The Messages app is the most frequently used app on iOS, so it makes sense that Apple would lend it plenty of attention in iOS 10. It’s safe to say that the stock Messages app received, by far, the most significant overhaul of all default apps in iOS 10, as it is now a feature-laden package that leverages photos, videos, and Snapchat-inspired markup elements.

Messages in iOS 10 even brings about a dedicated iMessage App Store for adding additional functionality such as stickers, animated GIFs and third-party app extensions that run right within the Messages app interface. Updated emoji features, inline music and video playback, and brand new effects add a new dimension to Apple’s most popular iOS app.

If you’ve steered clear of the betas and have yet to use iOS 10 up until now, then you have a lot of new exciting things to learn. Because iOS 10’s Messages app refresh is so deep and engaging, we’ve created an in-depth written and video walkthrough. Be sure to watch the full video to gain a solid grasp of many of the new features and enhancements found in Messages for iOS 10.

Exciting new features

Rich links

iOS 10 brings rich links to videos and websites, along with inline playback of Apple Music tracks. On previous versions of iOS, a web URL, Apple Music URL, or a YouTube URL would show nothing but the address when sent as a message. With iOS 10, those ambiguous addresses have been replaced by rich links that lend more context to the content being shared.

This means that web links now feature artwork and extracted titles from the corresponding website. Rich links are especially nice for videos from services like YouTube or Vine, which can now be played inline without leaving the conversation.


Inline rich links are a much-welcomed new feature

Per-contact read receipts

New to iOS 10’s Messages app is the ability to enable or disable read receipts on a per-contact basis. On previous versions of iOS, read receipts were only available as a global setting. Now it’s easy to enable read receipts for individual recipients that you deem worthy to receive such insight.


Only send read receipts for those who you designate

Identifying conversation participants

You’ll now notice icons at the top of each conversation to indicate conversation participants. When you have an excess of conversation participants, the icons will display in a compact view. Tapping on the group of icons will reveal an expanded scrollable view that allows you to easily identify each participant.


Conversation participants are easily identifiable

Interactive notifications

This isn’t exclusive to the Messages app, but the new iOS 10 interactive notifications greatly benefit Messages app users when responding to text messages. Not only are notifications in iOS 10 more legible, containing more content, you’ll find that notifications can be expanded by means of a 3D Touch gesture.


Quick reply now provides more context and allows you to carry on conversations

Quick reply has been around since iOS 8, but you could only see one message and you could only type a single response. In iOS 10 you can see the entire conversation via the expanded notification. You can respond, wait for conversation participants to respond, and continue a conversation.

Notifications while in a conversation

If you receive a message from a conversation participant while in an expanded presentation style that takes up the full screen, you’ll receive a special type of notification that appears right near the conversation participant icons near the top of the Messages app interface. This special type of notification will only appear if you receive a message for the conversation that you’re currently viewing while in full screen presentation style.


You can still receive message notifications while in presentation style

Video walkthrough

3x bigger emoji

If you send a message with less than four emoji and without any corresponding text, the emoji characters will appear 3 times larger in the transcript. This allows conversation participants to see more character detail for emoji-only responses.


Larger emojis show more detail

Emoji predictions

Quick Type continues to provide text predictions, but with iOS 10, you now get emoji predictions in the Quick Type interface as you type. For example, if you type “Want to go to the mov…” you’ll be provided with a 🎥 emoji in the Quick Type predictive interface above the keyboard.

Tap to replace

After you’ve typed a full message, you can spice up the content of the message by replacing certain words with emoji. Instead of manually replacing words, however, iOS 10 employs a new tap to replace feature that will automatically highlight emojifiable words.

To use tap to replace, simply tap on the emoji button, and iOS will automatically highlight all of the words that can be replaced with emoji. Once the emojifiable words appear, simply tap the highlighted words to quickly turn them into symbols.


Tapping to replace emoji is a time-saving and brilliant new idea

If more than one emoji character relates to a word, then you’ll be presented with a pop-up that allows you to select the correct emoji. If you change your mind, you can always tap the emoji character again to revert it back to text.

Send with effects

In iOS 10, it’s now possible to add some flair to the individual messages that you send. By utilizing a 3D Touch gesture on the Send button, you can choose between several different bubble effects to change the way that your message is presented on-screen. Sending messages with effects helps to alter the tone of your message, something that is traditionally lacking with basic text communication.


Effects can help lend much-needed context to a text message

There are two primary types of effects that you can use in iOS 10 — bubble effects and full-screen effects. Bubbles effects only affect the current message that you send. Screen effects, on the other hand, affect the entire Messages app interface.

Bubble effects Full-screen effects
Slam Balloons
Loud Confetti
Gentle Lasers
Invisible Ink Fireworks
Shooting Star


When you send or receive specific iMessage phrases, a full-screen celebration, similar to some of the five previously mentioned full-screen effects, will occur. For example, sending or receiving the word “Congratulations” will cause the Confetti full-screen effect to be invoked automatically.


