iMessage Waiting for Activation? How to Fix iMessage Not Working Errors on Your iPhone (2020)

* This post is part of iPhone Life's Tip of the Day newsletter. . *

iMessage not working errors are a big problem on the iPhone, especially with new iOS updates like iOS 13. In this article, we'll cover all the reasons why iMessages might not be working and how to fix the problem. We’re also going to look at a similar error: FaceTime waiting for activation, which many users are also struggling to resolve. If you’re having problems with FaceTime or iMessages not activating and wondering why they won’t work, this is the post you need. Here’s how to fix the Waiting for Activation, Activation Unsuccessful, or Unable to Connect to the iMessage Server errors on your iPhone.

Related: How to Enable iMessage on Your iPhone, iPad, and Mac (iMessage vs SMS)

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Unlike most errors, there are quite a few reasons why your iMessage or FaceTime may not be activating. If you see an "iMessage waiting for activation" error, it could be a problem with your cellular company or simply a bug that's easily remedied. When your iMessage or FaceTime won't activate, we recommend running through a few different possible fixes.

In some cases, it may just take a while for iMessage to activate. But how long is too long? iMessage can take up to 24 hours to activate, according to Apple. But at a certain point, it’s safe to assume iMessage is simply not working. If you receive a message that says "iMessage (or FaceTime) waiting for activation," you may want to go ahead and try the troubleshooting methods listed below.

Oftentimes, when iMessage or FaceTime won't activate, you can resolve the problem by turning certain settings on and off or signing out of iCloud and back in. However, when I upgraded to the iPhone X, I saw the iMessage waiting for activation error, and the only fix involved speaking directly with my cellular company—the problem was on their end. I tell you this to say that if the following solutions don't activate your iMessage, the problem and solution is likely in the hands of your cellular carrier. 

iMessage Waiting for Activation Error Messages, According to Apple

  1. Waiting for activation
  2. Activation unsuccessful
  3. An error occurred during activation
  4. Could not sign in, please check your network connection
  5. Unable to connect to the iMessage server. Try again.

Steps to Take Before You Begin:

  1. Make sure your iOS is up to date. Do this by opening the Settings app, selecting General, then selecting Software Update.
  2. Make sure you are connected to Wi-Fi (or at least have a solid cellular connection), which you can check via Wi-Fi in the Settings app.
  3. While in the Settings app, go to General and make sure Date & Time are correct. It’s easiest to simply toggle on Set Automatically.

It’s also important that you have a carrier that supports iMessage. All major carriers (Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, etc.) support iMessage. If you try all the methods below and wait 24 hours, but iMessage still isn’t working, contact your carrier to make sure there aren’t any limits on your SMS text message plan that might be interfering with your FaceTime or iMessage activation.

*All of the methods below can be used to fix FaceTime waiting-for-activation error too.

iMessage Not Working? How to Fix the FaceTime or iMessage Waiting for Activation Error: Method 1

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap Messages. Toggle off iMessage.


     
  3. Go back and select FaceTime. Toggle off FaceTime.


     
  4. Go back and scroll to the top of Settings. Toggle on Airplane Mode. Doing so will turn Wi-Fi off.
  5. Tap Wi-Fi and toggle Wi-Fi on.


     
  6. Go back and select Messages again. Toggle on iMessage
  7. Go back and select FaceTime. Toggle on FaceTime.


  8. Go back and scroll to the top of Settings. Toggle Airplane mode off.
  9. If a message pops up that says, Your carrier may charge for SMS, tap OK.
  10. If not, toggle iMessage and FaceTime off and on again, in their respective places within Settings.
  11. Give iMessage some time, and it should activate.

This method for fixing iMessage waiting for activation error was originally discovered by users in an Apple forum. It may seem like a strange solution, but it has been one of the most successful ways to get iMessage or FaceTime working.

How to Fix the iMessage or FaceTime Waiting for Activation Error: Method 2

  1. In the Settings app, select Messages.
  2. Tap Send & Receive.
  3. Tap your Apple ID at the top and select Sign Out.


     
  4. Toggle off iMessage (or FaceTime, if not working).
  5. Go to Wi-Fi in the Settings app and toggle Wi-Fi off and back on.
  6. Wait a few minutes, then toggle iMessage back on.
  7. Tap Send & Receive.
  8. Tap Use your Apple ID for iMessage. Enter your Apple ID information and tap Sign In.

Hopefully, this will allow you to activate iMessage. If not, we have two more methods still to try. If you’re trying to fix FaceTime waiting for activation error, be sure to toggle FaceTime on and off instead of iMessage.

How to Fix the FaceTime or iMessage Waiting for Activation Error: Method 3

  1. In the Settings app, tap Messages.
  2. Toggle off iMessage.
  3. Go back and select FaceTime.
  4. Toggle off FaceTime.


     
  5. Restart your iPhone by pressing and holding the Sleep/Wake button. Then swipe right when your screen says Slide to Power Off.
  6. Turn your phone back on. Then open the Settings app again.
  7. Tap Messages, and toggle iMessage on.
  8. Go back and select FaceTime, and toggle FaceTime on.


     

How to Fix iMessage Waiting-for-Activation Error: Method Four

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Scroll down to the bottom and select Reset.


     
  4. Tap Reset Network Settings.
  5. Enter your passcode.

This process will NOT erase any information from your iPhone except Wi-Fi passcodes. When logging in to Wi-Fi networks, you’ll need to re-enter any passwords your iPhone may have otherwise remembered, but it does not erase your iPhone

I’m Still Getting an Error Message, What Do I Do?

If none of the previous methods worked and you’re still having activation problems, give your iPhone 24 hours to activate iMessages. All of the troubleshooting you just did may not make iMessages work immediately, but it might be able to kick in some time during those 24 hours.

If, after 24 hours, you are still not able to get iMessages working because of an activation error, contact your cellular carrier service. It’s possible the trouble you’re having with iMessages is in-part or entirely because of it. You may also try to restore your iPhone from a backup



Which method worked for you? Let us know in the comments! Also, please share any other ways you’ve been able to fix this error message in the past.

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Author Details

Conner Carey's picture

Author Details

Conner Carey

Conner Carey's writing can be found at conpoet.com. She is currently writing a book, creating lots of content, and writing poetry via @conpoet on Instagram. She lives in an RV full-time with her mom, Jan and dog, Jodi as they slow-travel around the country.