iMessage is Apple’s own instant messaging service that sends messages over the Internet, using your data instead of cellular service. When setting up a new phone or simply switching phone numbers or carrier, your Apple device will try and activate iMessage. During or after activation, you may encounter an error that reads iMessage waiting for activation. In this post we will go through several possible solutions for this specific issue, and similar ones related to activation of this service.
How to fix iMessage waiting for activation issue
There are many things you can do to troubleshoot this issue, and I will list them in the order they should be performed.
Restart your iPhone X to fix your “iMessage waiting for activation” problem
It’s possible that the “iMessage waiting for activation” problem is just due to a minor glitch in the system and affected iMessage so before anything else, make sure to restart your device to rule this possibility out first. After all, a normal reboot refreshes your phone’s memory, clear its RAM and reload all its apps, services and core functions.
Make sure you’re connected to Wi-Fi or cellular
This is quite obvious but if you don’t have any cellular or Wi-Fi connection, iMessage and FaceTime won’t be able to check-in with Apple’s servers to start the activation process. Just make sure you are connected to Wi-Fi and have cellular service.
Turn airplane mode on and off
Maybe that activation issue is just a dumb hiccup in the system. Before going any further in the troubleshooting of your problem, try turning Airplane Mode on, wait a few seconds, and then turn it off.
Sign out of your Apple ID and sign back in
It may seem like a no-brainer but I know a couple of users who were able to fix their iMessage problems by doing this. It will actually refresh your Apple ID and may resolve minor glitch and problems.
Update iOS on your iPhone
Apple releases periodic updates to fix various bugs. To update the software on your iPhone or iPad, open Settings app → General → Software Update.
Once you successfully update your device, waiting for activation issue should be resolved.
Check the time
When Apple tries to authenticate you for iMessage or FaceTime, the activation server will expect the time between them and your device to match. To avoid any issue, go to Settings > General > Date & Time, and set the time and date to Set Automatically. Additionally, make sure the time zone is the correct one.
Turn off iMessage, then restart your device
This is a possible solution offered to me by Apple when I called them about my issue. In my case, it didn’t help at all, but you probably want to try that and see how it goes for you. Apparently, this is a trick that helps many people.
In Settings, go to Messages and turn off iMessage. Then, in Settings, go to FaceTime and turn off FaceTime. Finally, reboot your device and enable the two options again.
Reset network settings
As we discussed above, Apple does a bit of SMS trickery to activate iMessage on your device, and if you’re having either Wi-Fi or cellular network issue, well, Apple won’t be able to activate your device for these two services. To rule out issues related to your connectivity, go to Settings > General > Reset Network Settings. Once the reset performed, you will have to enter your Wi-Fi password again, but at least you will be operating on a clean slate, as far as networking goes.
Put your SIM card in a different phone, then reset that phone
This solution may seem a little out there but it has actually worked for me. All I did was pop out the SIM card and put it in a spare iPhone I had on hand. The same issue happened in that phone as well, but after going to Settings > General > Reset > Reset All Content and Settings, everything worked fine. I then put the SIM card back in my main iPhone and iMessage activated almost instantly.
Reset all content and settings
My last solution specified a step where resetting all content and settings contributed to resolving the issue. If you do not have a spare phone then this can be another option. The activation issue may actually be a device-specific issue and this option should only be done as a very last resort as you might have to reset the device and set it all up again. To do so, go to Settings > General > Reset > Reset All Content and Settings. This will wipe out your device and will let you either set it up as new, or set it up from a previous iCloud backup.
Wait 24 hours
Apple also suggested it might take up to 24 hours to activate iMessage and FaceTime, so since you don’t have anything better to do, maybe just sit back, relax, and wait a day or so to see if things magically start working again.