, the most voodoo of the fixes we’ve seen work is to reset network settings in iOS. You don’t want to start with this option because doing so also resets Wi-Fi networks and passwords, cellular settings, and VPN settings. But if all else fails, go to Settings > General > Reset > Reset Network Settings.

If none of these techniques fix your problem, let us know and we’ll see what we can do to help!

iCloud Services Being Wonky? Check Apple’s System Status Page

Many Apple users rely on mac.com, me.com, or icloud.com email addresses, along with plenty of other iCloud-related services. So if you can’t send or receive email, if photos aren’t transferring via iCloud Photo Library, or if some other iCloud-related service isn’t responding, the first thing to do is check Apple’s System Status page. It’s updated every minute, and if it shows that the associated Apple service is having problems, you know to sit tight until things come back up. If everything is green, you’ll have to look elsewhere for a solution—or get in touch with us.

Winter Weather Warning: Keep Your Tech Toasty!

When it’s cold out, you can always throw on a sweater to stay warm. But your electronics are more reptilian—they can get sluggish or even fail to work in freezing weather. (No, that’s not what iPod Socks were designed to fix.) Worse, charging batteries at low temperatures or moving tech gear between extreme temperature ranges can cause damage.

There’s a difference between temperatures your devices can withstand when you’re actively using them and when they’re just being stored. Manufacturers usually publish the environmental requirements for devices, though it may take a little searching to find the details. Here are the ranges for the devices you’re most likely to care about:

  • iPhone/iPad: Operating temperatures from 32° to 95° F (0° to 35° C) and nonoperating temperatures from −4° to 113° F (−20° to 45° C)
  • MacBook (Air/Pro): Operating temperatures from 50° to 95° F (10° to 35° C) and storage temperatures from −13° to 113° F (−25° to 45° C)

It’s easy to imagine wanting to use an iPhone in temperatures below freezing or a MacBook outdoors on a crisp autumn day. And in fact, they probably won’t stop working entirely. After all, putting your iPhone in your pocket next to your body will keep it warmer than the outside air, and it will take a while to cool down. But you shouldn’t be surprised by crashes, shutdowns, or other unusual behavior if you do use your device below its recommended operating temperature for a while.

Batteries Hate Working in the Cold

The main problem is that batteries prefer to be used in moderate temperatures (they hate heat even more than cold). When batteries get cold, they appear to discharge more quickly. That’s because the chemical reactions that generate electricity proceed more slowly at lower temperatures, and thus produce less current. The weak discharge fools the device’s power management circuitry into thinking that the battery is nearly dead; hence the shutdowns. Once your device has had a chance to warm up, the battery should revive.

However, don’t charge batteries when it’s very cold, as in −4° F (−20° C). Doing so can cause plating of the graphite anode in the battery, which will reduce battery performance.

Other Technologies That Dislike Cold

Two other standard bits of technology don’t like operating in the cold either: hard drives and LCD screens.

Hard drives aren’t nearly as common as they used to be, particularly in laptops that are likely to be left outside in cold cars. Most have a minimum operating temperature of 32° F (0° C), and you’re unlikely to want to use a laptop in temperatures lower than that. In very cold temperatures, the lubricant inside the drive can become too viscous to allow the motor to spin up the platters. Although solid-state drives have no moving parts, most are rated for the same minimum operating temperature, oddly enough.

LCD screens can also have problems. Extreme cold can slow their response times, leading to slow or jerky screen drawing. OLED displays, such as in the iPhone X, XS, and XS Max, withstand cold significantly better—some OLED displays are rated for temperatures as low as −40º (which—trivia tip!—is the same in Fahrenheit and Celsius).

Avoid Temperature Swings

Regardless of whether you want to use your devices in cold weather, you’ll extend their lifespans if you don’t regularly expose them to significant temperature swings. There are two reasons for this: condensation and thermal expansion.

Those who wear glasses know that when you come into a warm house from the cold, your glasses immediately fog up with condensation. That’s true even though most houses are quite dry in the winter. Wait a few minutes, and the condensation evaporates back into the air. The same can happen with any electronic device that’s open to the air, and moisture inside electronics is never good. It’s thus best to let electronics warm up slowly (and in their cases or boxes) to reduce the impact of condensation.

Finally, as you remember from high school science, objects expand when heated and contract when cooled. The amount they expand and contract may be very small, but the tolerances inside electronics are often extremely tight, and even the tiniest changes can cause mechanical failures, particularly with repeated cycles of expanding and contracting. Try to avoid subjecting devices to significant temperature swings on a regular basis or you may find yourself replacing them more frequently than you’d like.

