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The Messages app of iPhone and iPad will hold onto basically all text messages and iMessages that have been sent and received through the app on that particular device unless the message threads were either deleted manually, automatically removed, or not not restored through a backup. This means you can browse through very old messages on any iPhone or iPad if necessary, just by opening the Messages app of iOS, choosing a message thread, and scrolling up to view older and older messages through that particular chat history.
Pro tip: if you already know the content of the old message you’re looking for, use the Messages Search feature on iPhone or iPad to find it directly. Of course not everyone knows the message content they’re looking for in an older message, or maybe they’re just browsing old messages for another reason, in which case the trick below is the fastest way currently available to read through and find old Messages on an iOS device.
How to View Old Messages on iPhone or iPad the Fastest Way
- Open the Messages app in iOS
- Choose the Messages thread you want to read or view old messages from by tapping on it
- When the message thread is active on the device screen, tap at the very top of the display near where the clock is located (on iPhone X with the screen notch protruding into the top of the screen, you can tap the notch instead)
- Wait for the little progress indicator to show up and when it goes away, tap the top of the screen again
- Repeat this top tapping trick to continue loading older messages until you find the old message(s) you were looking for
That’s it. Just keep using that tap-at-the-top trick until the messages load.
And yes if you’re going far back in time to a message thread from several years ago, it will take a lot of consistent tapping on the top of the screen, waiting for that loading cursor to finish and go away, then tapping again. You can keep tapping until you reach the very beginning of the message thread, assuming it hasn’t be deleted or otherwise not maintained on the device in question.
This is a pretty straight forward and simple trick that utilizes the longstanding hidden scroll feature of iPhone and iPad devices that allow you to top at or near the top of the screen to immediately scroll to the very top of an active iOS app, webpage, document, or as you can see here, a conversation in Messages app.
It’s worth pointing out that this is not the only way to view and read old messages, whether iMessages or text messages, on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, but the other methods will require the usage of a computer, iTunes, and USB cable to connect with, so that an unencrypted iOS device backup can be made, which can then be accessed and browsed through directly by going through the iPhone Messages database backup file – admittedly that’s quite a bit more advanced, and since it requires a computer and iTunes it may not be suitable for all users looking to read through old messages. There are also some third party apps that can make that computer based process easier, though that’s beyond the scope of this article.