When you send or receive text messages, your phone automatically backs up a version of them in its data files so you maintain access to them should you have to factory reset the phone. If you delete the texts, however, the data file may be deleted as well -- and in some cases you may not be able to retrieve it afterward. There are, however, a few ways to back up your texts automatically so you can always go back to them when needed -- even if you inadvertently deleted something you shouldn't have.
Temporary SMS Storage
When you receive and send text messages, they're sent through -- and saved by -- your service provider's data network. Data is then maintained on the phone. Deleting these messages clears them from the visible display, but a small piece of data is still stored temporarily in the device's system memory. When this storage space is later needed for more pressing and current content, the phone wipes the data cache and reallocates the memory to something else.
Native Backup Options
Modern smartphones rely on automatic backup of a majority of the phone's data, but -- with the exception of Windows phones -- these methods fail to retain a copy of text messages. Windows phone users can enable SMS cloud backup from the device's main Settings menu. Apple provides a native backup method -- albeit a manual one -- as well. An iTunes backup, in which you connect via USB to iTunes, not wirelessly with iCloud, stores your Messages files. You can then retrieve lost texts in the future by restoring the device to that backup point.
Third-Party Backup Options
Android and BlackBerry users don't have an on-device option for SMS backup, but they do have third-party backup solutions available. These apps typically send a transcript of all existing and new incoming and received messages to your registered email address. For Android, try Backup to Gmail or SMS Backup & Restore. SMS Backup or txtForward will do the same trick on BlackBerry. Apple is fairly selective about which apps are approved for App Store access -- particularly when the app focuses on directing data to non-Apple storage -- so you won't have an available automated wireless option if you're using iOS.
Retrieving Messages for Legal Reasons
You won't be able to call your service provider and request a text message simply because you accidentally deleted it. Should you require an erased SMS or MMS for legal reasons, however, there may be a way to retrieve it. According to a 2004 CBS News report, most cell phone providers retain sent and received messages, at least for a limited amount of time after they're exchanged. You can expect that the company will only share them with you under court subpoena.
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