Yes, I want all the text messages. iPhone text message transfer woes.
September 26, 2013 11:13 AM   Subscribe

What program can I use to save 4+ years of iPhone texts and iMessages and then load them seamlessly back onto my iPhone 5?

Okay, so after much chagrin and disappointment when the new iOS update came out and my phone did not have enough space for it (iPhone 5, 32GB), and then being grossly mis/under informed about what iCloud is (hint: you cannot access the iCloud from your phone, ever. It is not DropBox), I have come to the conclusion that the mysteriously corrupt app on my phone needs to be killed with fire and I need to start with a total restore to factory and NOT restore from a backup.

The hold-up: I've had a iPhone since almost the beginning. And I have all my texts since the beginning. And I want to keep all of them, from the beginning. And I want to be able to have them on my phone as normal texts and not on my computer. Is this even possible? I've done hours of research on the Apple forums but most "answers" appear to be ads from 1 post members schilling their own apps or people asking the same question I have and I'm pretty sure the people at the Genius Bar thought I had lost my mind when I almost started crying when they said there was no way to back up texts. I'm willing to pay upwards of $100 for an application that is infallible. Help me!
posted by banannafish to Technology (16 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Slow down a bit.

What's this mysteriously corrupt app?

In general, you should be fine if you do a bit of housecleaning: clear off anything that can be restored from iCloud/your computer (ie, any apps, movies from itunes, music, etc.), back up your phone, upgrade to iOS7, and then restore your backup. You'll be fine.
posted by Oktober at 11:24 AM on September 26, 2013

Can you take a look at this link?

I used SMS back up and restore on my iphone before, and on my android, but I never restored them - I just wanted a record of them on my computer, I did not feel the need to have them on my phone. But some of the answers here seem to indicate that you can restore them to your phone.
posted by needlegrrl at 11:30 AM on September 26, 2013

Response by poster: Sorry to thread-sit, I'm obviously a bit too passionate about keeping my texts. I have a corrupt app, as diagnosed by two different Geniuses at the Genius Bar, but they are unable to tell me which app. I have gotten down to barebones on my phone and still have a mysterious 10GB of space in the either "other" - no music, 1,000 photos (about 5GB) and a total of 14 apps, the most space intensive being Spotify, at 197MB, and my computer hovers at around 28GB of used space.
posted by banannafish at 11:33 AM on September 26, 2013

This appears to provide instructions on how to do exactly what you want:
posted by DWRoelands at 11:35 AM on September 26, 2013

Sync your old phone via iTunes. Then connect the new phone and sync to pull the old phone's data to the new phone. That's pretty much it. If it doesn't work, you still have your old phone and can research jailbreaking or other options, but that's pretty much the process.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:35 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

You could also try deleting apps from your phone one at a time, restarting the device every once in a while, to see if one of those deletions gets you back your memory.

The whole "Restore Your Device" thing is basically the Genius™ way of punting when the situation strays from their beaten path and they don't want to deal.
posted by alms at 11:40 AM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have used Phoneview to do this. Mac only.
posted by adamrice at 11:42 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do you store store music locally from Spotify? I do, and I expect that's what accounts for the "other" category of data on my phone. It's not "music," since it's not in the iTunes library.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:42 AM on September 26, 2013

Perhaps you can try using the app PhoneClean to delete hidden junk files on your iOS device.
posted by jaimev at 11:44 AM on September 26, 2013

So when you go into Settings --> Usage, you are saying that no app there appears to contain the GB of data that appear to be clogging your phone? Can't you just delete enough apps to give you the free space you need?
posted by misterbrandt at 11:57 AM on September 26, 2013

Response by poster: Once again, apologies for threadsitting.

Blazecock - Not a new phone, same phone. Unable to restore from old backup since I have a corrupt app that is tied in with my backup.

re: Spotify. I have nothing linked to Spotify, and have literally zero songs on iTunes. Still 10+GB is taken up by "other".

adamrice - you might have the best answer yet - I use ecamm's software for Skype recorder and love them, so I'm going to give this a try.
posted by banannafish at 12:04 PM on September 26, 2013

The Genius Bar folks are wrong, and I'm sorry you had to go through that. (Sounds like yet another case where their policy is to tell customers "that's impossible" rather than saying "Apple tools don't let you do that, but here are the third-party apps that do.")

And yes, I'd advise making an independent backup of your texts now, before experimenting with restore procedures!

I've been looking into the choices for this myself. The best of several apps I tried (and, as far as I can tell, the only one that correctly backs up both sms text content and any included images inline) is iExplorer by Macroplant. It's $35 -- steep if this is all you need it for, but it sounds like your text history's super important to you (I can sympathize).
posted by kalapierson at 12:06 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have to tried going to Settings > General > Usage. That should tell you what apps are using what amount of space. (Do you have 10GB of messages?)
posted by FreezBoy at 12:16 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Out of curiosity, are we talking hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of texts?
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:14 PM on September 26, 2013

Response by poster: Possibly hundreds of thousands of texts. When pulling data, the text messages appear to be no more than 3GB.

Just for future reference for everyone else wanting to do this - iExplorer does NOT allow porting back onto the phone.
posted by banannafish at 7:06 PM on September 26, 2013

I just wanted to check in here. iMessage takes up a crazy amount of space. I had the "other" problem, I used all available means to clean the phone. Deleted the texts from a lady friend going back over a year, and even though I police it pretty heavily to not save images or movie files? 7 gigs. Before deleting, I scrolled back through months of texts, no images/files that take up that kind of room....and then I magically have 7 gigs. I have it backed up on my laptop so no harm, but I liked having them in my pocket. But that's a lot of memory. I am basically carrying around not a smart phone/camera/music player/ereader/etc, but a text storage device.
posted by nevercalm at 1:24 PM on September 29, 2013

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