I had a question on how iMessage message routing works.

Assume this setup:

Thing1: iPhone 555-555-5555
Apple ID: [email protected]

Thing2: iPhone: 999-999-9999
Apple ID: [email protected]

If Thing1 sends a new iMessage and selects Thing2's Cell as the destination, the iMessage appears only on Thing2's iPhone.

If Thing1 sends a new iMessage and selects Thing2's email address as the destination, then the iMessage appears on Thing2's iPad and iPhone (and at this point, there's two separate conversations from Thing1 on Thing2's iDevices).

I had assumed that since the Apple iMessage servers know that Thing2 can receive iMessages at both their iPhone and iPad (via their Apple ID) that it wouldn't matter if the iMessage was addressed to either cell or email (and that iMessage would route it to all associated devices).

Is that not correct?

  • To further confuse matters, today Thing2 had an iMessage conversation with Thing3 (initiated by Thing2 and sent to Thing3's cell number). The entire conversation also appeared on Thing2's iPad. Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 3:56

2 Answers 2


You are assuming Thing2's iPad and iPhone are both acting as 'Thing2'. That is only partially true. Assuming the iPad is WiFi capable only, it can only receive messages on its e-mail addresses (the address of the iTunes account or other e-mail addresses). The iPhone, however, can receive messages at its phone number or linked e-mail addresses.

Now when an iMessage is sent to a phone number, the message will only appear on the iPhone as the iPone is only capable of receiving those iMessages. The phone number is linked to the iPhone, not to the iTunes account.

  • Found some more info. As long as both recipients are iMessage users, the messages appear on both iPad & iPhone (regardless if the message was addressed to the iPhone phone number). For example, Thing1 sent an SMS to Thing4's iPhone (using Thing4's phone number as the destination). The entire conversation appeared on Thing1's iPad since both users are using iMessage. Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 14:43

I partly tested this out last night, I had a iPhone iMessage exchange, but the replies only came to my iPhone, not to my iPad.

There may be device context within an ongoing message dialog, however I haven't checked what would've happened if we were using apple ID's instead of cell numbers.

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