We’ll be the first to say that being worried about someone knowing if you’ve read their text message is a little ridiculous. Reading the message is the whole point of texting, and yet…we can also admit there are strategic reasons why you might want a message to appear unread.
Many messaging services — WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and DMs on Twitter, among others — support read receipts, which notify the sender when you’ve opened their message. iMessage-sending iPhone users can enable read receipts too, with a fun caveat: They’re very easy to get around.
In iOS, the read receipts option can be toggled on or off in the Settings app, under Messages, or within individual conversations by tapping on the person or group at the top, tapping “Info,” and enabling/disabling “Send Read Receipts.”
If you usually keep read receipts off, you have nothing to worry about. If you usually have read receipts turned on, however, but want to secretly read a message, Haptic Touch (or 3D Touch, if you have an older iPhone) is your friend here.
In the Messages app, find the person whose messages you’d like to read. From this screen, simply long-press on their message. This will bring up a “context menu” offering a preview of conversation thread; you’ll be able to see the new message’s entire contents and even a few previous messages — everything that fits on the screen at one time. You’ll also be able to choose from several menu options: You can pin or unpin the conversation, mute alerts or delete it.
Be careful not to tap on any part of the screen, as that will open the message all the way up and send a dreaded read receipt. The sender will then know that you’ve seen their message and just opted not to respond. This preview feature of-sorts only works on iPhone 6S or later, so on the off chance you still use a 6-year-old iPhone, you’re out of luck (also, it’s probably time to get a new phone).
Note that you can’t trigger this functionality from the text’s notification banner on your home screen. When you swipe down and press into a message that just rolled in, this “preview” triggers the delivery of a read receipt.
This article was originally published on July 20, 2018 and updated in July 2020. Changes including adding information to cover iPhone’s implementation of haptic touch, expanding upon and clarifying the steps involved and adding a new header image and screenshot.