So you need to hide messages or message notifications on your iPhone or iPad from someone else in your life. We're neither condoning nor condemning your reasons for doing this, to quote Dr. Manhattan; we're just here to walk you through the steps.
You can hide message notifications so they never appear in your lock screen where someone could see them; conceal your actual message chain in a folder where someone probably wouldn't look; or switch to a new messaging app with timed deletion of texts and app password protection.
We'll take you through different message privacy options one by one until you find the ones that best fit your needs.
Hide message notifications on iPhones
Open up Settings > Notifications and scroll down to your messaging app of choice. Open its individual notification settings to find several relevant options for maintaining your privacy:
- Allow notifications: untoggle this, and you'll never see alerts from this app, meaning you'll have to actually look inside the app to see if you've received a message.
- Alerts: you can leave notifications on but deselect the Lock Screen option, so you'll only see the message alert in your Notification Center.
- Show Previews: if you leave lock screen notifications on, you can ensure that only you can view them after unlocking your phone with Face ID, or that they can never be unlocked.
- Sounds: Use this menu to disable the default alert tone and vibration for the app, so your phone won't give it away when you receive a text from it.
You may only want to hide one specific conversation's alert notifications. How to do this will vary from app to app, but it's relatively straightforward in Apple Messages. Open the conversation, tap the profile icon on top, tap Info, and toggle the Hide Alerts option.
How to hide a conversation from Apple Messages
Hiding alerts from a specific contact works to an extent, but the text conversation will still be fully visible in-app if someone else unlocks your phone, especially if you texted that person recently.
The most straightforward way to hide a conversation is to delete it. Either tap and hold a Messages convo or swipe from right-to-left to make the trash icon appear. Then tap the red trash icon to confirm you want to erase it.
If you want to save your messages before you delete them, back up your iPhone to your computer and then use the Decipher Textmessage app for Mac or Windows. It reads your iPhone/ iPad backup and exports your conversation as a PDF, plain text version, multimedia version with photos and video, or other options.
Assuming you don't want to delete the conversation and want to continue texting this person, your best bet is actually to delete their contact from your address book. Then, open Settings > Messages and scroll down to Message Filtering. There, you can toggle Filter Unknown Senders.
We recommended this option for people trying to block text messages on iPhones, because it filters potential spam into a separate, filtered folder and blocks any notifications from them – similar to a spam folder on your email.
But Filter Unknown Senders serves another purpose for privacy: because you've deleted this person from your contacts, their texts won't trigger alerts and will only be visible in a folder where no one would normally think to snoop.
Finding a more private iOS messaging app
Apple Messages was designed for accessibility and convenience, not privacy. Instead of using workarounds and disabling features, you should consider switching to a new app that prioritizes privacy instead.
Messaging apps like Signal and Telegram offer end-to-end encryption so your messages can't be hacked. More importantly for this discussion, they allow you to password protect the app itself, so someone with access to your phone password still can't access your private messages.
Another neat privacy feature is that some messaging apps let you activate Auto Deletion for specific conversations. Telegram, for example, lets you set a timer of 24 hours or 7 days, then have any messages older than that get erased by default.
Both Telegram and Signal also let you send messages that auto-delete on the receiver's end, in case you're worried about privacy on another person's phone. Telegram even lets you delete every message you've sent to another person on both your phone and theirs, so no evidence remains anywhere.