How To Sync iMessage Conversations Between iOS Devices

Posted in How To, iOS on 17/10/2011 by J. Glenn Künzler


According to Apple’s official iOS 5 features page, messages sent or received through iMessage should automatically sync between your devices. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work right out of the box. Fortunately there is a simple way to make it work.

From Apple:

Start here, finish there
Begin a conversation on one iOS device and pick it up on another.

The issue is with which address is set as your Caller ID. By default, the iPhone is set to use your phone number as the caller ID, whereas the iPod touch and iPad are set to use your email address.

Setting your caller ID on all your devices to the same email address fixes this issue, and causes the syncing to begin working automatically. Here’s the step-by-step:

  • Open
  • Scroll down & select Messages
  • Tap the Caller ID section
  • Make sure the primary email address you want to use is set as the Caller ID (it will have a checkmark next to it)

That’s all there is too it!  We hope this works for you.  I’m not sure why Apple chose to control the iMessage syncing in this way, but for those of you that have been having trouble, this works like a charm.

For more helpful tips, check out our full collection of tutorials by visiting our How-To category!

  • Greg

    But what if I want to use my cell phone number as my caller ID on my iPhone (for obvious reasons)? I can’t set my iPad to use my cell phone number as my caller ID therefore I can’t receive my Messages on my iPad. Any tips?

    • Sirvick

      Well then you won’t be able to sync. Apple made this thinking in a scenario where you can set it this way for privacy reasons.  For example what if your iPad stays with your kids and you don’t want them to see your messages, or if you want to differentiate devices through caller ID. But I do Agree that a simple option to sync between devices would solve this…

  • Satpal

    This won’t work in ideal scenario where you friends will message you on your phone number and not on your email ID.

    • Sirvick

      Satpal, If a friend send you a message on your phone number, you will receive it normally on your phone, when you reply this message It’ll then send it with the email you set (even on your phone) as caller ID, this will automatically force iMessage to sync between devices. Only if you never reply to the message it won’t sync.

      • Steve H

        Is this true? I haven’t seen it work the way you describe it. If a friend messages me using my number, it sends to my phone, not my iPad (as we would expect). But when I reply with my phone using the caller ID with my email (same email on my iPad), it still only goes to my phone.

        There is also the other scenario, if I initiate a conversation with my iPad or iPhone, they sync, as designed. And when my friend replies, it goes to both, as designed. But a lot of my friends like to clear out their text threads. So when they start a new thread, same problem of going to my number and not syncing.

    • RoBert Frankfurth

      Exactly it only works if your phone caller I’d is set as the same email as iPad .. Then basically your friends have too message your email or you will get 2 threads .. And your friends will get a iMessage from your email not your number ..they can make it show your name by adding your email to your name in the contacts but you will still get 2 threads … I hope apple this where the phone will combine the threads

  • Jason

    Did I miss something? There’s no “CALLER ID” on the iPad under Messages. On my iPhone 4S,yes, but not on my iPad 2 iOS 5.1

    Am I the only one? Plus, iMessage on the Mac doesn’t sync either.

    • Sirvick

      Jason, on  the iPad you dont have caller ID, instead you have “Receive at” or something similar, which is the email address that you want to link to you Apple ID. All you have to do is tap on your apple ID inside the iMessage settings and choose the email you want. 

  • Kellsen

    I believe I figured out another way that worked for me. I didn’t want to change the caller ID on my iPhone to my email address either. I’ve had no issues with messages syncing between my brother and I, but it wasn’t working when I messaged my wife. I realized it was probably something on her iPhone that was preventing the sync. The issue turned out to be that she didn’t have my email address in my contact information on her iPhone. I added my email address to her iPhone and it began syncing perfectly. Make sure you also add your email address to your iMessage on your iPhone. Go to “settings” then “messages” then “receive at” then “add email”. I realize it may be difficult to get your contacts to add your email address to your contact info on their iPhones, but it does seem to work and doesn’t require you to change your message caller ID. I hope this helps!

    • Kellsen

      Sorry, spoke too soon! It only works if they message your email address not your phone number.

  • Crd_op

    The issue with this messages sent from your phone are now sent by the email address. When someone sends a message to your phone number, it still only goes to the phone. You still receive messages at the phone number or email address.

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J. Glenn Künzler

Glenn is Managing Editor at MacTrast, and has been using a Mac since he bought his first MacBook Pro in 2006. Now he’s up to his neck in Apple, and owns an old iBook, a 2012 iMac with an extra Thunderbolt display for good measure, a 4th-generation iPad, an iPad mini, 2 iPhones, and a Mac Mini that lives at the neighbor’s house. He lives in a small town in Utah, enjoys bacon more than you can possibly imagine, and is severely addicted to pie.