Why Can't My iPhone Receive an MMS?

Written by robert schrader
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Two primary types of mobile-to-mobile messaging exist as of March 2011: short message service, or SMS, commonly known as text messaging; and multimedia messaging service, or MMS, which you use to send others pictures and videos. Apple's iPhone has the capability to send and receive MMS, but whether or not yours can process MMS depends upon several factors.

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Basic Requirements

If you use an iPhone 3G -- the variant released in mid-2008 in the United States -- or later, it's possible to send and receive MMS if your device meets certain operating system requirements. If you use AT&T, you must have iPhone operating system version 3.1 or later installed on your device, which you can do by simply syncing your device with iTunes. For Verizon customers, only the iPhone 4 -- which is MMS-ready out of the box -- has been available for purchase thus far. You'll know your phone is capable of sending and receiving MMS messages if a small "Camera" icon appears next to the "Message" field while you're typing.

Operating System

If your iPhone operating system is out of date, the likely culprit is that you haven't synced your iPhone with iTunes lately. Syncing regularly has several other benefits, including that it updates your iPhone's music and backs up your contacts on your computer. One reason you might not sync your iPhone is if you've recently suffered a computer crash that deleted all your music. Were you to sync under these circumstances, all the music on your iPhone would be erased. If you don't have iPhone operating system 3.1 or later, you can't receive MMS.


In the United States, iPhones come locked to either of the two carriers -- AT&T or Verizon Wireless -- that officially support them as of March 2011. It's possible to use your AT&T iPhone on other carriers by "unlocking" it, or reprogramming it such that you can insert any carrier's SIM card into it. Unlocking your iPhone, however, prevents iTunes from updating your iPhone operating system. Additionally, other domestic carriers' networks don't support MMS for the iPhone, so if someone tries to send you an MMS on your unlocked iPhone, you won't be able to see it.

Send Error

If your iPhone meets all the requirements for receiving MMS messages -- again, seeing a "Camera" icon when you're typing a new message confirms this -- it's possible the person sending you an MMS has simply made an error in doing so. Whether he entered the wrong phone number, sent a corrupt file or his own device's MMS capabilities have been compromised, several reasons that have nothing to do with your iPhone could prevent you from receiving MMS messages on it.

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