How to Text on the iPad

Connect to your iPhone or use an app to chat with friends and family

One cool feature of the iPad is the ability to route a text message through an iPhone. This allows you to text people from your iPad even if they have an Android smartphone or a phone without smart features. The iPad uses a feature called continuity to route the message through the cloud to your iPhone and then to the person you are trying to text. If you don't have an iPhone, there are a few ways to send a text message to a friend using your iPad.

Person getting a message on iPad and iPhone
Emilie Dunphy / Lifewire 

Set Up Text Forwarding

Here's how to set up the text forwarding feature on an iPhone.

  1. On the iPhone, tap Settings > Messages.

  2. Tap Text Message Forwarding.

  3. This screen lists all the Apple devices you own that can use the continuity feature. Tap the toggle switch beside your iPad to enable Text Message Forwarding for it.

    Three iOS screens showing Messages icon, Text Message Forwarding, and iPad toggle to ON
  4. You are prompted to type a code on the iPad to activate the feature. After you type the code, your iPad can send text messages to both iPhone users and non-iPhone users.

    The iPad uses the same stickers, animations, and drawings that are included with the iPhone text messaging app. Upgrade to the latest operating system to ensure you have the recent features.

How to Text on Your iPad If You Don't Own an iPhone

If you don't own an iPhone, there are several ways to use your iPad to send text messages. You can use Apple's service, alternatives to text messaging, or one of the apps that provide free SMS messaging on the iPad.

iMessage

The Messages app can send text messages to anyone who owns an iPhone or iPad even if you don't own an iPhone. The iPad uses your Apple ID to route the message based on the email address associated with your Apple ID account. If the recipient doesn't own an iPhone but owns an iPad, they need to turn on this feature.

To turn on this feature, tap Settings > Messages > Send & Receive. The iPad lists the email accounts associated with your Apple ID. Tap to put a checkmark next to the email addresses you want to use.

Facebook Messenger

If you have friends or family that use Android or a Windows Phone, send them messages using the Facebook Messenger app. With over 1.5 billion users on Facebook, this solution should be enough to message almost anyone.

Skype

The leading Voice-Over-IP service, Skype, allows you to use your iPad as a phone. In addition to sending text messages, you can send video messages, place phone calls, and video conference using the software. If you want to stay in touch with someone and can't use iMessage or FaceTime because they don't own an iPhone or iPad, Skype is the best alternative.

Snapchat

Snapchat works on the iPad. However, you have to jump through a small hoop to install it. Because there isn't an official iPad version, when you search for Snapchat in the app store, tap iPad Only at the top of the search screen in the App Store and choose iPhone to search for iPhone-only apps.

Snapchat isn't true text messaging because you can only message people who signed up for the service, but it offers a fun alternative to traditional text messaging.

Viber

If you want to know what one of those messaging services would have looked like if it came out today, look no further than Viber. It has all the bells and whistles you would expect in a social messaging service, including Viber Wink, which deletes the message after it is viewed. You can also place phone calls and video calls and get involved in public chats. Viber also supports split-view multitasking.

More Free Texting Apps

FreeTone (formerly Text Me) and textPlus offer free texting to iPad users. FreeTone offers users a free phone number capable of sending SMS messages to the U.S., Canada, and 40 other countries. Both FreeTone and textPlus allow phone calls in addition to text messages, but you may need to pay for in-app purchases to use all of the features.