Quick guide: Backing up iOS 7 iPhone text messages

Is there any good reason it's such hassle to backup your text/SMS messages from your iPhone? I've been looking into this and Apple doesn't make it easy. Here's what I've learned:

Quick guide: Backing up iOS 7 iPhone text messages

Apple's way

One way in which people can backup their text messages using Apple's solutions is to copy and paste them into a document and then print or save them using a word processing app.

Alternatively you can scroll through a conversation and take screenshots (hold down Sleep/Wake and Home) one by ponderous one.

Both processes are time consuming, clumsy and inelegant. Given the status of texts as legal documents, surely there's a better way?

Using SQLite

Assuming you've not deleted any texts and that you use iTunes to store your iPhone backups, they are already saved on your computer. They exist inside Home (your user folder)>Library>Application Support>Mobile Sync, if you use a Mac.

Accessing the Library: To prevent users damaging their systems by deleting important data, Apple keeps your user library hidden by default. You can access this library by using Finder>Go>Home, then selecting  Command-J and choosing Show View Options. Then check the Show Library Folder box.

Once in the Library you can open the MobileSync folder. You'll see a dizzying array of weird file names. You are looking for a file(s) with this name: 3d0d7e5fb2ce288813306e4d4636395e047a3d28

NB: You must be using iTunes, not iCloud, to backup your device for this file to be found.

Copy the file and paste it to your desktop. Do not work with the file stored in your Library in case doing so damages your precious device backup.

In theory, you can open this file and navigate through your messages using an SQLite application. An explanation of how to achieve this.

I've had little success working with the file so far. The complexity of the task underlines that this method doesn't offer iPhone users the seamless experience they may hope for when attempting to archive texts.

Using third party apps

There's a range of third-party apps that should achieve the task. I've seen a few recommended suites:

BackUpTrans ($19)

PhoneView ($29.95)

iPhonetransfersSMS ($19.95)

I took a brief look at PhoneView because I have been using another app from the same developer for some years. It seems logical that when choosing an app that digs deeply into your personal data you should be cautious whose software you choose. That's not to say there's anything wrong with the alternatives.

PhoneView is quite easy to use. First you must ensure your device is backing up to iTunes rather than iCloud. Simply plug in the device in and it will eventually show up in the PhoneView browser. You'll need to enter your admin passcode. When you do you'll be able to sift through your messages and also export these as PDFs. The solution also lets you explore your Contacts, Notes, Call logs and more for export to your computer, PDF or print.

Finally there's an app called SMS Export that claims to handle the same process for you, however there's a range of negative user reviews.

So there we have it: Exporting SMS messages from your iPhone can be done, but it isn’t easy to achieve. Apple has still not put together an easy and elegant solution consumers can securely use for this, despite these messages already being held in backup on their computer.


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