iMessages that claim to have been 'delivered' then fail after going into airplane mode ~30 seconds later.

Observed behavior:

  1. Send iMessage.
  2. 'Delivered' tag appears on the blue message almost immediately.
  3. Put phone into airplane mode ~30 seconds later.
  4. A few minutes later, the message shows up as a green text message instead, with a 'failed to send' error. Hitting 'try again' sends the message as a text.

Expected behavior: Step 4 above does not occur.

I don't understand how my phone's connection still needs to be active after that point of initial "delivery".

What does 'delivered' actually mean, if not that the message was delivered to the recipient successfully?

  • There is a new IOS feature that allows retraction of a message or e-mail. The implementation in Mail is that you hear the "swoosh" sending sound effect immediately, but the actual send happens some time later to give you a chance to change your mind. (Speculating) Perhaps "delivered" is similar, and you changed to Airplane mode before the actual sending?
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 16:12
  • I had the opposite problem in Mexico. Had cell service, and was able to send both iMessages and SMS. But occasionally, a message would say NOT delivered yet my wife would respond to it!
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 16:13
  • Good call out @WGroleau We might need an edit or a new answer since the old behavior of sending to the service with a possibility for the service to report a failure minutes later is now more complicated. Now the sender of Apple Messages can edit / withdraw a message and it's not just up to carrier data / SMS and signal strength to cause a failure to deliver.
    – bmike
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 16:16

1 Answer 1


Blue messages background indicates iOS is able to send an end-to-end encrypted message via iCloud to to another AppleID for delivery to Mac, iPad, watch or iPhone. Green background indicates an SMS delivery was attempted. Neither indicate confirmation of receipt from the service selected by Messages app.

The users phone connection could be down for some reason or out of range of a cell tower. You get a Delivered message but later get a message that the sent message could not be delivered. If a blue message arrives immediately is could be you've lost connection or phone is hidden from cell tower. Check your signal strength and try again.

In summary - the delivered means the service received it, but there could be an issue where the service can't actually deliver it to the party and that is my assumption why a not-delivered arrives back later to your iPhone.

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