Is There a Way to Track Text Messages on the iPhone?

by Geoff Whiting

Many parents are concerned about the habits of their teenagers and want to monitor iPhone text messages without the child’s knowledge -- and the same is true for some spouses who want to track their partners. A set of services exists that can provide this kind of tracking at a cost, but you should first arm yourself with knowledge about how text messages operate on the iPhone so you make sure you get the full coverage and tracking you need.

Text Messages and iMessage

The iPhone handles text messages differently based on whom it's texting and how it’s connected to the Internet. Text messages sent between Apple iOS devices are delivered via Apple’s iMessage if you’re connected to Wi-Fi. Some text message tracking services won’t catch all messages, so ensure the service you choose offers iMessage support. If you’re not texting with an Apple device or if you lack a Wi-Fi connection, messages are delivered as normal SMS text messages.

Monitoring iMessage

You can monitor messages sent through iMessage if you use a shared Apple ID and you also have an iOS product. To do this, you’ll need to access the iPhone and your device. For each tap the “Settings” app. From here tap “Messages” and then tap “Send & Receive.” In this menu, select the option to add an account and add phone numbers or email addresses for each device. On the iPhone allow permission for you to see the iMessages, but deny this permission on your own device. You will now see iMessages sent to that device.

Third-Party Trackers

If you want to track these messages in real-time, there are a number of services that you can download and install on the iPhone. During the installation, you’ll need access to the phone and will provide the service with its information as well as create your own account. Your account will be used to access messages and data over the Web or have summaries emailed to you. Some of the top-ranked services include PhoneSheriff, mSpy and TeenSafe (links in Resources). These three include options to remove messages and other content from the phone remotely after they’re installed.

Choosing Your Spy

Installing and using tracking software for an iPhone can be a significant investment, with costs ranging between $50 and $200 per device per year. Choosing a service depends on what activity you want to monitor and block. PhoneSheriff offers one of the most robust feature sets for $90 a year and only lacks 24/7 support compared to the others. The mSpy service has one of the best reporting options, making all of the activity on the device very easy to see, but it costs $100 a year. TeenSafe offers more Web-based tracking options such as Facebook activity on a smartphone for $180 a year and most of its services are aimed at parents,

About the Author

Geoff Whiting is a writer and copy editor who has specialized in business technology, consumer electronics and research reports since 2007. He has written for national magazines like "American Shipper" and "BIC Magazine," has written daily news articles for FierceMarkets, and has crafted research reports for Rider Research, Intel and Spotify.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Hemera Technologies/ Images