In recorded human history, few things have experienced a meteoric rise that rivals texting. What started out as something niche that only a handful of tech nerds enjoyedhas quickly become the predominant form of communication around the world. It’s not exactly on the same level as fire or the wheel, but texting is absolutely essential to the story of mankind.
Texting has been around in some form or another since the early 1990s. However, it exploded in popularity after the turn of the millennium. In 2005, there were about 81 billion text messages sent in the United States. By 2011, the total number of text messages sent reached 2.3 trillion. Since reaching this all-time high, the total number has never dipped below 1.5 trillion annually.
Sending and receiving SMS messages on Android and Apple devices is such a phenomenon that it’s even resulted in injuries. “Texting thumb” isn’t as serious as many other injuries, but it’s not something to take lightly either. The fact that so many people have been injured just by texting should tell you exactly how instrumental it is in modern life.
Unfortunately, there are many times when your text messages won’t be sent, leaving you looking for troubleshooting steps and solutions to help you fix the problem. It can be particularly frustrating when it’s something important or time-sensitive.
There are many reasons why your message might not go through, but here are the four most common ones:
You Don’t Have a Cellular Data Network Connection
Modern horror movies would have you believe that cell phone service is hard to come by in most areas. That's not exactly the case, as roughly 90% of America has 4G LTE service. There are more than 150,000 cell towers throughout the U.S.; you’re never too far away from one that services your iOS or Android phone. Then again, 10% of the country does leave a lot of opportunities to encounter poor cell signals and limited internet connection.
Losing Connections While On the Go
It’s especially common to experience signal issues when traveling, even when you’re not set to airplane mode. Apple, Motorola, Samsung, and other brand’s cell phones use cellular towers (or base stations) to function properly. It’s easiest to think of it as an enormous Wi-Fi network for everyone’s phone.
When traveling, it can be difficult for cell phones to connect properly with new towers. If your Apple iPhone or Android device doesn’t connect to the closest one, you’ll have a weaker signal to use for activities like texting, calls, and leaving voicemails, as it will still be using the tower that’s further away.
iMessage and Signal Strength
Having a weak or nonexistent cell signal will make it next to impossible for an iMessage or standard type of message to send from your mobile device. It doesn’t take a long time to send a text (much less than making a phone call), but it does require a certain level of signal strength. Without the required signal, you won’t be able to send or receive texts until the connection is stronger.
Naturally, the inverse is also true for the recipient of your message. If they don’t have an adequate cell signal (or their phone is simply turned off), then the message won’t be delivered properly. The message would most likely be delivered once their signal strength improved (or the phone is turned on), but it’s not guaranteed to work.
You Texted a Phone That Can’t Receive SMS Messages
Obviously, there are a ton of drastic differences between a cell phone and a landline. It doesn't take more than a few seconds to come up with a dozen examples. However, there are similarities that both telecommunication options share.
Primarily, they both employ a ten-digit phone number to work:
- The first three digits in a phone number are the area code. Area codes first started to appear in 1947 as a way to designate specific geographical areas like cities or states. The number would serve all lines established within a specified physical location.
- The second three digits are the prefix numbers. These numbers were assigned to switches at a phone carrier's centralized office. Each one was given a unique number which operated similarly to area codes.
- The last four numbers are the line number which is used to differentiate one line from another. It’s easy to understand the importance of the other numbers since there are only 10,000 possible number combinations with four numbers.
The ten digits listed above have undergone some changes over the decades. For example, area codes aren’t quite as useful for identifying a physical location since cell phones came around. In fact, you can easily get a number with any area code that you want by downloading the Burner app.
Despite the changes over time, both cell phones and landlines still stick to the ten-digit phone number format. It’s impossible to tell whether you’re dealing with a landline or cell phone based on the phone number alone.
You might simply be texting a landline that simply can't receive text messages. It sounds a little embarrassing, but it happens way more often than you would think and cause technical difficulties as a result.
You’ve Been Blocked
Technology has made it possible for people from all around the world to easily connect with one another, whether it be via a tablet like an iPad, a Mac or Windows computer, or a phone. Unfortunately, it’s also made it pretty hard to sever that connection and remove someone from your life. That’s why the concept of “blocking” someone has become a fairly common tactic in modern life.
