The way I solved my daughter's "iMessage Activation" error

Writing these notes in case they help someone.

My daughter recently tried to add her Apple ID to her iPhone’sApple Messages app. (Settings > Messages > Send & Receive > Add Apple ID)

When she tried this, she got a dialog box where she could type in her Apple ID and password. After a 15 second delay she got an error dialog box:

iMessage Activation
  An error occurred during activation.
        Try again

She got a similar error message if she tried to activate FaceTime:

FaceTime Activation
  An error occurred during activation.
        Try again

I searched the Internet, and tried the various remedies that Apple and others suggested:

  • Reboot Phone.
  • Make sure the phone can receive SMS messages.
  • Enable/disable iMessage and FaceTime.
  • Log the iPhone out of iCloud and log back in again.
  • Visit and check the iCloud account to see if there’s any warnings or errors.
  • Update the phone OS to the latest release version of iOS.
  • Try to register with WiFi enabled but Cell disabled.
  • Wait 24 hours and try again.

Having exhausted the home remedies, I contacted Apple Support by phone. Apple Support listened sympathetically, and ran me through the same steps, it roughly the same order. They also did a little bit of checking on their own of the Apple ID account to see if there were any issues.

They couldn’t find anything wrong, and they suggested that I contact my carrier.

I contacted my carrier, T-Mobile, and they ran me through the same steps as Apple. They also had me check out my phone’s ability to connect to the Internet for Data and SMS. They had me turn off my phone for a minute, so they could update my phone’s SIM. Unfortunately, nothing they tried helped.

In the end, what worked was to admit defeat. I had my daughter create a new Apple ID. She was able to use the new Apple ID to log into iMessage without any problem.

So far the drawback of this solution seem to be:

  • My daughter lost everything she had stored in iCloud.
    • For many people this would be a serious issue.
    • Luckily my daughter does not use iCloud at all.
    • She uses Google services, like gmail, Google Docs and Google Photos, that do not depend on iCloud.
  • My daughter has to re-add all her Contacts to her new Apple ID.
  • My daughter lost some game progress in some of her Game Center aware video games.

My guess is that the problem was on Apple’s end. The symptoms and cure seem to indicate that my daughter’s old Apple ID account was messed up in some small way, and Apple’s diagnostic systems were not detailed enough to detect or correct the issue.

So, anyway, I wrote this up to offer one more home remedy for people suffering from the “An error occurred during activation” message when trying to log in to iMessage. That message could have one of a number of different causes. If you are seeing it, please try the simpler remedies first, and please contact Apple Support (and your phone carrier’s support) for help. But if everything else fails, be aware that for some users such as my daughter, one solution was to switch to a new Apple ID.