February 16, 2021
Whether you’re interviewing for a new job or planning a surprise party for your partner, there are any number of reasons you might not want others reading your text messages. Whatever your reason, iPhones make it relatively easy to hide your text messages. You just have to know what you’re doing first. While you’re at it, you’ll also want to learn these hidden iPhone hacks you probably never knew about.
The first step to ensuring your text messages aren’t easily accessible to be read by others is keeping your phone locked whenever not in use. “An iPhone will automatically lock the screen after 30 seconds by default,” explains Ray Walsh, digital privacy expert at ProPrivacy, who adds that this length of time can be extended by the user if they wish. To do so, head to “Settings” —> “Display & Brightness” —> “Auto-Lock.” From there you can choose your time frame for Auto-Lock to turn on from 30 seconds to five minutes.
Alternatively, you can lock the device manually by pressing the Sleep/Wake button. “This will turn off the device and necessitate the entry of the passcode or fingerprint scan in order to use the device,” Walsh explains. Those with an iPhone X or newer may also set up Face ID in lieu of a passcode or fingerprint scan if they prefer.
There are several benefits to locking your iPhone beyond just hiding text messages. “Locking a device ensures that nobody can access its contents without first entering the passcode,” Walsh says. “This ensures that all the messages, apps, and personal information it contains—including payment data such as Apple Pay—is protected in the event of loss or theft.”
Unfortunately, even while locked, notifications can sometimes give your private information away. “If you don’t want anybody to snoop on you via the lock screen of your iPhone, you must turn off all lock screen notifications,” Walsh says.
To do so, head to Settings —> Notifications. Next, select the app(s) you want to hide notifications from then toggle “Allow Notifications” to the off position. You may see a listing of three different alert types (Lock Screen, Notification Center, and Banners), click “Lock Screen.”
“To prevent all notifications from occurring on the lock screen, you must do this for each and every app on your device.” To turn off alerts for text messages, you’ll want to follow these steps for “Messages.”
To prevent notifications from all apps appearing on your locked screen, head to “Settings” —> “Notifications” —> “Show Previews” —> Never.
To do this specifically for message alerts, navigate to “Settings” —> “Notifications” —> “Messages” —> Show Previews then select “Never.” Note that the default for iPhones is “Always.”
If you’ve ever wanted to hide apps on your iPhone, we’ve got instructions for that as well.
In the event that you don’t want to hide all your alerts or notifications, but rather hide those from a specific contact or text chain, that’s a possibility as well. Walsh shares these steps to block a single SMS message thread rather than all message notifications: click on the message you want to block, tap the top of the message to open the taskbar, then tap the information symbol (I). Next, toggle “Hide Alerts” to the on position. You may also want to know how to hide photos on your phone.
“Text message forwarding is a feature designed to forward your messages from your iPhone to your iPad, iPod touch, or Apple computer,” Walsh says.
This can be helpful in certain instances, especially if you are the only one to use those devices and would like to receive your alerts and messages on whichever device you are using at any given time. But some users who share devices may want to ensure messages sent to their iPhone won’t be automatically forwarded to an iPad that their children and/or spouse also use.
To turn off message forwarding on an iPhone, navigate to Settings —> “Messages,” then move the slider next to “iMessage” to the off position.
For some iPhone versions, this is the only step you should need to take. But if you see a “Text Message Forwarding” option, you’ll need to uncheck all the devices that you do not want SMS messages to be forwarded to, says Walsh.
“To ensure that your messages are completely private, you will need to leverage a third-party messenger that has strong end-to-end-encryption,” Walsh says, adding that this is the only way to guarantee those messages reside only on the sender’s and recipient’s devices.
“Encrypted messaging apps use end-to-end encryption to ensure that all communication between the sender and the recipient are 100 percent private,” Walsh explains. “This ensures that the messages never reside server-side, where they could be accessed by the service provider, hackers, or government using a warrant.”
Examples of hidden messaging apps include Signal, Private Message Box, and CoverMe. “Signal is a secure messenger with strong end-to-end encryption for sending private messages,” Walsh says. “It is a highly trusted app which leverages well-known encryption to ensure that the messages are completely secure.”
Of course, you should always be careful about anything you add to your phone as you always need to be on the alert for these top mobile security threats.