Phone numbers for iMessage on an iPad and iPod touch

Q: I’m totally confused and hope you can help me. A buddy of mine said I can use a phone number for iMessage on my iPod touch, but I can’t figure out how to do it. I know I can use an e-mail, but I want to get my real phone number from my phone onto my iPod so I can do iMessages from there with my buddy’s iPhone instead of having to type on the stupid cell phone keypad. I tried punching my phone number into the e-mail address field, but it won’t take it. I don’t want to use my e-mail because I figure that will just confuse things when I try and text other people from my iPod.

– Brian

A: Your friend is somewhat correct in that Apple did add the ability to use phone numbers for iMessage (and FaceTime) on non-iPhone devices such as the iPod touch. The catch, however, is that you can’t actually set an arbitrary phone number on these devices—it has to be registered from an actual iPhone.

How this actually works is that you would setup iMessage on your iPhone, which then registers your phone number automatically with Apple’s servers. This all happens in the background, and is done simply by sending a hidden SMS to Apple’s servers to verify your phone number. Once this has been verified, if you sign into iMessage with an Apple ID, your phone number will be added to that Apple ID and then become available from other devices that share the same Apple ID.

So if you had your own iPhone, then your iPod touch could use that number for iMessage, allowing you to send and receive messages using your phone number on either device.

Keep in mind that even if you have a phone number configured for iMessage on your iPod touch, you can still only communicate with other users who are using iMessage—you won’t be able to send actual SMS messages to non-Apple devices from your iPod touch, as these are sent out directly via the cellular radio, which of course only the iPhone actually has. Using an e-mail address instead of a phone number doesn’t specifically limit who you can communicate with. Further, even if you could get your normal cell phone number associated with your iPod touch, you would still only receive your messages on a single device—iMessages would only be sent to your iPod touch, while SMS messages would continue to go to only your cell phone.

For more information, check out our Guide to FaceTime + iMessage Setup, Use, and Troubleshooting.

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