How to Search Message Conversations on iPhone: iMessage, Facebook, and Whatsapp

No one wants to search through dozens (if not hundreds) of messages looking for the specific conversation they need. Not too long ago iMessages added a search bar at the top, but that doesn’t mean finding the specific message you’re looking for is always easy. In fact, of the following apps (iMessage, Facebook and Whatsapp), Whatsapp has the best search feature, with Facebook close behind, and iMessage following. We’ll go over how to look through your message histories and the best tips and tricks for doing so. Here’s how to search message conversations on the iPhone and iPad using iMessage, Facebook, and Whatsapp.

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Table of Contents:

How to Look Up iMessage History

How to Search Facebook Messenger Conversations

How to Find Specific Threads on WhatsApp

Bonus: How to Check New Messages with Siri

How to Look Up iMessage History

Searching through iMessage can be a pain in the butt. The search function can only look through present messages, which means if you’ve swiped left to delete a previous text message, it will not show up when you search your history. However it can look through the history of the messages in your list. For instance, I was able to pull up all the Merry Christmas texts I received enough though it’s been months, and I’ve chatted with those people since. Another nice feature iMessage search has is the ability to go directly to the phrase I’m looking for within the message. It’s worth noting my iPhone is running on iOS 10, but this will work with an iPhone running at least iOS 9.

To look up a specific imessage,

  • Open the Messages app.

  • At the very top is the Search bar. (If you scroll down, it will disappear. Just scroll back to the top and you’ll see it.)

  • Tap the search bar and type either the person or phrase that you’re looking for.

  • For example, “Happy” or “Merry” showed me all the old Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas messages I had from friends as well as any other text message wherein “happy” or “merry” appeared.

  • Click on the specific message you were looking for and it will take you into the message at the place of that conversation.

If you need a more extensive search of iOS messages, check out Chatology for Mac. You can focus on a specific date range or search by images and links. It can also search through more than just iMessages, linking multiple accounts for easy searching in one place. If it’s something you think you might like, there’s a Free Download to try it out on their website.

How to Search Facebook Messenger Conversations 

Currently, there’s no way to search for specific messages in the iOS Facebook or Facebook Messenger app. To search through old threads, you’ll need to log in to Facebook in your iPhone’s Safari browser or, preferably, on your computer. It's also good to note that if you've deleted a message, it won't be available for search. 

To search Facebook Messenger conversations:

  • Login to on your computer.

  • On the side page of the main page, click Messages.

  • This will take you to the Messages page where you can see all your recent conversations and reply. At the top of the list of your previous messages is a Search bar.

  • When you begin typing the term you’re looking for, it will automatically search for People. But you’ll also see a highlighted box, Search Messages.

  • Click that box and FB search will look through the messages for the keywords you’ve typed. You’ll then see all the results to the right.

Just like with iMessage, if you click on a result it will take you directly into that part of the message. Facebook messenger search does a great job of looking through message threads from all time, including individual and group conversations and messages that were archived.

How to Find Specific Threads on WhatsApp

WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging apps on iPhone. It’s completely free and allows you to send and receive messages, calls, photos, videos, and Voice Messages on your iPhone; you can also view your Whatsapp messages from your computer’s browser. Whatsapp is generally considered to have the best search on iPhone by reviwers, and like Facebook, it highlights the term you're looking for so it's easy to find in the thread. As with the other two messaging apps, if you've deleted the message, it won't be available for search. However if you archived the message, search will work. 

To search for a conversation thread on Whatsapp,

  • Open Whatsapp and login.

  • Navigate to Chats on the menu bar at the bottom of the screen.

  • Pull down on the screen to reveal the Search bar at the top.

  • Begin typing the phrase, words, event, or person you’re searching for.

  • Messages that match will appear with the search terms highlighted in bold. If you click on a result, it will take you to that message within the thread. The search term will still be highlighted, making it easy to locate.

How to Find Specific Threads on WhatsappHow to Find Specific Threads on Whatsapp

How to Check New Messages with Siri

I was hoping I could use Siri to easily search through all of my iMessages, but I suppose that’s a request for a later update. What you can do, however, is ask Siri to check for new messages. This is a nice handsfree feature, especially if you get a text while driving that you just have to read.

To check new messages with Siri,

  • Hold down the Home button, Siri will activate.

  • Say, “Check new messages,” or something along those lines.

  • If you don’t have any new messages, Siri will let you know.

  • If you do, Siri will being to read your new messages, beginning with the name or phone number of the sender. Siri will then ask if you’d like to Reply.

  • You can say Read Again if you didn’t catch what the AI said the first time or say Reply and voice your message.

Personally, I think this feature is used best to check new messages hands-free but not so great for replying since Siri doesn’t always understand what I’m saying. For example, gum drop became dumb job when I tested the feature.


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Abbey Dufoe is a freelance writer and a web producer at a nonprofit based in Princeton, NJ. She's always itching for the newest iOS gadget (current favorite - the Apple Watch). She tweets and blogs about the earth and the Internet on Twitter at @abbeydufoe and at