The standard iOS Messages app—you know, the app you use daily for trading all those text messages, photos, and videos—can do much more than you might think. Not only can you forward any text messages you receive, you can also find out when a given message was sent or received, shush an annoying group thread, and sync Messages between your iOS device and your Mac.
Forward a message
Sounds simple, but forwarding a text or picture message to someone else on an iOS device isn’t easy if you’ve never done it before.
In the name of creating the flattest, most Spartan interface possible, the forward controls are hidden behind a few touch gestures.
Tap and hold the message you’d like to forward; when you do, a pop-up with a few different buttons (such as “Copy” and “Speak”) will appear. Tap the More button, then tap the little forward-arrow in the bottom-right corner of the screen.
Find out when a text message was sent or received
If you’re switching over from an Android device, you might notice something missing from your messages on iOS: time stamps on each text message within a particular thread. Sure, you’ll see a date and time stamp marking each individual burst of text messages in a thread, but nothing for each individual message—that is, unless you know this particular little trick.
Tap and hold a text message, then pull it gently from right to left; when you do, you’ll reveal a column of time stamps on the right.
Silence an annoying group thread
Ever get stuck on a group text-messaging thread that just won’t stop? If you’ve got an iPhone or iPad running iOS 8, there’s an easy way to shush the chatter.
Open the group thread that’s bugging you, tap the Details button in the top corner, scroll down and flip the Do Not Disturb switch.
Ah, the sound of silence.
Delete old text and picture messages automatically
An individual text message takes up a miniscule amount of data on your phone, but eventually, all little messages will start to add up—particularly if there are pictures or video clips attached.
Luckily, Messages has a handy setting that’ll trash older text and picture messages automatically, perfect for keeping your phone’s storage from getting junked up with ancient threads:
Tap Settings > Messages, then scroll down and tap Keep Messages (under the Message History heading). Then just decide how long you’d like to keep old text messages before they’re deleted: for 30 days, a whole year, or forever and ever. In case you’re wondering, no—there aren’t any custom settings.
See all the photos and videos in a message thread
A huge message thread with a loved one is likely riddled with pictures and video clips from days, weeks, or even months ago, making it quite a challenge to scroll all the way back in search of a specific snapshot.
The good news, though, is that the latest version of Messages for iOS 8 lets you view all the photos and video clips in a given message thread all at once.
Open a thread, then tap the Details button in the top corner of the screen. Scroll down to the Attachments section, and there you go: Every picture, video clip, sound file, or any other attachment you’ve traded with a fellow texter will be right there, ready to be saved, forwarded, printed, or simply opened.
The only thing you can’t do with the files in the Attachments section is select them all at once—or batch-delete them (or delete them at all, actually). An annoying omission, no question.
Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart speakers, soundbars, and other smart and home-theater devices. You can follow Ben on Twitter.