How exactly does Messages in iCloud work in regards to SMS/MMS?


macrumors 65816
Original poster
Jul 9, 2005
The town without George Bailey
There doesn't seem to be any consistency at all in syncing SMS/MMS between my devices. I have an iPhone, iPad, and Mac. They all have Messages in iCloud activated. I assumed that "Text Message Forwarding" needed to be setup on my iPhone for SMS/MMS to sync between the devices.

I had a problem with SMS/MMS conversation threads being split between my sent messages and a contact's replies, so I turned off Text Message Forwarding on the iPhone. However, I'm still getting SMS/MMS on the iPad and Mac. Toggling the switches on/off doesn't seem to help. Some SMS/MMS sync to either the iPad or Mac or both. It's totally inconsistent.

Can anyone point me to a technical document from Apple on how Messages in iCloud and Text Message Forwarding work? Every time I troubleshoot the problems I have I get a different result. It's driving me nuts.

I do not have a problem with iMessage syncing. Only SMS/MMS syncing.


macrumors G4
Jan 8, 2012
Just to go over it really quick.

Text message forwarding allows other iCloud devices to use your iPhone as a relay to send and receive messages through your carriers Small Message Service (SMS) center which is otherwise inaccessible (exceptions apply but generally speaking). This setting specifically applies to SMS/MMS.

Messages in iCloud move your messages outside of the iCloud backup into its own dedicate database in your iCloud. All your devices with Messages in iCloud on will use this single database and sync to it. Send a message with the Mac and that message is uploaded to iCloud and seeded to your other devices, delete a message from you iPhone and the delete command (per se) is uploaded and seeded to your other devices. Devices with Messages in iCloud off still get messages but will store the data local and back it up separately in that devices back up, they will still get text messages as well if the functionality is enabled.

These are two completely different things that give the illusion of having similar function. But an iMessage is encrypted data transported through Apple servers and the internet. SMS/MMS travel through specific cellular data sent thing Small Message Service (SMS) center and such.

So for me I use Messages in iCloud on my work iPad, personal iPad and iPhone. I don't use Messages in iCloud on my iMac. I have text message forwarding turned on for everything. So my Mac receives everything however it when I delete something on another device since it doesn't sync to iCloud it doesn't delete on the Mac.

That is probably your understanding anyway.

Are you signed in on the same account on all the devices?

If you are still getting messages on the Mac goto Messages > Preferences > Message tab at the top > Settings block below that and uncheck your phone number from "You can be reached for messages at". Below that make sure "start new conversations from" is not your phone number. On the iPad goto settings > messages > Send and receive and uncheck your numbers.

That should stop them from receiving SMS/MMS however they will still receive iMessages.

You can start by deleting the duplicate threads and restarting them.

I would restart all the devices especially the iPhone, verify text message forwarding is still off on your iPhone.

If that doesn't help....

Then I would actually delete all your messages and make sure that syncs to your other devices. If it doesn't sync I would turn off messages in iCloud on all devices, delete everything and than verify in iCloud storage you don't have any messages to assure everything is sync'd. Turn Messages in iCloud back on everywhere, go back to the the Mac and iPad and select the phone number again and make sure you are starting new conversations from your phone number on both the Mac and iPad. Finally turn text message forwarding back on.

Your AppleID and phone number is tightly associated with Apple and your cell carrier (if they allow wifi calling from iCloud devices which many US networks do) and either one can screw everything up.

Good luck....
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