Sending text messages from an iPad isn't as straightforward as you might think. You'll have noticed the pre-installed Messages app, but that's for iMessages rather than conventional SMS messages, so that limits who you can send messages to. In this article we explain how iMessage works, and the other options that let you send text messages from an iPad.

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Send text messages from iPad: iMessage

The Messages app on an iPad is limited, because it can only send iMessages. These are better than SMS messages (because they’re completely free) but also worse (because you can only send them to other people on iMessage - which is to say, other iPad, iPhone and iPod touch users).

Start up the Messages app and tap on the compose button - it's the square with a pencil piercing it diagonally (to the right of the 'Messages' heading on the lefthand bar in the picture below). Start typing the name of the contact you want to send a message to, and iOS will offer to complete it for you. But can you send a message to that person? If the name is red, the answer is no. Try sending your message and you'll get a 'Not Delivered' error message.

How to send text from iPad

How to send text from iPad

But if the name is blue, you can send an iMessage, and it won’t cost you a penny.

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Send text messages from iPad: Apps

There are other options, however. Search the App Store for texting apps, and you'll find plenty of free offerings.

One we’ve been trying is called TextMe, and offers a small number of SMS messages for free, generating a phone number that your message will appear to come from (so remember to sign off with your name, or the recipient will think they are being stalked).

Once the 10 initial credits are used up, you can get more by watching video adverts or by inviting friends - or by paying, of course.

How to send text from iPad

Send text messages from iPad: Alternatives

Of course, if you've got web access via Wi-Fi or cellular, it's worth questioning why you need to specifically send a text from your iPad.

The most obvious free alternative is email, although most people are less likely to notice emails than texts. Try sending a tweet instead, which while limited on characters does allow you to attach images. The average Twitter user will have notifications set up so they're immediately alerted to direct messages or mentions.