Much of the world has gone from SMS, but it is still one of the most popular methods for sending messages in the United States. It is an unfortunate requirement here for many, and probably will be until RCS takes off. And if you are a data grabbing type, then you may want to keep those SMS messages for later reference, either in cold storage or an easily accessible format. But even taking them with you from device to device is not that difficult, and we are happy to guide you through the different ways on how to perform sms backup.
Of course, Google Pixels (and a handful of other devices with Oreo technology) include a built-in SMS backup these days, as well as a tool during the configuration process to migrate messages to a new phone, so let’s cover that first.
1. Backup Text messages using android built-in SMS backup
As of Android 8.1, you can now restore the data from the backup (including SMS messages) after the initial configuration. Unfortunately, it is not a manual process like the other elements in this list. It is only available if the “Finish configuration” screen is displayed at the top of its configuration panel. Tap the “Finish Settings” button and perform the same restoration manoeuvre that you would typically have in the initial configuration, which may include restoring previously supported SMS messages from your devices.
The data comes from the automatic backups of Android and are stored in Google Drive. You can see them (but not their contents) through the Android application, and you can not copy or move them to another place.
The integrated system is useful and automatic, but without a way to manually activate the restoration process or view the backed up content, it has limited utility. For example, you can not read those messages outside of the device and cannot save them in the long term. In such cases, this automatic system may not suit your needs, but there are alternatives.
There are many individual applications for backing up and restoring your SMS messages, but for this discussion, we will refer to two known and high-quality free applications that we have covered in the past: SMS Backup + and Backup and restoration of SMS . Both allow you to back up and reduce your messages with a little more control than the stock system, but each one is suitable for a slightly different use case.
2. SMS Backup +
If you are more than interested in keeping your messages somewhere (without necessarily having local access to them), then SMS Backup + is probably your best option. The application is open source and allows you to make automatic backups of your SMS, MMS and call history in your Gmail account, and present your messages there is a convenient “SMS” tag, arranged in the same format as the conversations by email, accessible from anywhere through telephone, computer or tablet.
The application is free with purchases integrated into the application, and although there was a gap of one year in the updates, it remained functional during that time (although with an outdated appearance). Now that it has a slightly more modern aesthetic, there is no reason not to use it.
The installation process is simple. Once you have installed the application, turn it on and pass the welcome screen of the change log to the main application. There, activate the “Connect” switch, grant the application access to your contacts, select the Gmail account with which you want your messages to be synchronized, and decide if you wish to all your current messages to be backed up or not as Permission Strip of SMS. That’s all you have to do.
You can configure the application to back up the messages with a configurable schedule automatically. I’ve always found that the default setting, which supports incoming messages every minute and outgoing messages every two hours, is excellent. The data used by the application is quite minimal, but if you are concerned, you can configure it only to make backup copies of Wi-Fi. It is also capable of transmitting an intention at the time of the backup for the integration of third-party applications.
The backup process for SMS Backup + is quite slow, but since the messages really only need a backup once, and since that can be done as they enter without you even noticing, it’s not really a problem. However, it is much more of a concern if you plan to use the system to migrate between devices since the restoration process is time-consuming.
In fact, if that is your intention, there is another application in this guide that could be adapted a little better.
SMS Backup and Restore
SMS Backup & Restore has changed hands several times in recent history. Carbonite purchased it and then sold to SyncTech. But none of that matters, it’s just an excellent free application to export SMS and MMS messages in a single file.
- In the first launch, SMS Backup & Restore has a short tour that explains the permissions you need to request and why, at which point you request the entire package at one time before dumping it on the main screen. The manual backup process is simple. Touch “Set up a backup” and follow the instructions. Be sure to access the advanced menu and select the media and emoji options if you want them included, or select individual conversations if you do not wish for everything saved.
- Next, ask where you want to store the backup, with integration options for Google Drive, Dropbox and local storage. Select what works for you. For example, Google Drive is useful if you keep the backup as a static file, while local storage can be helpful if you are flashing a new ROM, etc.
- You can also configure scheduled backups, with old files that are automatically deleted. But without the advantage of deltas / incremental changes, there are some disadvantages. These backup files can be quite large if you have enough MMS or a few tens of thousands of SMS messages, and regular backups could consume data.
- Honestly, I think the application is more suitable for backing up or migrating than regular schedules, especially compared to SMS Backup +, but the option is there if you need it.
- Once you have set things up as you wish, tap “Back up now”, and it will be off. A significant advantage: compared to SMS Backup +, it is significantly faster.
If you want to restore those backup copies to another device, slide from the left edge inwards to open the navigation menu and select “Restore”, or you can use the “Transfer” option that sends application files to the application through Wi-Fi direct. If you are performing a restore with a local file, make sure it has been copied to the device.
Regardless of the method you choose, the process for downloading messages is easy, and the application is pleased to guide you through the location of the correct backup in internal storage or the cloud.
SMS Backup & Restore has a little more functionality than the one I’ve described here explicitly, such as the ability to make and maintain scheduled backups. But personally, I believe that the advantages of Gmail storage, conversation view and individual backup copies in SMS Backup + are a better solution for that specific use case. With the larger backup sizes and not an easy way to see them online, SMS Backup & Restore is more suitable for backups or unique migrations, in my opinion.
For our readers not based in the USA. UU., I would not be surprised if the issue of SMS backups was seen with a bit of humour, but it is an unfortunate need here. At least, until Google and the other operators can support RCS, or Chat, or whatever the children are calling them these days.