Q: How do I restore text messages from iCloud to my iPhone?
A: iCloud does not specifically store your text message or iMessage history, however like any other data on your iPhone your text message database should be included in your iCloud backups. This means that you can restore your text message history as it existed on your iPhone when your iCloud backup was made, but you won’t be able to access anything that was already deleted prior to that backup. iCloud does retain the three most recent backups of your device, however, so you should be able to go back at least a few days if necessary.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to retrieve only specific information from an iCloud backup—you must restore the entire backup onto your iPhone or another iOS device in order to access anything in it. This requires erasing your device and setting it up from scratch, during which you will be offered the opportunity to log into your iCloud account and restore your backup from there.
Note that regardless of which device the backup came from, you can actually restore an iCloud backup onto any target iOS device, such as restoring an iPhone backup onto an iPod touch. In the case of retrieving text messages, however, you will need to use an iPhone as the iPad and iPod touch do not support SMS text messages.
While wiping your device and restoring it from backup may be an arduous process, if you really need some data back it may be worth the effort. The best way to handle this is to create a new backup of your device using iTunes prior to wiping it and restoring it from iCloud. This will allow you to return to your current state once you’ve restored the iCloud backup and retrieved any information you need from there. Note that making a backup to iTunes is preferable in this case to making another iCloud backup, since you probably don’t want to push out the oldest iCloud backup in case that’s the one containing the information you’re looking for.
You can perform a manual backup to iTunes even while you’re using iCloud as your default backup destination simply by connecting your iPhone to your Mac or PC, and then choosing “Back Up Now” from the device Summary screen that appears in iTunes.
Once you’ve restored your iPhone using the older iCloud backup, you can extract any text messages you want to save using a third-party utility such as eCamm’s PhoneView ($30) for Mac users, or CopyTrans Contacts ($15) if you’re a Windows user.