Continuity was one of the main features I was looking forward to in iOS 8. The ability to answer phone calls, send texts or pick up Safari websites from my iPhone on my Mac and iPad, among other things, seemed revolutionary.
I anxiously upgraded to iOS 8 on my iPhone and iPad, and while the upgrades went fairly smoothly, I found a few Continuity features weren’t working: I couldn’t make calls from my iPad and phone calls from my iPhone weren’t showing up on my iPad. I eventually noticed FaceTime and iMessage weren’t activated on my iPhone. I fiddled with their switches in the Settings app, but no matter what they were constantly trying to activate or said the activation failed.
Unfortunately, despite being the nicest tech support people I’ve dealt with, AppleCare wasn’t much help either. I was passed onto a senior advisor who suggested trying the drastic “reset all settings” option in iOS 8. After that didn’t work, he told me a colleague said the servers were overwhelmed with everyone updating to iOS 8 and to try turning off and on iMessage/FaceTime every few hours.
Needless to say, that didn’t work, leaving me to consider a clean install of the operating system. Eventually I thought I should check if my carrier, Wind Mobile, was the problem. It turns out many people have had trouble activating iMessage/FaceTime on the Wind network even before iOS 8.
It’s likely that when I was running iOS 7, I was unaware iMessage/FaceTime weren’t activated on my phone as they seemed to be working just fine. It appears that once iMessage/FaceTime can’t activate your number they simply use your email address to send and receive messages just as they would on a Mac or iPad.
While things looked fine on my end, some people who messaged me from iPhones mentioned they saw an email address in place of my phone number. I brushed it off as a possible problem on their end. Now knowing about the iMessage/FaceTime activation glitch, it was clear that the problem was due to it.
Solving the glitch seemed daunting, however. Just look at this post on the Apple Support Communities site. It has over 75,000 views and 375 replies dating all the way from July 2013 to today. Some fixes they came up with were quite long-winded and complicated. One in particular involved PDUs, HEXs and SMPPs gateways.
A simpler, yet still complicated solution arose over on theonlinemac.com. However, it involved dialling random strings to save and log files to get what you need to activate iMessage/FaceTime.
I managed to find an even simpler method (okay, slightly simpler method) to get iMessage/FaceTime working on an iPhone running on the Wind network:
1. Log into the Apple Developer site
If you’re developing an application for an Apple device, you’ve likely registered to become an Apple Developer already. Simply enter your Apple ID and sign in. If you’re not an Apple Developer, click “Register” and then sign in with your usual Apple ID (or spare one if you prefer).
2. Find the Baseband Logs profile and install it
If you’re on the Apple Developer Member Center home page click on “Bug Reporting,” “iPhone, iPod, iPad” and then “Baseband Logs (iPhone)” or simply click this link. It’s easiest to download the profile by visiting the site on your phone and tapping on the “profile” link.
3. Enable logging
Head over to the Settings app, then tap “Cellular,” “Telephony Logging” and “Enable Logging.”
If logging sounds a bit terrifying, don’t worry, you can easily turn off logging.
4. Restart your iPhone
Pretty self-explanatory: Turn your iPhone off and then immediately on again.
5. Turn off and on iMessage/FaceTime
The goal here is to get iMessage/FaceTime to try to activate themselves once again. It may take a few tries to work. Give it a minute or two to collect the information it needs.
6. Save the log
Go to the Settings app and then tap “Cellular,” “Telephone Logging” and “Save Log” to save the information you captured.
7. Sync your phone with iTunes
Make sure you see “Copying Diagnostic Information” at the top of the iTunes window when you sync your phone. If you don’t spot it, try syncing again.
8. Locate the Baseband Files
Go to ~/Library/Logs/CrashReporter/MobileDevice/[Your iPhone]/Baseband if you’re using OS X.
If you’re having a hard time finding the correct Library folder go to the Go menu in the Finder and hold the Option key then click Library.
I haven’t tried it myself, but according to theonlinemac.com, if you’re on Windows, you’re going to want to go to C:\Users\[Your_User_Name]\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\Logs\CrashReporter\MobileDevice\[Your Device Name]\Baseband\.
9. Open the .txt files closest to the time you saved the log
The file you’re looking for typically has a file name that starts with “log-bb” followed by the date/time and ends with “csi.txt.” Double clicking the file should open it in TextEdit if you’re on a Mac unless you changed the default application for that particular file type.
10. Find the string in the log file
The log file contains a lot of information that seems like gibberish. It may also be hard to navigate.
It shouldn’t be much of a problem if you use your word processor’s search function. Pop in “GSM SMS Point to Point PDU (as hex str):” and search.
If you haven’t found anything, chances are your phone didn’t receive the hidden text from Apple. Go back to step 5 and try again.
If you found something, look a few lines below to make sure you see “sender: +447786205094.” If you don’t see that number, try searching “GSM SMS Point to Point PDU (as hex str):” again. Keep in mind, if it’s not from that number, chances are what you’re looking at is a regular old text.
If the sender is +447786205094, then bingo, you have what you’re looking for. Copy the string immediately following “GSM SMS Point to Point PDU (as hex str):”
11. Insert the string on theonlinemac.com
Simply paste your string into the box and hit “Submit.”
12. Verify that iMessage/FaceTime are activated on your iPhone
Within seconds, you should see iMessage/FaceTime activated on your iPhone. Hurray! You’re almost free to go play with the nifty new features of iOS 8.
13. Delete the log files
While I doubt anyone would be creeping your computer for random baseband logs, they contain sensitive information like your account name, contacts, calendar events and emails, so delete them when iMessage/FaceTime are activated on your iPhone.
So there you have it. Now you should be all up and running with iMessage/FaceTime on your iPhone running on the Wind Mobile network. You can check with your contacts that have iMessage to see if they see your phone number instead of an email address.
You should also be able to make and receive phone calls on your iPad and when Yosemite drops (or right now using the Yosemite Beta), your Mac as well. I presume activating your number will also be necessary for sending and receiving SMS messages from your iPad and Mac, when that feature launches in October.
Update (Oct. 17): I’ve noticed that if you change your Apple ID password, you may need to reactivate your phone number for iMessage and FaceTime. As like before, an unactivated phone number may break some iOS 8 features like making and receiving phone calls from your Mac or iPad. If you change your Apple ID password, you may notice some funky things like your iPad trying to reactivate your phone number and periodically getting a message (typically when restarting your phone) regarding iMessage activation on your iPhone. Keep in mind that if you change your Apple ID password in the future, simply follow the steps above on your iPhone to get your number reactivated.
Also, if you’re troubleshooting your iPhone, you may not want to select the option to “Reset All Settings” as AppleCare suggested to me. Apparently, if you have iCloud Drive activated, you risk losing all your iWork documents permanently if you select that option even if it says that “no data or media will be deleted.” Hopefully this bug will be fixed in the iOS 8.1 update.
I’ve updated the link for The Online Mac in step 11 earlier, for those of you having trouble opening it.
Additionally, feel free to disable logging after you’ve activated your phone number, by going to the Settings app and selecting “Cellular,” “Telephone Logging” and “Disable Logging.” You can also delete the profile altogether by going to “General,” “Profile,” “Telephony Debugging” and selecting “Delete Profile” also in the Settings app.