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

By Michelle Carvo

Updated October 09, 2017

i Hemera Technologies/ Images

You may choose to track text messages on the iPhone either to monitor another person's texts (such as a child's) or to keep an archive of your own texts. On an iPhone, you can track text messages using one of several free or paid services.

Use iMessage

One of the easiest ways to track text messages on the iPhone is to use Apple’s built-in iMessage service. iMessage is an instant messaging service that is an alternative to traditional text messages. Messages through iMessage are sent through Apple’s servers rather than your cell phone provider’s texting server which means that the messages can be accessed on more than one device. Apple currently allows iMessage to sync to iPhones, iPads, iPods, Mac computers and Apple Watches.

To track messages on the iPhone, link the iPhone’s iMessage account to iCloud and then link this same iCloud account to either another iPhone, iPad, iPod, Mac computer or Apple Watch. All messages sent to or from the iPhone via iMessage will show up on any linked device as well.

iMessage Limitations:

iMessage works only on iOS devices, so if the iPhone is receiving text messages from an Android or other non-iOS device, or the sender is sending the text as a cellular text rather than an iMessage, these messages will not be forwarded to you. Another issue with using iMessage as a way to track messages is that you will be sharing the same iMessage account with the other individual’s iPhone, which may get confusing.

Use Third-Party Apps

iMessage represents a good free option for tracking, but if you want more involved text tracking and other features, consider a third-party monitoring app. There are a number of apps that allow you to monitor text messages sent on the iPhone as well as see the location of the iPhone at all times.

PhoneSheriff is a paid service that works on Android, iPhone and iPad devices. It is typically used by parents to keep an eye on their kids messaging activity and to know where they are. You can set time limits on devices, block specific websites or apps and block texts or calls. All text messages can be monitored after PhoneSheriff is installed.

TeenSafe is another paid service that allows you to track text messages sent or received on an iPhone. Much like PhoneSheriff, TeenSafe also shows you the location of the iPhone and its call log. You can also view the iPhone’s web browser history and see what apps are installed on the device.

KidGuard is another option. Unlike TeenSafe and PhoneSheriff, KidGuard is tied to the iPhone’s iCloud account, so there is no need to install an app on the iPhone itself. The service is paid just like the other two options.

Third-Party App Limitations:

Most third-party options require that a monitoring app be installed on the iPhone itself – but the tracking stops working if the app is removed. Third-party apps can also be quite expensive depending on various options, ranging in price from $89 to $200 per year.