There is no straightforward way to lock the iPhone Messages app to hide your conversations. You can’t effectively use any third-party lock app, and unlike WhatsApp, there is no password protection on the Messages app.
Still, you have some solid options if you wish to prevent your private SMS or iMessage from being seen by family members, friends, and others. In this tutorial, we show you how to increase the privacy of your messages and hide them so anyone else can’t see your personal conversations.
Ensure you have set a password on your iPhone
First and foremost, make sure you use a passcode on your iPhone. Most likely, you already are, but if you aren’t, go to Settings > Face ID/Touch ID & Passcode and add one. Adding a passcode can protect your messages, photos, calls, contacts, and everything else on your iPhone.
Make the messages private or invisible on the Lock Screen
When your iPhone is kept on the office table or family room, the incoming texts appear on the Lock Screen, and anyone can see the initial part of the message. To hide this, you can turn off previews on the Lock Screen or disable message notifications on the Lock Screen. Here are the steps for both.
Turn off the message preview on the Lock Screen
- Go to iPhone Settings and tap Notifications.
- Tap Show Previews.
- Choose When Unlocked.
From now on, when you receive a message or app notification, it will appear on the Lock Screen, but the actual message text will be hidden until you unlock your iPhone via Face ID, Touch ID, or passcode. In case you wish to do this only for the Messages app, tap its name on the notifications screen. After that, tap Show Previews and choose When Unlocked.
Stop messages from even appearing on the Lock Screen
- Open Settings and tap Notifications.
- Tap Messages from the list of apps.
- Uncheck Lock Screen.
After this, any SMS or iMessage you receive will not appear on your iPhone Lock Screen. To see them, you will have to unlock your iPhone and open the Notification Center (by swiping down from the top middle of the screen) or go inside the Messages app.
Set the message to come in discreetly
When you receive a new message, your iPhone plays a sound. Your office colleagues or family members will get a hint if you receive several texts in a short span of time. To address this, you can silence your message notifications and prevent them from waking the screen.
Hide all message notifications
Hiding every message notification is easy on iPhone. Here’s how:
- Open Settings and tap Notifications.
- Tap Messages from the list of apps.
- Turn off Allow Notifications.
From now, you won’t be notified of any new incoming messages and can see new texts only when you go inside the Messages app.
Hide message alerts only from a particular person
Silencing all notifications can be a bit extreme and impractical for many people. Therefore, a better approach is to hide message alerts only for one or few particular people who text a lot or whose messages you don’t want to be seen by others.
Use Screen Time to lock the Messages app
Screen Time has an App Limit feature that lets you set a daily time limit, and once that’s reached, it locks the app.
You can use this Screen Time trick to lock the iPhone Messages app via a passcode. Here’s how:
1) Open Settings and tap Screen Time. If it isn’t enabled, turn it on and complete the initial steps. You can keep skipping all the suggestions it shows during setup. Don’t forget to set a Screen Time password. And even if you have enabled Screen Time but not set a passcode, make sure you do that.
2) Tap Always Allowed and hit the minus button > Remove for Messages to remove it from the list of always allowed apps.
3) Go back to the previous screen and tap App Limits.
4) Select Add Limit and enter your Screen Time passcode.
5) Choose the tiny arrow next to Social, select Messages, and tap Next.
6) Set a one-minute limit, make sure Block at End of Limit is enabled, and tap Add.
7) Now, open the Messages app and use it for a minute. After one minute, it will show that the time limit has been reached. Tap Ask For More Time > One More Minute. The first extra minute is allowed without the password.
After using the app for one more minute, it will lock itself. From now, the only way to get inside the Message app (until midnight) is by entering the Screen Time passcode (don’t share it with anyone else). For that, tap Ask For More Time > Enter Screen Time Passcode and approve for 15 minutes, an hour, or the rest of the day.
The above solution is not as perfect as a dedicated password lock, but it’s something you can explore. And if you don’t enter the Screen Time passcode and approve for 15 minutes or an hour, the app will keep itself locked the entire day, and no one can see your conversations.
Just keep in mind that Screen Time limits reset at midnight. So, you will have to use the app for 1 + 1 = 2 minutes again for Screen Time lock to come into action.
- How to limit kids’ screen time on iPhone and iPad
- How to keep your iPhone usage under control with Screen Time
Ask the sender to send messages with invisible ink
iMessage has some cool bubble and screen effects, and one of them is invisible ink. You can ask the sender to send you texts using this bubble effect. After that, this message won’t show any meaningful preview. The actual text will be revealed only when you run your finger on the text bubble.
To send a message with the invisible ink effect, type the message and press (not tap) the send button. Next, on the Bubble effect screen, choose Send With Invisible Ink and hit the blue send button.
Save messages to the Notes app and lock the note
If you have some meaningful conversations that you wish to privately store for the future, you can take their screenshots and save those images to the Notes app. After that, lock that note with a password.
Export, print, or screenshot your messages
Another approach to keep some sensitive messages hidden is to export or print them (or take screenshots). After that, keep the exported file, the printed paper, or the screenshots somewhere safe that only you can access.
Turn off iMessage on your other Apple devices
If you own multiple Apple devices, keeping iMessage enabled on all can be a privacy nightmare. For example, it isn’t very private to keep iMessage enabled on a Mac that’s shared by your family members.
Therefore, for maximum privacy, keep iMessage enabled only on the device that’s always with you, like your iPhone. If family members or office colleagues use your Mac or iPad, turn off iMessage on them by following these steps:
- On iPhone or iPad: Go to Settings and tap Messages. Turn off the toggle for iMessage.
- On Mac: Open Messages and press Command + comma (,) keys. Next, click iMessage. Finally, click Sign Out next to your Apple ID to stop using iMessage.
Use iMessage alternatives like WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram
I understand if you’re used to iMessage and have meaningful conversations on it. But if locking your chat is of utmost importance, you can consider switching to apps like WhatsApp. Don’t forget to ask your friends to sign up for that service as well.
Third-party apps like WhatsApp offer an inbuilt security option to lock the app via passcode or Face ID/Touch ID. To do that, go to WhatsApp Settings > Account > Privacy > Screen Lock.
If you move to Telegram, go to its Settings > Privacy and Security > Passcode & Face ID/Touch ID to add a lock.
Use ChatLock jailbreak tweak
Finally, what the standard version of iOS doesn’t have is offered by the Jailbreak community. If you have jailbroken your iPhone, you can use the ChatLock tweak to add a passcode to the Messages app. This is handy and lets you keep your conversations protected.