Occasionally NOT getting text messages with cellular data & WiFi off, from iPhone user--what could be the cause?

I'm a conservative cellular user. I keep cellular data off whenever I'm in range of WiFi, but also I keep WiFi off until I need it. This helps conserve battery life. I can usually go 3 days between charges.

When I get an MMS message, or multi-person message, my HTC 10 (Android) will notify me of the message and as "not downloaded". I turn on cellular or WiFi and then download. No problem. Works fine.

However, I've had a very strange problem with text messaging from a specific family member who has an iPhone. Sometimes her text messages are NOT received by me. AND... sometimes she is not getting my text messages. It happens very infrequently. And when it does happen, it's when we're in "message tag," meaning we're not in an active back-and-forth stream of texting.

In my case, I'm not sending any multi-media. If I send an emoticon, I usually use ASCII ones, so 160 chars is the message limit (special emoticons reduce message to 70 chars).

Any ideas?

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5 comments
  • Hi Gary,

     That is rather strange. The infrequency of the messages coming through is what makes it strange. Does this happen in a specific location or is it a random occurrence not defined by location? If it's a specific location it could be an issue with the towers in that area unless you're able to receive SMS messages from other people in the same area then it would suggest some setting with the phones.  

     The one thing that I would ask about first is the setting on the family member's iPhone. I know that when I went from an Android to an Apple product that I had an issue with texts not going through because I didn't have the "Send as SMS" feature enabled on my iPhone which meant it was trying to send everything as an iMessage. You may want to confirm that this is enabled on their phone as a troubleshooting step. 

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  • Thanks for the reply. I haven't been able to establish any particular patterns. Also, you would think that if there was a phone setting, that then it wouldn't be an inconsistent or infrequent problem. You either have success or not. I have to wonder if perhaps there's a possibility for some kind of issue between cellular providers. My family member is able to send both SMS and MMS messages to me under normal circumstances.

    Btw, she sent me a screenshot of her message app, showing the interleaving of messages. In between several messages, she'd sent a reply with just "Yes" and an emoticon--one that doesn't seem to be in the ASCII set (it's a frown with a tear). I did NOT get this message. Now I know when I send an SMS message with such an emoticon, the app truncates the message from 160 chars to 70 chars. I presume that somehow some binary data is sent in an SMS message without requiring an MMS message format--just uses up 90 chars. My thought is that perhaps in reverse, somehow I'm not getting the text message because my cellular or WiFi data is not on. Perhaps there is an expiration time as well? Because you'd think that if I turn on cellular data a little later, I'd get the message.

    Anyway, my family member is not technically minded at all. I may have to try an in-person test with her on the next visit and see if I can purposefully trigger the issue.

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  • Just to be crystal clear here, MMS always requires an active mobile data connection. It doesn't travel over MMS anymore, as of November, 2018.

    So, if you have data cut off at the phone level, or the network level, you won't receive MMS at all, or you'll get a blank text message with a prompt to download. 

    With the hit-or-miss messaging, is it possible that lots of the messages they're sending are just regular SMS, and the ones that are failing (as MMS) have been converted (some apps do this automatically) inside the same thread?

    Many phones automatically convert any message with an emoji into MMS, even if the entire message is otherwise SMS. It's been a problem for years. Compounding the problem is that some apps automatically take text emoticons like :'( and convert them to emojis without confirmation from or notice to either user. That means the "Yes :'(" is sent as an MMS, even though it could all fit in a SMS.

    If this is what's happening, there's not really a way to control for this other than to leave the data connection on to receive MMS, or ensure the sender doesn't either (1) use an app that auto-converts emoticons to emojis or (2) use any emoticons at all. That's not ideal.

    Does this sound like what's going on?

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  • Thanks, Mitch. Yes, when I receive an MMS message while I'm not connected to cellular data or WiFi, I get the message with only a download prompt. And I'll then connect to download, with no problem. That message I cited did not show up as MMS. I never got it.  It also didn't show up in a subsequent message. 

    As an aside, though. When I send an SMS text message and reference the open smile emoji from the icon list, the message gets truncated to 70 chars. But when I type  :-)  there's no truncation. So I'm curious. When I type :-) in an SMS message, is it converted to MMS by the carrier?

    BTW, does "emoticon" refer to an ASCII smiley, while "emoji" refers to a binary smiley?

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  • If the issue with your phantom message is reproducible, that's useful information that our support agents would love to have at help@ting.com -- just mention my name somewhere in your email and it'll get assigned to me for follow-up. 

    To your aside, I don't think it's the carrier doing the truncation conversion. I think it's the messaging apps doing it, mostly as a "feature", rather than sending what was written. If you were to install any number of messaging apps, you'll probably find some that parse and truncate the message, and others that send verbatim.

    Emoticon is how you'd refer to the "sideways smiley". The :) is an emotion. It's just standard characters that resemble a thing. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ is by far my favorite.

    Emojis are the little pictures.👏

    Some messaging apps take the input :) and convert it to 🙂. If the image is sent, it's an MMS to alot for the additional characters needed to parse the input.

    It was a mess until the Unicode consortium stepped in.

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