How to Search within Text Messages on iPhone or iPad

Apple Messages icon and search bar

Text messages are a convenient historical record of conversations we have with others, including major events, links we share or otherwise. Few realize that you can easily search your entire text message history on the iPhone, which can help you out in a pinch. Here’s how.

Search limitations

Before you start your search, be aware that you can only search in text messages saved as conversations in the Messages app on your iPhone. This applies to messages sent by SMS and iMessage. If you have deleted or deleted conversations in Messages in the past, they will not be available for consultation.

If you’ve synced your messages to an iPad using iCloud, you can even find your message history on iPad.

But if you have a long history available and many people have conversations going back several years, you will have a lot to go. There are two main ways to do this.

How to find text messages with the Messages app

The best way to search your SMS history is to use the Messages app. You will be able to quickly see the most results and browse them easily.

First, open the Messages app. If you are in Conversation mode, press the back arrow until you are on the main “Messages” screen.

IPhone messages main screen

Tap the search bar at the top of the screen, then enter what you want to search for. The screen will turn into a list of the best conversations that match your search.

Search results in Messages for iPhone

If you want to see more results, press “See all”. Or if you want to see a result up close, tap the conversation and you will be brought to that position in your conversation history.

Search result seen in a conversation in Messages for iPhone

At any time, you can press the back arrow and view other search results, or you can clear the search bar and search for something else.

How to find your text messages with Spotlight

You can also search your SMS history by using Spotlight Search. To open Spotlight, go to the Home screen and swipe down from the middle of the screen with a finger.

Spotlight search screen on iPhone

In the search bar, enter what you want to find in your text messages.

Search results for many different apps will appear on the screen (unless you have disabled them in the settings). Scroll through them until you find the Messages section. Below you will see the relevant search results for your text messages.

Spotlight Message Search Results

If you want, you can tap the result of the conversation in the Messages app.

If the messages do not appear in your Spotlight search results, open Settings and go to “Siri & Search”, then scroll to and tap the Messages app. In the section titled “Searching”, press the “Display Searching” option until the switch is activated.

Search settings for Spotlight messages on iPhone

After that, the results of your messages should appear in Spotlight search again. Have fun browsing history!

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