In the end, our advice is to keep your gear warm whenever possible, and if you must use it in temperatures below freezing, be aware that battery life and screen responsiveness may be reduced.

Stop Mailing Files Around and Use Collaborative Apps

Have you ever emailed a document to several colleagues for feedback, and then had to go through each of their changes in turn, merging everything into your master document? What if one of them needs to see the changes that another suggested? Plus, what if you need to make substantial changes after you’ve sent the document out for review, but before you’ve heard back from everyone?

If you’re still doing this document dance, it’s time to quickstep into the modern world and try the real-time collaboration features that are built into many apps, including Apple’s iWork apps (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote), the Microsoft Office 365 suite (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), and Google’s online app suite (Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides).

Let’s look at why real-time collaboration is the most efficient and productive solution for working with colleagues.

One Document to Rule Them All

In the old model of collaboration, where you gave each person their own copy of the document, you had to bring their changes and comments back into your master copy. That’s clumsy, time-consuming, and error-prone, even when the apps in question have features for merging.

With modern collaboration systems, there is only one document that everyone works on, so there’s no need to keep track of different copies or merge changes. Plus, you never have to worry about someone’s copy getting corrupted or lost.

Work Simultaneously or Sequentially

In many collaborative scenarios, the people with whom you’re working need to be aware of what the others are doing. Theoretically, you could send your document to one person, get it back, send to the next, get it back, and so on. That way each person sees the changes and comments from those who have gone before, but it takes a lot of time and coordination effort.

But in a real-time collaboration system with a single document, everyone can work at the same time. That’s not to say they will, but even after Alice has taken her primary pass and Bob and Carmen have added more changes and comments, Alice can dip in again to see and react to what they did, assuming they had track changes enabled. It’s a much faster way to resolve differing opinions on a document’s wording or a slide’s appearance.

Some collaboration systems also feature a revision history, which lets you go back in time and see what each person has done at different points. That can be helpful if the app wasn’t set to track changes when a collaborator made some edits.

Have In-Document Conversations

“Collaboration” generally takes two forms: changing information in the document and commenting on it. For instance, if you’re collaborating on a budget spreadsheet with colleagues, each person can add or update the information about annual expenses for their department, saving you the trouble of collecting and entering that information. And if someone makes a mistake, it’s easy for another person to correct it. Collaboration systems generally identify the person who makes each change, so Alice knows that Bob added his department’s expenses and Carmen updated all the dates to the current year.

Equally useful are comments, which you can generally attach to one or more words on a document or presentation, or a cell in a spreadsheet. Also, in many systems, a change or comment can be the start of a conversation much like in Messages, where each person gets to weigh in and the conversation stays tied to that change or comment.

Invite Multiple Types of Collaborators

A key feature of most collaboration systems is that people can take on different roles. There are generally three levels of access—view, comment, and edit—and you can invite any given person to a particular role. So you might ask Alice to proofread your document and give her edit access, while you ask Bob and Carmen merely to add comments. And if you need to show the document to Deepak (but you don’t want to let him even comment), you could invite him with just view permissions.

There’s one implicit role here—you as the document’s owner. Someone with edit access can generally make the same changes you can, but it’s always best to have one person who’s in charge of accepting or rejecting changes and resolving differences. That person might even change occasionally, but you should always make clear what you expect others to do at what point. For instance, if you’re an author collaborating with an editor, you should deal with your editor’s changes, and your editor should accept your subsequent edits.

You’re probably already using apps that can be used for real-time collaboration, so if you’d like help figuring out the best way to get started, get in touch.

How To Use Your Mac Laptop Closed with an External Screen and Keyboard

Those of you who use a Mac laptop—a MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro—probably know you can connect it to a large external display for more screen space. But sometimes it’s not convenient to have your Mac open on your desk next to the big screen. If you’d like to close your Mac’s screen and just use the external display, you can! The trick to enabling closed-display mode is that your Mac must be plugged into an AC outlet and you must connect an external keyboard and mouse or trackpad—either USB or Bluetooth. (If you’re using any Bluetooth devices, go to System Preferences > Bluetooth > Advanced and make sure “Allow Bluetooth devices to wake this computer” is selected.)

Ignore Unsolicited Calls and Texts from Apple and Other Tech Companies

We don’t want to belabor the point, but multinational tech companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google will never call or text you personally out of the blue. So if you get a call or text purporting to be from such a company, it’s 99.9% likely to be a scam, and you should ignore it regardless of whether the caller ID seems legitimate. If you’re still worried, look up the company’s tech support phone number separately—never respond directly to such a call or tap a link in a text—and discuss the situation with the support reps. Or contact us, and we’ll talk it through with you.

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