You need to send an SMS text message to a friend with a cell phone, but all you have is an iPad. Is it possible to send SMS texts from an iPad? The answer is both no and yes, depending on the situation. Here are your options.

First, What Is an SMS Text Message?

To understand the iPad’s limitations on sending text messages, we first need to define what an SMS text message is. SMS stands for “short message service.” It’s the industry-standard protocol that cell phones use to send text messages to each other. A related technology, MMS (multimedia message service), allows cell phones to send photos and videos to each other through the cell phone network.

RELATED: Why SMS Text Messages Aren't Private or Secure

How Are Apple Messages Different Than SMS Text Messaging?

Most Apple users communicate through the Apple Messages app, which uses Apple’s own internet-based iMessage protocol when communicating with other Messages uses on iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Mac. Currently, Messages is only available on Apple platforms, so Windows and Android customers can’t use it.

On an iPhone, Messages can also send and receive SMS text messages. But by default, iPads can’t send SMS text messages through Apple’s Messages app. Even if you have an iPad with a cellular data plan for mobile internet on the go, you still can’t send SMS text messages unless you use one of the workarounds listed below.

Option 1: Link an iPhone to Your iPad via Continuity

It’s possible to send and receive SMS text messages through your iPad if you have a working iPhone linked to it through Continuity, which is Apple’s way of sharing connections through its devices.

You can do this with a feature Apple calls Text Message Forwarding. To set it up, open Settings on your iPhone and visit Messages > Text Message Forwarding. There, you’ll be able to select an iPad that you can share text messages with.

In iPhone Messages settings, tap "Text Message Forwarding."

Of course, if you already have a working iPhone that can send SMS text messages, you might not need to use your iPad to text. But if an iPad is your only choice, keep reading below.

RELATED: How to Make Macs and iOS Devices Work Together Seamlessly with Continuity

Option 2: Use an Email-to-SMS Gateway

It’s also possible to send an SMS text message through your iPad using an email-to-SMS gateway. Almost every cell service provider operates such a gateway, and it allows you to send a message through a regular email client (such as Apple Mail) and have it appear as a text message on the recipient’s cell phone.

For example, you can send a text message to an AT&T customer by emailing to , where you replace “mobile-number” with the cell phone number of the recipient like this: .

RELATED: Use Email to Send Text Messages (SMS) to Mobile Phones for Free

Option 3: Use a Third-Party SMS Messaging App

While it’s not possible to send SMS text messages through Apple’s free Messages app (unless your iPad is linked to an iPhone, as noted above), it is possible to send SMS through a third-party messaging app.

For example, Microsoft’s Skype app can send and receive text messages. Messages between Skype users are free, but SMS text messages require payment in Skype Credit or a monthly subscription. However, Microsoft does offer a free month-long trial.

You can also use the Google Voice app. Unlike Skype, Google Voice is completely free. However, it’s only available in the U.S. Google will give you a phone number you can use for text messages as well as phone calls and voicemails.

Many other SMS apps are available in the iPad’s App Store. These apps usually require a subscription to use regularly, and some of them may show intrusive advertising or might not respect your privacy, so be careful. They operate through the internet to a relay operated by the company that interfaces with the SMS network.

Still, if you absolutely must have SMS messaging on your iPad (and can’t link with an iPhone), a third-party texting app is probably your best bet.

Option 4: Use an Alternative Messaging App

If you regularly send short messages to friends who can’t use Apple Messages (if they have an Android phone, for instance), then you could also try using a non-SMS messaging solution.

Many third-party messaging apps exist: WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal are three of the most popular currently, just to name a few. Of course, they don’t use SMS text messaging, and each one requires everyone to use the service to download a special app. Good luck!

RELATED: The 5 Best Alternatives to WhatsApp

Profile Photo for Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is a former Associate Editor for How-To Geek. Now, he is an AI and Machine Learning Reporter for Ars Technica. For over 15 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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