How to Obtain Printed Copies of Text Messages Sent to & From a Cell Phone

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Looking at text messages on your phone is often sufficient, but there are times where it's nice to have text message records available in a printed format. This can be useful if you're appearing in court or otherwise need records of a communication you had or an agreement you reached via text. You can take screenshots of your own text history or order text transcripts from your cellphone provider depending on your needs.

Save Your Own Text History

The simplest way to generate printed copies of your text messages is to take screenshots of them and print the screenshots.

You take a screenshot on an iPhone X or newer iPhone by pressing and holding the side button, then clicking the "Volume Up" button on the phone. Release both buttons to take a screenshot. On older iPhones, press and hold the top or side button, then click the "Home" button and release the top or side button.

On an Android phone, press and hold the "Volume Down" and power buttons to take a screenshot.

On any phone, you can then send the screenshots directly to a printer if you have one connected, email them to yourself or transfer them to a computer with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to print them. You may want to keep backup digital copies on a cloud service like Dropbox, iCloud or Google Drive as well.

Request Text Transcripts

Cellphone carriers typically retain records of calls, texts and data usage for at least a limited amount of time. Your phone bill may show who you exchanged calls and texts with, although the content isn't included.

You can contact your phone company to try to obtain detailed logs of the texts you've exchanged. In some cases, such as when multiple people use the same phone, you may need a court order to access the information for privacy reasons. If you're in a legal dispute, you may be able to work with your lawyers to get this information.

Disappearing Messages

If you're using a third-party app to send and receive messages, you may or may not be able to access them. Some services including Snapchat, WhatsApp and Signal allow you to send messages that disappear after a certain amount of time or permit the user to unsend the message. Many of these sorts of services encrypt messages so that only the people who send and receive them have access to their contents. The service provider is unable to read or produce transcripts of the messages.

If everyone who was involved in a message thread no longer has a copy of the messages, you won't be able to obtain a copy.

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