It appears that my iPhone 4s have silently and completely by itself deleted a number of messages from the beginning of this 2012. In the place of a longer messaging thread, there's now a load more messages button in the affected text conversations, but it doesn't actually load the previous message history.

I am nowhere near any sort of limits storagewise, so I don't see why the iPhone would perform any housekeeping on its own. Digging into this, it appears that only the conversations using iMessage have been cleared out but not the ones that only transfer via SMS.

Is this a known behavior that is either documented officially by Apple or currently an undocumented feature?

  • 1
    I'm curious if your phone is really deleting the messages or just not showing them. You can test by entering Airplane mode and then going into iMessage. If you can show more with no network connection, you can be sure it's just a rendering algorithm change and not true deletion of the messages. – bmike Feb 7 '12 at 16:04
  • I'm currently experiencing this problem as well. My older SMSes are gone. It does have the "load more messages" button. However, it doesn't loads everything and stops halfway, and the button is gone as well. I don't think it is due to reaching the limit of SMSes storage as my 4S is just 3 days old. – user19328 Feb 26 '12 at 9:54
  • I have had same issue and I have not made any changes, etc. For example, on July 16th, a random selection of contacts text messages have been completely wiped out of memory and others left alone. I wondered if someone was secretely copying or transferring them to some other entity I am one of six phones on same business account. Can you selectively transfer someones text messages to another icloud, for example? Like, spying on someones text messages? I could not think of another reason this is happening.It's too random to be a hardware issue and it's definitely not a storage memory issue. – user25363 Jul 17 '12 at 0:20

Yes and no.

Yes - there appears to be a feature where the messages app will not initially draw older messages based on some combination of time and activity where it used to show everything more reliably.

No - In all cases I've seen, messages are not deleted due to this feature so it's hard to know why your "load more" button is displayed, but doesn't actually retrieve more messages.

For example, I have SMS and iMessage conversations that exist in the app from 2010 and 2011. Some conversations started as SMS and moved to iMessage in October 2011 and haven't been shortened with the "load more messages".

From my usage - all of the older conversations that are not more than 10 or 20 items in the history are all presented perfectly on iOS 5. Only conversations (both SMS and iMessage) with more than 30 or so messages have the display shortened and the option to ask for more messages to be loaded on demand.

I'm fairly certain that all the messages are still stored - just not rendered and taking space on the view until you ask for more content.

I have never had a problem with iMessage deleting messages on me due to no space or other considerations - but I do use PhoneView to periodically archive both my messages and other contents (voicemail, call history) to a Mac since keeping this history is something I prefer to have.


Have you changed any of your iMessage details in that time frame?

As I understand it, if anything changes in your iMessage settings (for instance, removing a 'receive at' or changing the account you use, your phone will purge all of the messages it no longer thinks belong to it (as, I suppose, you would expect). However, I added an email address to mine fairly recently and all my iMessage history with my mum vanished.

I would check with the other party and see if they still have the record - if so, then your phone has elected to purge it and probably thinks you don't need it. If not, is there a time limit on iMessage storage on Apple servers? (seems unlikely and that shouldn't cause it to purge from the phone).

  • Hi! No settings changed unfortunately. It would be nice to be able to know that that were the reason though – Industrial Feb 6 '12 at 14:32
  • Have you made any major setting changes at all? Particularly anything iCloud or account related, because they tie in very heavily with iMessage. – George Pearce Feb 6 '12 at 15:37
  • Nope, all changes completely untouched. Same thing seems to be occuring on the other party (receivers) end with his/her iPhone as well – Industrial Feb 6 '12 at 16:03
  • Have they changed anything? I've got messages as far back as the end of Dec 2011 but before they they seem to have cut off too - maybe there is a time limit on them? – George Pearce Feb 6 '12 at 16:21
  • Nop. Probably there's some sort of time limit occuring – Industrial Feb 7 '12 at 8:53

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