How to Search iPad & iPhone Messages: iMessage, Facebook & WhatsApp

No one wants to search through dozens (if not hundreds) of messages looking for a specific conversation on their Apple device. We’ll go over how to search through your messages on iPhone and iPad using iMessage, how to search Facebook messages, and also how to search WhatsApp chat. You can search through your iPad and iPhone text message history so long as you haven’t deleted the conversation thread, so be sure not to swipe left on any iMessages that could be important later! 

Related: How to Find & Send GIFs from the Message App on iPhone: Updated for 2018

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There are three major apps people use to communicate with messages on iPhone. The obvious standout is iMessage, but unlike Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, the Messages app doesn't allow you to archive iMessages. Which means, if you want to clear out old messages, you have to delete them, and once an iMessage is deleted, it can't be searched. For this reason, it's important not to delete any text message threads you think you might need to come back to in the future. The same can be said of Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, but you have the option to archive messages so they'll always be searchable. I'm going to break down how to search for messages in each of the three apps below. 

Related: How to Sync Messages from iPhone to Mac & iPad

Table of Contents:

How to Search iMessage History

Searching through iMessage isn't as intuitive as it used to be; the search function that used to be present doesn't exist any longer, but we can still search our texts. You can only look through present messages, which means if you’ve deleted a message it will not show up when you search. Another nice feature of iMessage search is the ability to go directly to the phrase I’m looking for within the message. 

To search text messages on iPhone:

  • Open the Today View on your iPhone by scrolling to the right from your first Home screen.
  • At the very top is the Search bar. (If you scroll down, it will disappear. Just scroll back to the top and you’ll see it.)

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  • Tap the Search bar and type either the person or phrase that you’re looking for, then tap Search in App in the Messages section.
  • You'll be taken to your Messages app, where “chickens” showed me all the old messages I had from friends as well as any other text message wherein “chickens” appeared.

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  • Click on the specific message you were looking for, and you'll be brought to the message at the place of your search term. The iMessage you located will appear slightly darker gray at first to make it easy to find. 

search iphone messaging app

If you need a more extensive search of iOS messages, check out Chatology for Mac. You can focus on a specific date range or search by images and links. It can also search through more than just iMessages, linking multiple accounts for easy searching in one place. If it’s something you think you might like, there’s a free download to try it out on the website.

How to Search Facebook Messenger Conversations

You can easily search for messages with the Facebook Messenger app. 

To search Facebook Messenger conversations:

  • Open the Facebook Messenger app.
  • Tap the Search field at the top of your display.

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  • Type in your search term and tap Search messages.
  • If there are any results, Facebook Messenger will list them; choose the result that best fits your query and tap to open.

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  • You'll now be able to open the messages from the query you tapped; if these aren't the messages you were looking for, tap Back and choose another result.

iphone messaging app search

Just like with iMessage, if you click on a result, it will take you directly into that part of the message. Facebook messenger search does a great job of looking through message threads from all time, including individual and group conversations and messages that were archived.

How to Find Specific Threads on WhatsApp

WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging apps on iPhone. It’s completely free and allows you to send and receive messages, calls, photos, videos, and Voice Messages on your iPhone; you can also view your WhatsApp messages from your computer’s browser. WhatsApp is generally considered to have the best search on iPhone by reviewers, and like Facebook, it highlights the term you're looking for, so it's easy to find in the thread. As with the other two messaging apps, if you've deleted the message, it won't be available for search. However, if you archived the message, search will work.

How to search WhatsApp messages:

  • Open WhatsApp and log in.
  • Navigate to Chats on the menu bar at the bottom of the screen.
  • Pull down on the screen to reveal the Search bar at the top.
  • Begin typing the phrase, words, event, or person you’re searching for.

Messages that match will appear with the search terms highlighted in bold. If you click on a result, it will take you to that message within the thread. The search term will still be highlighted, making it easy to locate.

How to Check New Messages with Siri

I was hoping I could use Siri to easily search through all of my iMessages, but I suppose that’s a request for a later update. What you can do, however, is ask Siri to check for new messages. This is a nice hands-free feature, especially if you get a text while driving that you need to read.

To check new messages with Siri:

  • Hold down the Home button, Siri will activate.
  • Say, “Check new messages,” or something along those lines.

ask siri for new messages

  • If you don’t have any new messages, Siri will let you know.
  • If you do, Siri will begin to read your new messages, starting with the name or phone number of the sender. Siri will then ask if you’d like to Reply.
  • You can say Read Again if you didn't catch what the AI said the first time or say Reply and voice your message.

Personally, I think this feature is used best to check new messages hands-free but not so great for replying, since Siri doesn't always understand what I’m saying. For example, gumdrop became dumb job when I tested the feature.

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Abbey Dufoe is a freelance writer and a web producer at a nonprofit based in Princeton, NJ. She's always itching for the newest iOS gadget (current favorite - the Apple Watch). She tweets and blogs about the earth and the Internet on Twitter at @abbeydufoe and at abbeydufoe.com.