When it comes to apps that get regular use, the Messages app might very well trump even the Phone app. We’ve increasingly become a text message culture. Why call, when I just send a quick text? It’s faster than sending an email and messages seem to have an immediacy that you don’t get with mail. Whether it’s for business or personal, it’s easy to see the appeal of text messaging as compared to other forms of communication. When information flows so freely, the unintended consequences could be revealing information you would have preferred to keep private. Information about a merger in a business setting, a friendly message from an ex which not not be so popular with your significant other. These are types of messages that can have a severe impact on your life or at the very least, some short term grief. With a few easy to follow tips, you can learn how you can maintain privacy when text messaging on the iPhone or *gasp* any smartphone.
Let’s start with the iPhone. The biggest offender to prying eyes are pop-up notifications that litter your screen. By default, these show the sender’s name and a preview of the message. If your iPhone is always in your pocket or hand, you’ve got nothing to worry about. For most of us, it’s not uncommon to leave our iPhones on a desk or table. Leave that room and the iPhone has no way of knowing that it shouldn’t push a notification.
You’ll want to turn off alert and banner notifications for Messages.
- Navigate to Settings > Notification Center
- Scroll to ‘Show On Lock Screen’ and and toggle off (gray).
Right about now, you’re say, how will I know if I get a message? In the same window, make sure you have Alert sounds setup. Make sure it’s a distinct sound. With so many alerts, it’s important to be able to distinguish from new email, voicemail or one of the countless other notifications.
These messages will appear in your Notification Center (swipe down from the top of screen), but not if it’s accessed from the lock screen. That’s brings us to the next important piece of the privacy puzzle, passcodes.
Set a passcode
Once you’ve got your lock screen covered, there’s nothing from stopping someone from pressing the home button, surveying your notifications or opening up the Messages app. If you’ve got an iPhone 5s, setting up Touch ID is the best option here. It adds that layer of security without compromising convenience. Other iPhone users can setup a passcode.
Privacy is just one reason to enable a passcode or Touch ID. Phones get lost and stolen every day. We hear stories in the forums all the time. Losing your iPhone is bad enough, but have your data and personal information compromised is much worse.
Delete your conversations
Sounds basic, but why leave a smoking gun. If there’s information you don’t want shared, delete it.
How to delete a single message on iPhone
- Tap and hold the message. A row of circles will now appear next to each message the one you’ve selected will have a checkbox. Select one or more messages.
- Tap on the trash can.
- A prompt will come up. Select ‘Delete Message’
How to delete a message thread on iPhone
- From the main window, you should see a list of your threads. Swipe left on the thread you would like to remove.
- Tap on the delete button.
Use third party messaging apps
If the options above are too restrictive, you could use one of the many great messaging apps below. If you use the stock app for work and want to keep things separate, there are some great text messaging apps. Here are just a few that are worth checking out.
– WhatsApp: A phenomenal cross-platform messaging app, WhatsApp is free for the first year, followed by a $0.99/yr subscription. Apple’s iOS 8 Messages app borrows some of the cooler features in WhatsApp include quick audio and video sharing.
– Snapchat: This features self-destructing photos. Be careful though, because a simple screenshot or app can let the person on the other end save them for an eternity.
– Skype: Recently updated with a completed remastered UI that’s 5X faster than the previous version, the ubiquitous messaging app provides a seamless experience across all platforms.
Use a privacy screen protector
There are several manufacturers that sell privacy film. These serve to protect your iPhone screen from scratches. When installed, you can only view the screen when a person is directly in front of it. Not sure about you, but I can read the text on a retina display from across a room. This makes that virtually impossible. Again, this is provided you don’t follow the steps outlined above.
Wanting to keep your text messages private isn’t an admission that you’re involved in any clandestine activities. All people have a certain expecation of privacy when engaging in conversations over text messages and often conditions present themselves that make that virtually impossible using the default settings on your iPhone. Text responsibly, but take the steps outlined above to ensure a level of privacy that suits your needs.
Have any horror stories related to text messaging on iPhone? Any tips not covered that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments.