At Apple’s recent WWDC 2022 event, one of the most eye-catching features announced for iOS 16 was the ability to either edit or recall messages that have already been sent. Not only could this save you embarrassment when calling a work colleague an accidentally amorous name, but could also give you a way out if you send the wrong person the wrong message. Here’s a quick guide on how to edit or recall sent messages on iPhone.
Updated 07/27/22: In iOS 16 Developer beta 4, Apple reduced the Unsend window to 2 minutes, limited the number of Edits to five, and provides a log of previous edits to both parties. This article has been updated throughout to reflect these changes.
Upgrade to iOS 16
As these features are exclusive to iOS 16, you’ll need to have that running on your iPhone before you can retrieve errant missives. With iOS 16 set to release in the fall (probably September), you may have a wait a while before being able to save your blushes.
Assuming you’re happy to run with software that isn’t quite finished, however, then there’s always the option to sign up to the Apple Beta Software Program, which will allow you to run the beta version of iOS 16 a good while before it’s available to the general public.
Ideally, the recipient should also be running an iPhone with iOS 16.
If they are, editing of sent messages will work as described. But if you try to edit a message sent to someone on an older version of iOS (or even an Android user participating in a group iMessage chat), it will go wrong in one of two ways.
If you (the sender) are running the first developer beta of iOS 16, editing messages sent to non-iOS 16 devices simply won’t work at all. If you’re on the second beta, as highlighted by 9to5Mac, a clumsy new workaround means iOS will send the edited version as an entirely new message prefixed by the words “Edited to.” While still leaving the original, potentially embarrassing, message in the recipient’s inbox.
Since this feature is still in beta, we’re hopeful that future versions will offer better workarounds than this.
How to unsend a message on iPhone
To recall a message, tap and hold on the text bubble until you see the options menu appear. Select Undo Send and the message will be deleted from the recipient’s feed as well as yours.
One thing to note, though, is that you can only use this feature for up to 2 minutes after the message was sent. Apple says that should you want to recover a message deleted in this way, you can do so up to 30 days from the time when it was unsent.
How to edit a sent message on iPhone
If you find that you’ve sent a message that’s got an embarrassing misspelt word or which autocorrect has changed to something inappropriate, all is not lost. The new Edit feature in iOS 16 can be a lifesaver.
Simply long-press on the sent message and wait for the options menu to appear, just like with the Undo Send feature above. The one you’re after this time is Edit. Tap this and you’ll be able to interact with the text in the message.
Highlight the unwanted word or words, replace them with what you meant to say, and the text will be corrected. For full disclosure there will be a notification under the bubble that says Delivered – Edited. Both you and the recipient can tap on this to see prior edits.
One thing to note: You can only edit a message within 15 minutes of sending it, and you can only make five edits to a single message before the option disappears. Later than that and you’ll just have to prepare your apologies or excuses.
Tech Advisor contributor Martyn has been involved with tech ever since the arrival of his ZX Spectrum back in the early 80s. He covers iOS, Android, Windows and macOS, writing tutorials, buying guides and reviews.