Can I turn off Message Read Receipts for only some users?

Q: Is there a way I can turn off those little “Read” status notifications that my iPhone sends out for only certain people? I know I can turn the setting off for everybody, but I do like my close friends to know when I’ve read their messages — it lets them know I’m alive and I’ve got their message without responding to type “OK” back to them. However, I’m not so fond of the receipts being on for other people who might be texting me, as then they get on my case about responding right away, or they try to call me because they know I’m on my phone. Also, are these “Read” updates only for iMessages or do people who text me see them too? I don’t think they work for texts, as I never see any, but I just wanted to be sure. Thanks!

A: Unfortunately, iMessage’s “Read Receipts” feature is a global, all-or-nothing setting, although the good news is you’re correct that it applies only to iMessages, not traditional SMS or MMS text messages.

Can I turn off Message Read Receipts for only some users?

While there are ways to request receipts for SMS/MMS messages, these are generally carrier-specific, unknown by most people, and have to be specifically requested on a per-message basis.

If you toggle the “Send Read Receipts” setting OFF in your Messages settings, this will prevent your iPhone from sending read receipts to any other iMessage user, however it’s also important to note that this setting only applies to the current device. If you’re using iMessage across multiple devices — such as on a Mac and/or iPad — you’ll need to turn the setting OFF individually on each of your devices if you don’t want read receipts sent from those devices. Note that users will still see that messages have been “Delivered” — there’s no way to turn this one off, but it’s relatively harmless as all it means is that your device is powered on and has data coverage, whether you’re actively using it or not.

A useful point to keep in mind, however, is that a read receipt will only be sent out if “Send Read Receipts” is enabled on the device you’re using when you first read a new message. In other words, if you have “Send Read Receipts” enabled on your iPhone, but disabled on your iPad, and you read an incoming iMessage on your iPad for the first time, it will not be marked as “Read” but only “Delivered.” If you then open that same conversation on your iPhone, that existing message will still only be marked as “Delivered” on the other end — since you’ve already read it previously, the status doesn’t change.

Taking this a step further, if the “Send Read Receipts” setting is OFF when you first read a new message, that message will never be given a read status on the other end, even if you return to that message later with the “Send Read Receipts” setting ON. This means you can turn off “Send Read Receipts” temporarily solely to avoid sending a read receipt for a specific message, or while you’re carrying on a specific conversation.