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You Can Have Hidden Conversations on Your iPhone. Here's How

All you need is one of Apple's many built-in apps.

iOS Notes app shown on an iPhone
Notes can act as a secret messenger.
James Martin/CNET

Notes, the popular note-taking application built in to Apple's operating system, allows you to collaborate with multiple people on a note, whether it's a grocery store list or a collection of emails and passwords. Anyone who's part of the collaborative note can edit it in real time, and while that's useful for maintaining an up-to-date note, it can also be used to have a hidden conversation on your iPhone.

Currently, there's no way to send a self-destructing text message on your iPhone, a la Snapchat. You can always delete the text message on your end, but it will still exist on the recipient's end (that is, until iOS 16 releases its edit and unsend feature).

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With Notes, however, you can write a message in the note, which the other person can then read, delete and respond to. You can do this back and forth, with each person deleting every message after reading it.

In practice, you could have an incredibly long and personal conversation -- without any proof that it ever existed.

Read moreApple Notes: How to Set Up Passwords for Extra Privacy

If you want to learn how to turn a note into a place for hidden conversations on iOS, here's what you need to know.

Create a note

On your iPhone, launch the Notes app and tap the Compose button on the bottom right to create a new note. Next, type anything into the note to keep it, or else it'll automatically be deleted when you exit from the note. You can also just go into an existing note, but it's better to start fresh with a new one.

Notes app on iPhone

First, create a new note or go into an existing one.

Nelson Aguilar/CNET

Edit the note's share options

Once your note is up and ready to go, you can begin the process of adding another person as collaborator, which means they can read and edit whatever is in the note. To start, tap the More button on the top right, and then hit Share Note.

Now tap Share Options and make sure the Can make changes option is selected under Permission. You should also toggle off Anyone can add people in case you want to be the only person who can add collaborators to your note. Go back to the last page when you're finished configuring these settings.

Notes app on iPhone

Second, manage what your collaborators can do.

Nelson Aguilar/CNET

Add a collaborator and share the link

Next, choose a method to share the note: You can send it via text message, email, social media and more. If you swipe on the share options, you can also select Copy Link, which copies the note link to your clipboard and allows you to paste it wherever you want. 

For this example, I'll choose the Copy Link option to share the note.

At the top of the Copy Link page, enter the email address or phone number of the person you want to access the note. You can also tap the Add icon to search through your contacts. Adding a contact to the note is required -- if you share the link without adding a contact, the other person won't be able to see or edit the note, even with the link.

Lastly, hit Copy Link to copy the note link to your clipboard and share it with your collaborator.

Notes app on iPhone

Next, add your collaborator(s).

Nelson Aguilar/CNET

Communicate secretly via Notes

The other person, on the receiving end, must now open the note link and accept the invitation. If they accept, they'll be redirected to the Notes app and to the collaborative note you just created.

To communicate, simply type something into the note, which the other person will be able to see in real-time, without you having to hit send. They'll also receive a notification anytime the note is altered. 

Each person in the note will have a corresponding color appear (only for a moment) so that everyone else knows who typed what. You can also swipe right from the middle of the note to see the name of who wrote the message, as well as a timestamp for when the message was written and any corresponding colors. 

Notes app on iPhone

Now you can secretly communicate with your friends or family.

Nelson Aguilar/CNET

You can also tap the Share Note button (with the checkmark icon), go to Manage Shared Note and then toggle on Highlight All Changes. That way, all messages will stay permanently highlighted in their corresponding color, making it easier to read the conversation.

And if you want to keep your communications more low-key, delete your message or the other person's message to strike it from the note. That way your conversation is more like it would be on Snapchat, with ephemeral or short-lived messages that outsiders can't see if they snoop through your notes. You can do this with any text in the notes, as well as photos, videos, links, drawings or any other attachments you add to the note.

Permanently delete your secret conversation

Not all secret conversations can go on forever, and so it's time now to end it. 

If you're the owner of the note, and want to keep the note intact for everyone but prevent them from editing it, you can easily do so. On the top right, tap the View Participants button and then hit Manage Shared Note. To remove a participant, you can either swipe left on their name and then hit Remove or you can tap on their name and then tap Remove Access.

Notes app on iPhone

To end the notes conversation, remove any collaborators or stop sharing the note.

Nelson Aguilar/CNET

Additionally, you can tap the Stop Sharing option, which will not only remove participants from the note, but also delete the note from all of their devices.

If you're not the owner of the note, you can just delete the note from the Notes application.