iPhone and iPad

How to Use All the New Messages Features in iOS 10

Tim Brookes 17-09-2016

Instant messaging is a very competitive space. With the rise of WhatsApp, its acquisition by Facebook, increasing demands for security and encryption 6 Secure iOS Messaging Apps That Take Privacy Very Seriously Don't fancy your messages being read by unwanted parties? Get a secure messaging app and worry no more. Read More , and previous powerhouses like MSN Messenger and ICQ disappearing into obscurity, Apple’s answer is iMessage.


The platform is built into every iOS and Mac device, features secure end-to-end encryption, and was a bit of a revolution in free messaging when it arrived on the scene in iOS 5. With the arrival of iOS 10 iOS 10 Is Here! Why You Should Upgrade Right Now Apple's tenth revision of its mobile operating system is here. This is how to upgrade right now for free. Read More , Messages got the biggest single update since its introduction.

With new features, animations, the ability to send drawings, and a whole message-focused App Store tacked on, there’s plenty to get excited about.

Better Bubbles, Full Screen Animations

iOS 10 includes several new options to give your messages more impact, starting with animated text bubbles.

When you send a regular message you can now choose to provide added emphasis that the recipient will see when they finally get round to reading it. You can also send a full screen animation to accompany your message, which is handy if you’re celebrating a birthday or eager to share some news.

iOS 10 Messages Bubbles


To activate these new features, simply type your message as you normally would, then Force Touch the “up arrow” send button. If you have an older device, you can tap and hold the button instead. This will bring up a screen with two tabs: Bubble and Screen. The full list of Bubble animations is as follows:

  • Slam — Your message will “slam” onto the page, as if it were thrown.
  • Loud — This one imitates shouting, with emphasis applied to each word in turn.
  • Gentle — Your message first starts off almost too small to read, then grows to regular size a bit like a whisper.
  • Invisible Ink — A great new privacy feature which pixellates the text and requires the recipient swipe their finger over your message to read it.

On the Screen tab you’ll be able to send full-screen animations which take over the whole conversation when the message is read. You can choose from:

  • Balloons — As you’d expect, balloons cover the screen from the bottom to the top.
  • Confetti — From the top down, confetti will fall onto the screen.
  • Lasers — Disco lasers, not James Bond style lasers.
  • Fireworks — Ideal for your “Happy New Year!” texts, I guess.
  • Shooting Star — Probably the most interesting effect, a single shooting star flies across screen.

Each effect will allow you to preview before you select it, but remember that users on iOS 9 or below won’t be able to see the effect (worth remembering if you’re relying on Invisible Ink to obscure your message from prying eyes 4 Slick WhatsApp Alternatives that Guard Your Privacy Facebook bought WhatsApp. Now that we're over the shock of that news, are you worried about your data privacy? Read More ).

Reply With Tapbacks

Save yourself from typing “lol” or searching for a suitable emoji with Tapbacks, which lets you react to certain messages with one of six icons: heartthumbs upthumbs down, HaHa!!, and ?. To reply to a message simply Force Touch (or tap and hold on older devices) and choose a suitable response.


iOS 10 Messages Tapbacks

You can change your response by bringing up the Tapback menu again, or remove it completely by choosing the same response. Your recipient will be notified of your Tapback just like you’d sent them a message you typed out yourself. This makes replying in-line even quicker than before.

Stickers & Apps for Messages

Probably in response to a similar Facebook feature What Are Facebook Stickers? Everything You Need to Know Learn more in this overview of what Facebook stickers are and how you can use them to express yourself on Facebook. Read More , Apple is adding stickers to iOS 10 alongside a fully fledged App Store.

Just like Tapbacks, these stickers can be used to reply directly to photos and messages by dragging and dropping them directly onto the conversation. To access the new features, tap the < icon next to the message box and hit the App Store icon. From here you can choose from your most recently used stickers and apps.


iOS 10 Messages Stickers and Apps

Tap a sticker to send it, or scroll through your available stickers and apps — Apple includes an image search and Apple Music app by default. You can find more by tapping on the “four apps” icon in the bottom left corner and then launching the iMessage App Store. Here you’re able to download apps for use within messages so you can do things like send money via Square Cash, or add new stickers by downloading more packs 15 Must-Have iMessage Sticker Packs for Fun Conversations iMessage stickers can spruce up your conversations and add some much-needed fun. Here are 15 of the best you can download. Read More .

You can rearrange apps in the usual iOS fashion too (by tapping and holding), or delete them like you would any other app. Disable iMessage apps without deleting by launching the iMessage App Store and tapping the Manage tab.

Send Drawings, Annotate Images

New inking tools are also included in iOS 10 — simply turn your device sideways to reveal the canvas (or hit the squiggly-line icon in the bottom-right corner if the feature doesn’t automatically show).


Scrawl your message, then send it, and your recipient will see it play back as you wrote it (or drew it). Messages will save them along the bottom of the interface so you can use them again. To remove one, simply tap and hold, then hit the “X” to delete.

You can also annotate your photos using Apple’s Markup tool. Simply select an image using the camera icon, but before sending it, tap on it to preview it. You’ll see the Markup button appear in the bottom-left corner — tap it, draw away to your heart’s content, then hit Done (or Cancel to discard). Nothing you do here will be saved on the original image, just the outgoing image.

Another thing you can do is use the Digital Touch feature previously seen on the Apple Watch WatchOS 2.0 Makes My Apple Watch Feel New Again Watch owners rejoice as Apple delivers that "new watch feeling" with its first major software update. Read More to send gimmicky pictures or your heartbeat to other iOS users. You’ll find this option in between the camera and App Store icons — tap it, draw your image (or place two fingers for a heartbeat) then send. You can also send a broken heart by placing your two fingers on the screen and moving in a downwards motion, if you really want to.

