A reader recently asked for an app to capture text messages – a very understandable request. Here are some DIY options to consider.
Most everyone is familiar with this irritating and incomplete approach, which involves taking partial images of texts that end up overlapping. Screenshots are a pain, often lack date and time stamps, don’t capture contact information or other metadata, and must be combined somehow to form a PDF. Not a great way to go. Next, please.
Decipher TextMessage and Tansee for iOS
The Decipher TextMessage app uses five simple steps to capture text messages for export to PDF. Unlike the screenshot method, it automatically grabs date and time stamps, attachments, and accurate contact information for senders and recipients. It can also recover deleted conversations.
Decipher TextMessage is $29.99 and uses the iTunes interface. If you’re dubious about spending thirty bucks sight unseen, take advantage of the free trial, but this app has a lot going for it. Read more about Decipher TextMessage here.
Tansee iPhone Transfer SMS is another great DIY solution at the same price point for a three-year license. It uses its own proprietary software installed on your desktop rather than iTunes.
The clean printout rendered by (Tansee) allows for a seamless production. (Users can) Bates-stamp each PDF page and produce the thread in one comprehensive file, rather than in disjointed screenshot images pieced together in an unorganized manner. Use of this software allows for a more efficient in-house review process, as well as a more transparent production set to opposing counsel.
A disadvantage of this software is that it does not retain the actual native file, merely an organized photocopy with some of the relevant metadata attached to each message.
SMS Backup+ for Android
SMS Backup+ is a free app in the Google Play Store that allows users to store texts in a gmail account. Conversations can be printed to PDF using a web browser. Sounds simple enough, but since this is a backup program it can only capture what is presently stored on a phone. There is no mechanism to restore deleted conversations. Another downside: reviewers say the app is buggy. However, as one noted: “I tried other SMS Backup apps, but they are not the same or as good! This app is significantly better (in my opinion).”
For other print-to-PDF choices consider:
The evidentiary concerns surrounding use of text messages are substantial. As mentioned, accurate date and time stamps and true identities of senders and recipients are critical. Capturing location data, attachments, and special characters can be troublesome. See How to Print Text Messages for Use as Evidence.
As this post points out, before extracting evidence from smart devices consider employing expert forensic help – not just to get it right, but to secure an independent witness if authenticity isn’t stipulated.
All rights reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis