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iMessage is Apple’s free proprietary messaging service for iOS and Mac users. Last year Apple paved the way for a richer iMessage experience, with the introduction of iMessage apps (or extensions) in iOS 10 for iPhone and iPad users.
That means you can now do a lot more than simply send text, voice, picture, and video messages. Once you’ve mastered the basics, why not try out a few of the apps below?
Install and Use iMessage Apps
If your outgoing messages within a conversation are blue, then you’re using iMessage. (If they’re green, then many of these apps won’t work. See our guide to fixing iMessage when it’s not working if you’re having trouble.) You can access iMessage apps by tapping the “>” arrow near the text input box on any iMessage conversation.
From here, tap the App Store icon. You can hit the button in the bottom-left corner to access a list of available apps including the store. Hit Store to find apps by category or using the search feature in the top-left corner. You can hit Manage to turn apps on or off.
Many regular apps (like Dropbox) have iMessage components, and you can enable or disable them from the Manage tab. This is especially handy for games that often include stickers you have no interest in seeing. Once an app is installed, head back to the menu and tap on it to launch it.
And that’s really all there is to it!
1. Play Games
This one’s pretty obvious, but there are many games that lend themselves well to the asynchronous nature of an iMessage conversation. These include favorites like Words With Friends, Four in a Row [No Longer Available], and chess app Checkmate! ($0.99).
Check out a few of our other favorite iMessage games and recommend your own in the comments below.
2. Share Your Location
You can share your location easily with other iMessage users simply by tapping the i button in the top-right corner then hitting Send My Current Location. This is fine if you want to use Apple Maps, but if you’d rather use a better mapping service, install Google Maps and enable the iMessage app.
You can then hit Send to get an exact location fix and send a web link to the other party.
3. Send GIFs
Despite the arrival of WebM video and high-speed internet, the world still loves GIFs — so why not liven up your conversations with some looping animations? Apple provides you with an app called #images for this task, which is a Bing-powered animated image search, and it does the job.
4. Go Crazy With Stickers
The vast majority of iMessage apps are sticker packs, which allow you to send still images and animations to friends for a laugh. Stickers go a step further than regular old images as they can be picked up, dragged, and then placed over messages and images you’ve already sent.
It’s not entirely a useful feature, but there are stickers out there that can brighten your everyday conversations. I’d recommend browsing for something that matches your taste, as there’s so much to pick from. I grabbed Apple’s Classic Mac and Microsoft’s Halo Stickers for free.
Don’t miss Giphy Stickers [No Longer Available] for more animated fun or Bitmoji if you’d like to create your own sticker avatar.
5. Share Some Music
Apple’s built-in Music app for iMessage lets you quickly share a song with a friend. Launch it, and you’ll find the last few songs you played, along with the currently playing item, which you can send with a tap. This will provide them with a “playable” iTunes link, which may or may not be useful depending on whether they have Apple Music or not.
If you really want to share the song that’s playing right now (in the room), then Shazam lets you do that in record time. Launch it, hit Shazam, and as soon as the song is identified a Shazam link is added to the text box. Don’t forget you can connect Shazam and Apple Music too.
Unfortunately there’s no support in iMessage for Spotify yet.
6. Send Private or Self-Destructing Text and Media
You can already hide what you’re sending in iMessage with the aid of iOS 10’s new features. Simply type a message or choose a photo, then 3D Touch the Send button (squeeze it quickly), then choose Invisible Ink. If you’re using an iPhone 6 or similar older device, you’ll need to tap and hold the Send button instead.
The recipient will need to swipe across your message to reveal its contents, handy if you don’t want someone peeking over their shoulder.
If you want to take things a step further, then try out the free app Confide, which allows for self-destructing text and photo messages. The app features end-to-end encryption just like iMessage, and though there are premium options available, core functionality is 100 percent free.
7. Talk About the Weather
Being British, I can talk about the weather for hours, especially living in one of the most meteorologically changeable cities in the world (Melbourne, Australia). If you want to take things a step further, you can use an iMessage-friendly weather app to quickly check and share the forecast while chatting away.
The Weather Channel provides basic free forecast sharing functionality, while CARROT Weather ($3.99) is probably the funniest weather app money can buy. Don’t miss Weathershot the next time you need to brag about the weather with a selfie, or MOON if you’re a werewolf.
8. Translate Your Conversation
There are a lot of translation apps on the App Store, but not all of them play nicely with iMessage. It’s also worth keeping in mind that translation and language-learning services often require a premium contribution. So the best apps for the job aren’t necessarily free.
Fortunately, the best tools come with a good free option. iTranslate is great, providing unhindered access to a huge number of languages while you’re connected to the web (offline translation requires an in-app purchase). Yandex Translate is a free option with offline support, but it isn’t quite as well-designed as iTranslate.
It’s a huge shame that the excellent Google Translate app for iOS doesn’t have iMessage functionality. If the company expands the app to include this functionality in the future, then it could be the only translation tool you’d ever need.
9. Find a Film
Planning a trip to the cinema with a group of friends? Thinking of an older film but want to convince someone to watch it with you? Enter IMDb and its iMessage extension, which provides you with a list of films showing nearby (provided you’ve granted location access) and a searchable IMDb database right from the Messages app.
Once you’ve found something, simply tap it to send an IMDb link to the film.
10. Share Files in the Cloud
iCloud isn’t so great when it comes to file sharing, and that’s why there’s no iMessage app for sharing items in your iCloud Drive. But both Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive have added this functionality. If you already use either of these services, you likely already have the app installed. You can enable the iMessage extension from the Manage tab under the iMessage App Store.
Once installed, each of these apps allows you to browse and share files directly to a conversation. OneDrive even allows you to open files quickly in Microsoft’s other apps, like Word and Excel.
11. Send a Quick Scan
If you’re not already storing invoices and receipts digitally using a scanning app, do yourself a favor and make the switch to paperless.
Owners of the premium Scanner Pro ($3.99) app can add an iMessage extension under the usual Manage tab. If you’re looking for a free iMessage-friendly scanner, give ScanBot a shot. Both of these apps handle the scanning, converting, and sending process without having to leave the Messages app.
12. Check a Math Formula
Finally, if you’re a mathematics student who needs to bounce ideas of your classmates, then Vulcanize is the app for you. It allows you to convert LaTeX to beautiful mathematical formulas worthy of any printed textbook.
Which iMessage Apps Do You Use?
iMessage extensions may seem like a gimmick, but the right apps can really help speed up your workflow and brighten your everyday conversations. Whether you’re playing word games, sending dank memes to your friends, or saving a precious few seconds by optimizing your workflow, iMessage apps are worth a second look.