I am a U.S. AT&T customer with an unlocked iPhone 6 plus, but am currently travelling through Spain and using a pre-paid Vodafone SIM card.

One major problem I've run into:

After inserting the new Vodafone SIM card, my AT&T number gets deactivated from iMessage and all messages being sent to that number aren't being delivered.

My questions are:

1) Will the iMessages currently being sent to my AT&T number be delivered once I put my AT&T SIM back in?

2) If not, what should I do so that I don't lose all of the messages that are being sent to my AT&T phone number?

2 Answers 2


In my tests, sending an iMessage to a phone without SIM will result in the Not delivered status on the sender phone, and subsequent messages will be routed by SMS if the phone is configured to do so.

not delivered to phone without SIM (iMessage on, connected to wifi)

The receiving phone was connected via wifi to internet.

Putting the SIM back will not remediate this problem (probably because it appears as a failure on the sender's phone). Interestingly, the SMSs sent during the test did arrive after the SIM was inserted.

In order to be reached at your associated email address instead, the person messaging you will have to directly choose that address as the destination.

Here you can see a contact with two phone numbers and two email address but only two of them (one email and his mobile phone number) are iMessage destinations.

contact with phone and email address as iMessage destinations

This makes everything more confusing because you'll end up with two (or more) different message threads for the same contact, with no easy way of sorting them out

two iMessage threads for the same contact

—not impossible though, you can enter each thread and click though Details in order to establish the associated destination.

After further tests, I can't confirm the first part of my answer: I received messages connected to wifi without the SIM inserted. The only difference is that the person sending the messages had the Send as SMS option disabled.


Apple stores iMessages on their servers only until they are sent to your device. Therefore, they will be sent to your iPhone once you put your original SIM back in.

Another option would be to add an email address to your iMessage account and then even messages sent to your original number will be forwarded to your phone with the temporary SIM in if it has the email address associated with your iMessage account.

  • Thanks! As far as the email address thing goes... I thought the same thing, but I have a couple email addresses associated with my iMessage account, and the messages aren't coming through. Would the reason be that the people sending the iMessage are trying to send it to my AT&T number and not an email address? May 25, 2015 at 15:34
  • On your iPhone, go to Settings>Messages>Send & Receive and make sure you are signed into your Apple ID account at the top of the screen. Then make sure your email address is checked off under "You can be reached by iMessage at".
    – user125447
    May 25, 2015 at 17:13
  • Both of those things are already in place. Weird right? May 25, 2015 at 18:01
  • Yes, very. To the best of my knowledge and Apple's documents, it should work. But there's always theory vs reality.
    – user125447
    May 25, 2015 at 18:08
  • 1
    My experience has been that this is not the case... changing to an international SIM resulted in lost messages; I believe the other answer has more correct information.
    – petehern
    Apr 28, 2019 at 16:52

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