Bigger Better Emoji Support

Emoji are automatically three times larger in iOS 10, which is great because they’ve previously been a bit too small to appreciate.

You can send regular old emoji the same way you always have, by tapping the emoji keyboard button and making a selection from the many categories. As you’d expect, there are even more emoji to choose from including the ability to give someone “the finger,” a gay pride flag, and a water pistol replacement for the gun.

iOS 10 Messages Emoji

More excitingly, you can now “emojify” your messages. Type a message as you would normally, then hit the emoji keyboard button. Words that can be turned into emoji will appear in gold — simply tap them and Messages will replace them with more colorful illustrations. It doesn’t add much functionality to the app, but it’s great fun to play with.

Automatically Expanding Web Content

You won’t need to do anything to enable this feature, as all supported web content will automatically expand within the Messages app. Links sent in a conversation will be replaced with a thumbnail preview, while other content will fully expand like YouTube videos which can be watched with a simple tap. If you want to open the link directly in Safari, just tap on the text at the bottom of the message.

iOS 10 Messages Links

Sending Pictures & Videos

You can still send pictures and videos, it just works a little differently now. You’ll need to hit the < arrow to reveal the camera option, then tap it to preview images you’ve recently saved to your device. To take a picture or record a movie from this interface, you’ll need to scroll left-to-right first to reveal the relevant options.

iOS 10 Messages Photos

What Do You Think?

If you and your significant other or friends rely heavily on iMessage, this a worthwhile update and one that’s a lot of fun to play with. The iMessage App Store is an exciting development, and demonstrates how much value Apple is placing on keeping users on the iMessage platform at a time when competitors are desperate for users.

Imaging what could have been had Microsoft developed their once-almighty MSN Messenger The End for Windows Live Messenger: What Are the Alternatives? If you've been a dedicated user of Windows Live Messenger, it's time to start considering your options for future messaging. Today we'll talk about how you can migrate to Skype, what alternative chat options are... Read More  rather than letting it stagnate and eventually die.

What do you think of iOS 10’s new iMessage features?

Related topics: iMessage, Instant Messaging, iPad, iPhone.

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  1. Emoji no more
    July 4, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    This is not useful for adults. I want to disable all the nonsense and say what I want to say.

  2. fred
    November 20, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    This is the stupidest thing Apple has ever done since they created Photos to replace iphoto and aperture. Totally useless. Apple has gone to hell since Steve Jobs died.
    Not going to use messaging on my iphone anymore. I just want plain text. nothing else.

  3. Jesva
    November 18, 2016 at 2:34 am

    How to turn on the search in contacts ? It's very hard now.

  4. Jesva
    November 18, 2016 at 2:33 am

    How to on back the contact search on iOS 10 ?

  5. Toby
    November 2, 2016 at 9:59 am

    I emphasized a message that I sent to myself and then erased it and it still shows up in my messages when it is not open. How do I get rid of it?

  6. TC
    October 26, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    I think it sucks, take your bubbles slam loud invisible ink and shove it, be nice if their was remove in settings

  7. Micke
    October 9, 2016 at 11:00 am

    It is annoying that you cannot remove this feature. I don't personally like it and I can tell you that my wife simply hates it.
    Please make this optional - as you should with all similar "improvements". We users are after all not all "kids", you know!

    • Tim Brookes
      October 10, 2016 at 3:47 am

      Not entirely sure where the perception that adding emphasis to messages, handwriting and scribbles, or an app store to iMessage is for "kids" came from. The new features are pretty easy to ignore, they're hidden behind long-presses and buttons you don't have to touch if you don't want to.

      The other improvements like auto-expanding expanding links, quick responses, bigger emoji are pretty handy on the whole?

  8. acw
    October 4, 2016 at 10:46 pm

    Too crazy! How can I delete all these new features?

    • Tim Brookes
      October 6, 2016 at 2:04 am

      You can't, they're baked into the OS.

      You could just not use them though!

  9. Sue
    September 29, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    It should have been an optional App add-on for kids. Adults do not want our messages to bubble or move. Seriously...isn't there enough dumbing down in the world? And the move of the return button causes
    Landscape typers like myself to hit return inadvertently. Isn't there a way to get my old keyboard back? Hate these changes....

    • Tim Brookes
      October 10, 2016 at 3:43 am

      Well you don't actually have to use any of these new features, they're all hidden behind long-presses and other menus. I also don't think it has anything to do with what "adults" want, because plenty of "adults" are happy with the new features (and the rest are happy to ignore them).

      Your landscape keyboard is still there, just hit the keyboard button in the bottom right corner. Next time you turn your phone landscape, it will default to keyboard view as standard. I'm sure it won't take you long to get used to the slightly adjusted layout.

      I'm also struggling to grasp how adding features, iMessage-specific apps, quick responses and stuff constitutes the "dumbing down" of anything.

      • Mark
        November 10, 2016 at 5:28 pm

        I'm with Sue on this one. They moved the freakin return button to make room for the other functionality. I personally do not use it.

  10. Jfs
    September 29, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    Worst upgrade ever??. What happened to being able to remove individual comments from the thread or copying a comment -- I don't want to give it a stupid thumbs up nor down.

    • Tim Brookes
      October 3, 2016 at 1:08 am


      You can still remove individual messages from a thread, here's how:

      Tap and hold on the message you want to remove (or Force Touch on newer devices)
      Tap "More"
      Select the message and any others you want to delete
      Tap the trash icon in the bottom left.

      Hope this helps.

  11. John r
    September 17, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    Really stupid and elementary. Steve Jobs would fire everyone.

    • Tim Brookes
      September 19, 2016 at 2:44 am

      It's a case of keeping up with competing platforms, like Facebook and WhatsApp.

      Gotta please the kids, John!