getting texts off an android phone
February 16, 2020 2:54 PM   Subscribe

How do you get all of the texts off of an Android phone?

How would you get all of the texts that were sent for the past year on a phone, including the ones that don't show up anymore because they're too old (if this is possible), and then transfer them out in a file so they can be read/sent to someone? PDF would be ideal. Explain this to me very much like I'm five.
posted by colorblock sock to Technology (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There’s an app I used for many years that does this, called SMS Backup+ [Play Store link]. It requires a Gmail account, which is where it will back up all the SMS and MMS messages that are currently on your Android phone (and it’ll also back up your call log if you like). It won’t be able to access any old messages that are no longer on your phone. You can also use the app to restore messages to a new Android phone. The main functions of the app that you'll need are free. Since Google made some recent changes, there are some important new (but not very complicated!) steps you need to take to get this app to work, which I’ll link to below.

The way this app works is that when your text messages are backed up to your Gmail account, they are formatted to look exactly like emails, including full conversation threads (a very long thread may getting broken up into a couple chunks, FYI). You can print them out or save them as PDFs, either individually or as entire conversation threads, just like you can with emails. There will be a new label (‘SMS’) created and applied to all of these messages in your Gmail account so they’ll be easy to distinguish from regular emails. If you log in to Gmail on the web, you’ll see this label listed in the sidebar along with all the other labels like ‘Inbox’, ’Sent’, ‘Drafts’, etc.

There’s a crucial step to take if you want your contacts’ names to be associated with the backed-up texts: you must have your contact list synced to your Google account before doing the backup. If you don’t have your contact list synced to your Google account (i.e. your contact list is only in your phone) the backed-up text messages will show up only with the phone numbers they came from and won’t have the names of the people who sent them.

The backup process may take up to an hour, depending on how many texts you have and if you’re also backing up the call log. Sometimes there might be an error partway through the process, but if you try again, it’ll pick up from where it left off. I'd recommend plugging your phone in while doing the backup, just in case your battery runs low. Every time you run the backup in the future, only new texts will be backed up, so it'll take much less time.

You may notice that there are lots of negative reviews on this app from people saying it no longer works. That’s because last year Google changed the rules for how third-party apps are able to access Gmail accounts. But this just means there are a few additional steps needed to get this app to work. I’ve done this and it still worked for me as recently as a few weeks ago (before I switched to an iPhone). As I mentioned above, this page has very good instructions for how to set things up. If you have any questions, MeMail me and I’ll do my best to help!
posted by theory at 6:27 PM on February 16, 2020 [9 favorites]

I used one called 'sms backup and restore' that uses Google Drive but may have some other options available. It was pretty seamless and seems to be free
posted by Dmenet at 12:53 PM on February 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Texts that are no longer shown are gone because the phone is set to delete old texts or your phones message app only holds so much. Transfer the texts by wi fi to the cloud in your email. Just back up the phone over wi fi and when you are done you should be able to plug your old messages in by logging in with new device
posted by The_imp_inimpossible at 6:15 AM on February 20, 2020

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