Is your iPhone, iPad, or Mac nearly full? Do you receive a lot of photos and videos via text message? You might consider storing your text messages and their attachments in iCloud to free up storage space on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac.
Have you ever setup a new iPhone, iPad or Mac and notice that your history of saved text messages doesn’t automatically show up on this new device? You can change this behavior by enabling Messages in iCloud. Once enabled, Messages in iCloud makes messaging work more like modern email. It stores all your messages, conversations, and attachments on Apple’s iCloud servers.
If you’re like most people you tend to delete few, if any, text messages. Instead, you just let the conversation continue. This can be handy, but it can also come back to bite you in the butt for two reasons. First, if you receive a lot of attachments such as images and videos then your entire collection of text messages plus their attachments can be dozens of Gigabytes (GB) in size. Thus, this can contribute to filling up your device. Second, if you backup your iPhone or iPad to the iCloud servers you’re using up a lot of your iCloud storage space.
I can think of a couple of ways to resolve this situation.
First, you could review your current collection of text messages and save photos and videos that you want to hold onto into your photo library, then pledge to stay on top of doing this as photos and videos arrive with new text messages. Staying on top of this would allow you to configure the Messages app to delete text messages older than one month or one year.
If you don’t want to take the time to save important attachments, then you could enable the Messages in iCloud feature on all of your devices. Then, slowly, all of your devices will send your text message conversations and attachments to your iCloud account. Please note you might need to buy more storage space to ensure you have room for all of your messages and attachments. Apple added this new feature in 2018, with the introduction of iOS 11.4, so your iPhone and iPad need to be using iOS version 11.4 or newer. Your Mac needs to be running macOS High Sierra version 10.13.5 or newer.
Let’s look at how this feature works. Messages in iCloud makes messaging work more like your email. Most email accounts stay synchronized across all your devices. In other words, when you delete an email on one device that email is automatically removed on all your devices. Historically, the same has not been true for text messages. Instead, each device builds its own collection of text messages. If you use Messages in iCloud all of your devices will stay synchronized. They’ll all have the same collection of text messages, and if you delete an attachment from an individual message or conversation of messages on one device that item will be deleted on all of your devices.
Another advantage of this feature is that if you setup a new Mac or iPhone or iPad then this new device will have access to this centrally stored collection of text message conversations and attachments. Historically this also has not happened. Instead, in the past when you setup a new device without restoring a backup of an older device onto this new device, this new device would not have any of your older text messages on it. Instead, it would start to build a collection of text messages starting with the first message you receive after turning on this new device.
As of early 2021, Apple Watch does not support Messages in iCloud. When you delete a text message or entire conversation from your watch, it does not get deleted on your other devices, and vice versa.
Traditional text messages are also not included. These messages are denoted by a green background in the Messages app. These messages will not be uploaded to your collection of messages on the iCloud servers, however they will still be sent to all of your devices (at least most of the time this works). This means that if you delete a messge with a green background from one of your devices, it won’t be deleted from your other devices.