Sometimes a quick reaction to a text message is more appropriate than a full text response. For these occasions, Apple has implemented a new feature into Messages called Tapback. Tapback allows you to quickly react to a message with one of six available reaction glyphs.


Tapback makes it easy to send quick responses to messages

With a simple double tap on an incoming message bubble, you can attach a heart, thumbs up, thumbs down, a “haha” laugh, exclamation points, or a question mark to a message in the transcript.

Handwritten messages

When you place your iPhone into landscape orientation while in the Messages app, a new handwriting interface will appear. The handwriting interface allows you to send handwritten signatures and notes that appear to the recipient in an  animated written fashion.

Once you send a handwritten note, the note will be retained within a shortcut area beneath the handwriting surface. You can then tap the shortcut to quickly recall previously written notes. Apple includes several canned notes that automatically appear in the shortcut area to help get you started.


Handwritten notes lend a personal touch to outgoing messages

If you wish to delete a handwritten note shortcut, perform a long-press on a shortcut to enter edit mode, and tap the ‘x’ in the upper left-hand corner of the shortcut to delete it.

It’s also possible to exit the handwriting interface while in landscape mode. To do so, simply tap the keyboard button in the bottom right-hand corner. To get back into handwriting mode, tap the handwriting button.


Notice the new handwriting button in the bottom right-hand corner

Apple has put a lot of effort into the handwritten ink animations that appear after sending a handwritten note. Not only will you notice the writing animation, but you’ll also see how the ink settles in to the transcript as if the ink is drying on a piece of paper. As it does with other types of messages, Apple includes a special handwriting “now typing” bubble indicator to let users know when a conversation participant is in the middle of composing a handwritten message.

Revealing new options

By tapping the chevron button that rests to the left of the transcript box, you’ll reveal three new drawers for adding media to a conversation. There you’ll find the Camera drawer, Digital Touch drawer, and App drawer buttons. In the remaining part of our iOS 10 Messages app tutorial, we’ll focus primarily on these three areas.


Tapping the chevron reveals the Camera, Digital Touch, and App drawers

New camera and photo interface

Photos and videos remain a huge part of the iMessage experience, and in iOS 10 it’s even easier to share precious moments with friends and family.

Tapping the Camera drawer button reveals the new and improved photo and video sharing interface. The first thing you’ll notice is a new live camera viewer for framing and capturing quick photos to share.

Although the live camera viewer features a shutter button, tapping anywhere in the frame will capture a photo. Just as you would expect, tapping the camera selector button, located in the upper right-hand corner of the camera frame, allows you to quickly switch between the iPhone’s front and rear-facing cameras.


The live camera viewer makes it easy to snap quick photos…

Upon taking a photo with the live camera, it’ll be sent directly to the transcript. From there, it’s just a matter of tapping the Send button to share any queued up photos.

To remove a photo from the transcript, tap the ‘x’ button in the upper right-hand corner of the photo. You can also toggle the Live Photos option by tapping the Live Photo button in the upper left-hand corner of each photo.

Accessing the full camera or photo library

To access your full camera or photo library, swipe right to reveal the Camera and Photo Library buttons. From there, it’s easy to access the full camera for taking photos or videos, or for accessing your entire photo library.


…but the full camera and Photo Library are a mere swipe away

Sharing recent photos

To the right of the live camera, you’ll see a list of recent photos from your photo library. To share a recent photo, tap on the photo that you wish to share, and it will queue up in the transcript. You can also tap and drag the photo into the transcript. If you’d like to send a recent photo immediately, tap and drag the photo directly into the conversation, and it’ll be instantly sent without needing to confirm.

If you’d like to edit a photo before you add it to the transcript, perform a long-press on the photo to view editing and markup options. From this view, you can also swipe and select recent photos to add to the transcript box.

Marking up and editing photos

Sometimes you’ll want to markup, crop, or edit a particular photo before sharing it. The Messages app in iOS 10 makes this super-easy to do.

There are two ways that you can invoke the markup and editing interface for photos that you wish to share in the Messages app. The first way is by adding a photo to the transcript and tapping it once. The other way, which was mentioned above, involves performing a long-press on one of the recent photos displayed next to the live camera view.

Of course, it’s also possible to edit and markup photos that are snapped using the full camera interface, or when accessing photos from the full photo library. In other words, it’s possible to markup and edit any photo that you wish to share with Messages in iOS 10.


Being able to markup and edit an image without leaving Messages is a huge time saver

On the editing and markup view, tap the Markup button in the bottom left-hand corner to invoke the markup interface for a photo. Markup allows you to draw on photos with various pen sizes and colors, along with adding text and magnification.

Once you’ve finished marking up a photo, tap the Save button in the upper right-hand corner to save your changes. You can also use the undo button in the upper left-hand corner to undo changes made to the photo. After saving, your marked up photo will be queued up in the transcript box ready for sharing.

Digital Touch

The iOS 10 Messages app features Digital Touch gestures borrowed directly from the Apple Watch interface. At its core, Digital Touch allows users to send sketches and various flair to conversation participants.

