Many conversations in Messages went awry for me recently for reasons for which I can find no explanation. Instead of the profile pictures and names of people in my contacts, their unadorned phone numbers appeared. Worse, for people for whom I had both an iCloud address and a phone number stored, their conversations split in two–this happened for my wife and children’s entries.
The issue appears to be that Messages stopped associating phone numbers without a country code for U.S. numbers with their entries in contacts. The international dialing format for a US or Canadian number is
+1 followed by the 10-digit number, like
+12065551212. The UK is
+44, and so on. (You can find a complete list online.)
Thus, Messages looked at
206-555-1212 and decided it was different from
+1-206-555-1212. This isn’t a new problem. People have been asking about it in forums for years, often having the same abrupt shift without having made any system-related settings. Some commenters note it may occur if you begin syncing with a non-iCloud service, like Google: merged entries might appear to have identical phone numbers but trigger this mismatch.
The solution turns out to be simple: add the country code to the phone numbers that show this behavior:
- In Contacts, select a person who shows up incorrectly in Messages.
- Click Edit.
- Add the country code to the start of their phone numbers.
- Click Done.
You can’t fix this directly within Messages by selecting a conversation with the phone number because it’s not correctly associated with the contact card. Working within Messages may create a duplicate entry.
As you fix each phone number, you will see Messages automatically merge conversations split across iCloud and phone number identities.
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