How to fix iMessage, FaceTime “Activation unsuccessful” issue on iPhone

iMessage and FaceTime are two unique services that are only available within the Apple ecosystem. By default, to activate iMessage and FaceTime on your Apple device, you need an active Internet connection and a valid Apple ID (email address).

But, if you want to link your phone number to your iMessage and FaceTime accounts, additional activation is required via cellular service.

How to fix iMessage, FaceTime “Activation unsuccessful” issue on iPhone

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The process for iMessage, FaceTime activation is usually seamless and happens behind the scenes. When you install or change the SIM card in your iPhone, iOS automatically tries to activate iMessage and FaceTime for your phone number.

But sometimes, iMessage and Facetime activation fail, and you might see “Activation unsuccessful” or “Waiting for activation” message under Messages and FaceTime settings.

How to check if iMessage, FaceTime is activated?

Go to Settings on your iPhone, select FaceTime. Under FaceTime, check if the FaceTime option is enabled, and whether there is a checkmark next to your phone number under the “You Can Be Reached By FaceTime At” section.

Similarly, go to Settings >> Messages. Check if iMessage is enabled; tap on “Send & Receive”, and check whether there is a checkmark next to your phone number under the “You Can Receive iMessages To and Reply From” section. If your phone number has a checkmark under both of these settings, you don’t need to take any further action.

If you see any of the following error messages under FaceTime or Messages Settings, and there is no checkmark next to your phone number, you can’t use FaceTime and iMessage with your phone number, though they might still work with your Apple ID (email address):

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  • Waiting for activation
  • Activation unsuccessful
  • An error occurred during activation
  • Could not sign in, please check your network connection
  • Unable to contact the iMessage server. Try again.

Fix for iMessage, FaceTime “Waiting for activation”, “Activation unsuccessful” error

If you’re facing issues with iMessage and FaceTime activation, Apple has a good knowledge base article on what steps you can take to fix it.

If you’ve already tried all of the mentioned workarounds and still iMessage, FaceTime isn’t activated, there may be one more option for you to try.

Why iMessage, FaceTime activation might be failing for your iPhone

Depending on your location, your iPhone might require sending an international SMS for iMessage, FaceTime activation. If for some reason, your iPhone is unable to send the SMS, or the activation server does not respond, the activation will fail.

Workaround for iMessage, FaceTime “Activation Unsuccessful” error

iMessage and FaceTime may fail to activate due to the following possible reasons:

Insufficient SMS Balance: Make sure you have a sufficient SMS balance on your cellular plan. If you’re outside the US, you also need to ensure that your plan supports sending International SMS. If you’re on an unlimited voice and data plan (for example, in India), the plan may not cover International SMS. In such cases, you may need to recharge separately.

Outgoing SMS disabled while roaming: If you’re on roaming during iMessage and FaceTime activation, it might get failed. Some cellular carriers disable the sending of International SMS while roaming. In such cases, try activating iMessage and FaceTime when you’re back in your home network.

If you’ve verified the above and still aren’t able to activate iMessage & FaceTime, contact your cellular carrier for assistance.

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Meanwhile, if you’re repeatedly getting notifications about iMessage and FaceTime activation, and/or getting charged repeatedly for activation SMS, you can temporarily disable it from your iPhone.

How to disable “Your carrier may charge for SMS messages used to activate iMessage and FaceTime” prompts

Usually, if iMessage and FaceTime activation fails, you might get a prompt on your iPhone when it retries activation. The popup message usually reads “Your carrier may charge for SMS messages used to activate iMessage and FaceTime”.

Disable iMessage FaceTime activation prompts

Your carrier might be charging you for an International SMS every time your iPhone attempts to send the activation message to the Apple server. This can be problematic, especially if you’re on a postpaid plan, and your carrier just charges you based on your usage activity at the end of each billing cycle; you might end up paying a significant amount on International SMS, due to failed activation attempts.

If iMessage or FaceTime activation is unsuccessful after multiple attempts, you might consider temporarily disabling the two services on your iPhone until the issue gets resolved. You can turn them back on once your carrier confirms the issue is resolved and/or you’re able to activate iMessage and FaceTIme successfully.

To stop receiving the “Your carrier may charge for SMS messages used to activate iMessage and FaceTime” prompt on your iPhone:

  1. Go to the Settings >> Messages, and disable the Messages toggle.
  2. Similarly, go to Settings >> FaceTime, and disable the FaceTime toggle.

You should stop getting the prompt, and your iPhone won’t try to activate iMessage or FaceTime anymore.

If this article has helped you with iMessage & FaceTime activation issues, share it with your friends, family, or peers to help them fix such issues as well.

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