iMessage was one of the major advancements from the iOS 5 that takes the text message and integrates it fully into an instant message function, taking its queues from the Blackberry. With iMessage you have the ability to message all other people who are running on the iOS 5 through text messages for free. This means that you can communicate not just iPhones, but also iPod Touches and iPads.. This works not as a separate app, but instead through the regular text message app and it will just upgrade to iMessages as long as both parties have the iOS 5 up and running and a proper internet connection. This is a fairly easy to work with once you get started, but there are a few things you will need to consider when you are beginning with iMessage. Here is an iMessage guide to help you get started and begin working with this new service.
The primary element you will need to consider is that you must have the iOS 5 to operate this. If you are first getting a new iPhone 4s, iPad 2, or otherwise, you will likely already be upgraded to the correct iOS version. If you are on an older version of the iPhone, such as the iPhone 4 or iPhone 3Gs, then you will need to update your iOS through iTunes as you normally would. If you cannot upgrade to the iOS 5, as if your device is too outdated, then you will not be able to take advantage of iMessage.
Once you begin with a new iPhone, or an updated older model, you will not have to be aware of any options right when you are beginning. Unlike Location Services or iCloud, you will not be asked specifically if you want to set this up and instead you will automatically be set up for this. When you try to message someone with iMessage your message you have sent will be a light blue, and regularly sent text messages are green. This means that you will know that you have sent an iMessage if it is blue, and it is not working correctly if it is green. It may be green if your iMessage has been turned off, you have not correctly updated to the iOS 5, the other person is not accepting iMessages, or they have done something like block your phone number.
When you are starting out with iMessages you are going to need to adjust the settings to get things just right. Go into Settings and then go down to Messages in the third block of options down, right under Safari and above Music. At the very top will be an On / Off switch for iMessage, which must be set to On if you want to send iMessages at all. Remember, you cannot send text messages to iPod Touches or iPads without it. Below that will be an On / Off switch for Send Read Receipts, which will let you know if someone else has read the message. This is where it works much more like an instant message or social networking function, and in a nice way to start out with iMessage. Next is Send as SMS with an On / Off switch. This means that if you cannot send an iMessage a regular text message will be sent, and this should also be set to On most of the time. Without this you are greatly limited to only those available to iMessages and that is a very small population of those with cell phones. You can turn this on, however, if you need to eliminate text messages because of cost or plan restrictions.
Next will be a Receive At spot with your Phone number. When you choose this you have the option to apply different changes to your iMessage indication, such as adding an email or even changing the number it is sent to. If this is on your iPhone you will not want to change your phone number here as it will not be sent to you, though you could add your email address. You can also use your Apple ID for iMessage, but on the iPhone the standard settings should be maintained.
At the bottom of the Messages settings will be switches for MMS messaging, group messaging, whether or not to show the subject field, and if you want a character count. The default is to keep MMS and group messaging on and the subject field and character count off, but this is really preference issue altogether. Group messaging and MMS used to be restricted for some people because their plans either limited text messages or had issues around MMS, but with iMessage you bypass these things so it is best to maintain them now as a way of maximizing this.
iMessages will require an internet connection, and this can be difficult for many newer contract members as they have limited data plans often capping out at 2 GB. If you are in this boat you will find that you want to limit data plans as much as possible, which means you use the data when you are connected to safe Wi-Fi networks. This is a problem for iMessages as you need to be able to connect, but text message conversations tend to happen consistently and not just when you are in a specific location. You have a couple of options for this. First, if you tend to be in a series of places with known Wi-Fi connections that have automatic connection then you are going to be safe and you should ensure this pattern. Second, if you are not then you may want to be aware of your data usage and turn off iMessage and return to SMS when you are not going to be on Wi-Fi connections.