I gave my old iPhone 3GS (iOS 5.0) to a friend, and after removing the SIM card, we noticed a peculiar behavior. My friend is able to send texts via iMessage from the old phone number. Likewise, I can receive texts from this number.

Has anyone else noticed this? I am assuming the iMessage servers register phone numbers for compatible devices. But what happens if someone else claims this number?

3 Answers 3


iMessage can also register email address (like your Apple ID), that's how it works on iPad and iPod Touch.

So it's completely normal to be able to send iMessages with an SIM-free iPhone.

As long as you are connected to a WiFi network.

  • unfortunately it appears that nowadays eight years later this is now simply wrong. Stupid, stupid, Apple. in an iPhone you need a SIM to enable iMessage / Facetime. So Stupid.
    – Fattie
    Apr 20, 2018 at 19:24
  • Seconded (iMessage on iPhone doesn’t work without a SIM card)
    – goofology
    Sep 13, 2018 at 3:42

Yes - and be careful, I used my SIM to activate a friends iPhone and he is now receiving copies of my iMessages to his device.

Looks like Apple hasn't solved this yet, and it's a major issue for people whose iPhones get stolen.

Further reading: http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2011/12/stolen-iphone-your-imessages-may-still-be-going-to-the-wrong-place.ars


I was delighted to find that the iPhone still works with data transmission on Wi-Fi without a SIM card. All the apps still work and I can send and receive emails. The iPhone is certainly not a throw away device and still extremely useful as a mini-computer.

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