Had an iMessage “Waiting for Activation” Error

After upgrading from iPhone 6 to iPhone 6S, both on iOS 9.0.2, I noticed my Mac could only receive iMessage but not SMS. When I checked the settings on phone, the “Text Message Forwarding” option wasn’t showing up in the Messages settings. Later on I tried to toggle the iMessage switch to see if it could fix the issue, but it only made things worse.. The iMessage stuck at “Waiting for Activation” and sometimes threw an error message saying “an error occurred when activating iMessage”. There were a few key symptoms:

  • iMessage didn’t work for the phone number, but worked for the email registered for iCloud.
  • When toggling iMessage switch, it showed the “waiting for activation” message, or the “an error occurred when activating iMessage” message, or asked me to re-login with my Apple ID.
  • In the “Settings => Phone” panel, “My Number” showed as “Unknown”.
  • FaceTime was working at first but later on had the same issue with iMessage.

I tried all methods listed on various articles like these (1, 2, 3). Eventually it got solved by completely restoring the phone to factory settings with iTunes and set up as a new phone, not restored from a backupNote that I tried to reset then restore with a data backup, which didn’t solve the issue; I also tried to reset just by the phone, not by iTunes, which didn’t solve the issue either. I guess both ways didn’t wipe things “cleanly” enough and left some bad data behind.

I’ve heard various bugs and complaints about iMessage. This is the first time I got hit by an actual tough one. It was quite unpleasant because I need to reconfigure the whole phone and all the Apps instead of just restoring from a backup. iPhone 6S is sleek and lightning fast so it’s a good proof that Apple is playing its strength of integrating hardware and software well. But the software quality from Apple seems going downwards when more complex functions are thrown in this OS.

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