Blocking someone on your phone is as simple as pressing a couple of buttons. The simplicity makes it something that can easily happen by accident. Merely trying to end a phone call and pressing the wrong button could result in a block. Think of how many times you’ve hit the wrong button on your cell phone and never even realized it.
If you’re sending text messages and not receiving “Delivered” or “Read” notifications, it’s possible that you might have been blocked. There are other ways to contact the person if you think that they may have accidentally blocked you. Be sure to use your better judgment so that you’re not making a potentially bad situation even worse.
Your Messages Were Flagged As Spam
What’s more intrusive and annoying than spam? In the old days, spam largely came in the form of phone calls made to the family landline or “junk mail” delivered directly to your door. The government has done what it can to help combat telemarketing troubles. However, most of their attempts have largely been unsuccessful.
To make matters worse, it appears that spam has evolved in recent years by embracing the digital age. Now you have to be on the lookout for spam texts and emails. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to avoid these unwanted texts in your messages app, but it’s still a hassle to constantly have to block these numbers.
You can probably imagine that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is pretty sick of spam texts too. They’re routinely receiving thousands of complaints about the subject as the number of annual spam texts is now measured in the tens of billions. The complaints aren’t falling on deaf ears as the FCC is pushing more mobile carriers to crack down on spam.
As a result, it’s much easier for an everyday text message between two people to be accidentally marked as spam. Think of it like the spam folder for your email. If something even slightly seems fishy in an email, it’s automatically flagged and sent to your spam folder. You’ve almost certainly had to wade through your spam folder to seek out a legitimate email that was sent there by mistake.
Four Reasons Your Messages Are Flagged as Suspicious
The guidelines are different for each carrier, but these are a few of the most common reasons why your message might have been flagged:
- You’ve sent a suspicious hyperlink via SMS or MMS message. URL shorteners (such as bit.ly or goog) are commonly associated with spam texts as they can initiate a download of malicious software on your device. Phone carriers are specifically cracking down on texts that include URL shorteners and will quickly flag them as spam.
- You’ve sent the same message repeatedly. The truly irritating part of spam is that it’s relentless and never-ending. In most cases, it’s the same message over and over and over again. If you’ve sent the same message several times, then it could appear as spam to a phone carrier.
- You’ve sent too many long messages. Each SMS text message has a 160-character limit. If you go over this limit, the message will be broken down into two or more messages. Frequently sending texts that contain multiple “pages” could appear suspicious and get you flagged.
- You’ve used all caps too often. The least likely, but still possible, explanation is that you’re using all caps too much. Spam frequently uses all caps to illustrate the urgency of clicking their link, buying their product, or providing personal information. A message sent in all caps could easily trigger a spam alert.
Texting isn’t going to go away anytime soon. It took a few millennia for it to arrive, but it shows no signs of stopping or even slowing down. If you’re not texting in the modern world, then you’re quickly falling behind the times.
That’s not to say that texting is a flawless system. It’s quite a hassle to wade through mountains of text messages that can pile up when you’re in a group thread. It can also be annoying to scroll through your texts when it’s time to delete them and clear up space. Add these issues to the potential for your message not to go through, and you can see how frustrating texting can be.
However, it’s hard to argue that there is a better system out there at the moment. Texting will remain the new standard until the next generation of technology comes up with something better. Until then, you should protect your personal information by using a second phone number and protect your thumbs by taking it easy with your texting habits.
Check out the Burner app to see how it can make your day better with a single click.
How to Block a Number on Your Smartphone | PCMag
What Is a Spam Filter? | Tech Target
Complaints About Spam Texts Were Up 146% Last Year. Now, the FCC Wants To Take Action | NPR
Telemarketing and Unwanted Mail | USAGov
What Do Digits in Phone Numbers Mean? | HowStuffWorks
Cell Phone Towers: | Connecticut Department of Public Health
Mobile LTE Coverage Map | Federal Communications Commission
Text Messages Sent in the U.S. 2021 | Statista