How To: Keep Other iMessage Users from Editing or Taking Back the Messages They Send to You

Keep Other iMessage Users from Editing or Taking Back the Messages They Send to You

Apple is adding controversial features to its Messages app that lets you edit or delete any iMessage you send in a conversation. You may only use them to fix autocorrect failures or take back something you accidentally sent, but others may have malicious intentions. Luckily, there are a few ways to protect yourself from evildoers and nefarious tricksters.

Even if you're not worried about gaslighting, harassment, black hat mischief, or any other possible negative aspects, you may still want to know what one of your friends said before they changed the message or unsent it. While there isn't an easy way to see removed iMessages, Apple updated the editing feature to show the history on both ends via the "Edited" link alert.

There are no switches in your iPhone, iPad, or Mac settings that let you disable the new Edit" or "Undo Send" options for iMessage chats in the Messages app. Still, it's not that difficult to get around that limitation.

Option 1: View the History in Messages

The fourth beta of iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS 13 Ventura added an easy way to view the history of edits for an iMessage, and both the sender and recipient can see it. Just select "Edited" under the edited iMessage to view each change, then "Hide Edits" to see just the newest version. However, there is still no way to view an iMessage you or the other person deletes. For that, you'd need to try Option 2 or 3 below.

Option 2: Use a Device with an Older Operating System

This is probably the easiest and most discrete option, making the most sense if you have an extra Apple device that you don't use very often. Any device running one of the following software versions will be able to see original messages untouched by edits or deletions.

  • iOS 15 or lower (for iPhone, iPod touch)
  • iPadOS 15 or lower (for iPad)
  • macOS 12 Monterey or lower (for Mac)

When a contact edits an iMessage from their end (left screenshot below), you'll see the revised version on iOS 16, iPadOS 16, or macOS 13 Ventura with an "Edited" option to see the history of changes (middle screenshot below). On iOS 15, iPadOS 15, or macOS 12, you'll see the original message followed by a separate message that includes the edits (right screenshot below).

And when a contact unsends an iMessage that they sent you, you'll see "[Contact Name] unsent a message" instead of the original message on iOS 16, iPadOS 16, or macOS 13 Ventura (middle screenshot below). However, the message stays put on iOS 15, iPadOS 15, or macOS 12 (right screenshot below). The sender will get an alert saying, "[Your Name] may still see the message on devices where the software hasn't been updated" (left screenshot below), which may dissuade them from trying to delete anything in the future.

So if you have an old iPhone that you haven't traded in, an iPad you only use sometimes, or a Mac that you can't upgrade to Ventura, it may be a good idea to keep them around with iOS 15, iPadOS 15, or macOS 12 Monterey installed so you can always see changes in iMessage conversations — even if it's not until later when you can access the device.

Note that for this to work, you'll need to make sure that "Messages" is enabled for iCloud so that all of your messages sync between your iCloud-connected devices. According to Apple, you also need iCloud Keychain turned on and two-factor authentication on your Apple ID to enable Messages in iCloud.

Option 3: Disable iMessage and Use SMS Only

This is the most inconvenient option since all of the iMessage features you've come to love will be useless to you. If you're willing to give up various iMessage features like screen effects and rich collaboration to see green bubbles instead of blue, it's worth a try at least.

To turn off iMessage on your iPhone or iPad, go to Settings –> Messages, then toggle off the "iMessage" switch. Doing so won't remove your past iMessage conversations, but all future messages you send and receive will be SMS or MMS messages.

On your Mac, open the Messages app, then use the Command-, keyboard shortcut or click "Messages" in the menu bar and choose "Preferences." Then, select "Settings" under the "iMessage" tab and "Sign Out" completely. You could also just uncheck your phone number to stop receiving iMessages on your Mac and pick an email address to start new iMessage chats from, but signing out is probably easier.

With iMessage disabled on all your devices, any iMessage somebody sends you will be received as an SMS or MMS message using your cellular network. They will count against your text allowance if you have one. Since it becomes an SMS or MMS, it will show up as such on the sender's device. Text messages are not editable and can't be unsent like iMessage, so you won't ever have to worry about the new "Edit" and "Undo Send" features in iOS 16, iPadOS 16, or macOS 13 Ventura.

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Cover photo and screenshots by Daniel Hipskind/Gadget Hacks

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