To access the Digital Touch interface, tap the Digital Touch drawer button—the heart with two fingers.

Use the black rectangular gesture surface to sketch a drawing with your finger. Once you begin a sketch, you’ll notice seven color options appear to the left of the gesture surface. By tapping any of these seven colors, you can quickly switch to a new color to add more variety to your compositions. If you’ve yet to draw a stroke, you’ll see a circle button representing the currently selected color. Tap the circle button to choose from the additional colors prior to drawing a stroke.


Apple Watch users will find a familiar interface in iOS 10’s Messages app

To access an even larger color palette, long-press one of the six colors (white not included) in order to access an advanced color picker. Use the wheel to select your desired color, and tap Done to apply the color change.

Once you’re finished with a Digital Touch drawing, tap the blue Send button to the right of the composition surface to send the drawing to your recipients. After your recipients receive your drawing, they will see it as composed from start to finish.

If you’d like to abort an in-progress composition, tap the ‘x’ button in the upper left-hand corner to cancel it and start over.


You can use special gestures on the gesture surface to send flair to iMessage conversation recipients. Below is a list of all of the available gestures:

Digital Touch flair Required gesture
Sketch Draw with one finger
Tap Tap with one finger
Fireball Press with one finger
Kiss Tap with two fingers
Heartbeat Tap and hold with two fingers
Heartbreak Tap and hold with two fingers, then drag down

On the right side of the Digital Touch interface, you’ll notice several gesture instruction guides that highlight how to use each gesture. If tapped, a full screen Digital Touch interface will be invoked along with more detailed written instructions.


Digital Touch gestures can add additional pizzaz to conversations

To invoke the full screen Digital Touch interface without the instruction overlay, tap the chevron in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. The large Digital Touch interface makes it easier to create more detailed compositions due to the larger gesture surface area.

Digital Touch + Photos and Videos

Beneath the circle button for selecting colors on the left side of the interface, you’ll notice the Camera button. The Camera button allows you to take photos or videos and mark them up with Digital Touch gestures.

Tapping the Camera button also invokes the full screen Digital Touch interface, which makes it easier to frame shots, and lends more room for creative compositions.


You can even markup photos and videos à la SnapChat

Taking a shot is as simple as tapping the shutter button in the bottom left-hand corner of the interface. To take a video instead, tap the red record button to the right of the shutter button. You can toggle between the front or rear-facing cameras by tapping the Camera button in the bottom right-hand corner.

Digital Touch gestures can be added to a photo before or after the shot is taken. Videos require you to use Digital Touch gestures before, or while the recording is in progress. It’s also possible to send photos or videos devoid of any gestures. Videos, like Snapchat and Instagram Stories, can be up to 10 seconds in length.

If you’d like to exit the camera interface, yet remain in the full screen Digital Touch view, tap the ‘x” in the upper left-hand corner of the frame. If you wish to recover the camera interface while in full screen view, a quick tap of the Camera button in the bottom left-hand corner will bring it back.

Once you’ve finished your composition, press the Send button in the bottom right-hand corner to send your finished masterpiece.

Replaying and responding to Digital Touch messages

When you receive a Digital Touch message, it will begin playing back as soon as it’s viewed. Digital Touch video are muted by default, but audio can be enabled by tapping the un-mute button in the upper right-hand corner of the message bubble.

Digital Touch messages are ephemeral, once entirely viewed, a message will be automatically purged after two minutes. If you wish to keep a Digital Touch message, you’ll need to tap the Keep button located underneath the message bubble.

To view a Digital Touch message in full screen, tap the message bubble once. Full screen Digital Touch videos will continuously loop until you tap the ‘x’ button in the upper right-hand corner to stop them. Standard Digital Touch messages played back in full screen will play once, and feature a replay button in the upper left-hand corner if you wish to watch more than once.

The full screen interface not only allows you to view Digital Touch messages on a larger canvas, but it can also be used to facilitate a quick reply.

iMessage Apps & Stickers

Perhaps the biggest new change to iOS 10’s Messages app is the addition of the App Store for iMessage. By tapping the App drawer button, users can access the iMessage App Store. There, you can download sticker packs created by artists, and full iMessage apps that leverage the power of the iOS SDK.


Already, there are many iMessage apps and sticker packs available for download

Artists can create static or animated sticker packs without needing to know how to code, and developers can create dedicated iMessage apps, or traditional iOS apps with iMessage or sticker pack extensions.


Some apps are only available as standalone iMessage apps

Apple includes a couple of stock iMessage apps. These include a Music app for pasting inline links to recently played songs, and an #images app for searching for and sharing GIF animations. You’ll also find a Recents app for quickly finding recently shared items.

iMessage App Store

Tap the App drawer button, followed by the Store (+) button, to access the iMessage App Store. Once there, you’ll find two tabs: Featured and Manage.

The Featured tab is the main interface for the iMessage App Store. If you’re familiar with installing apps via the traditional App Store, then you should feel comfortable installing apps from the iMessage App Store.


The iMessage App Store features stickers and real apps that can be used within Messages

The Manage tab contains a list of all of the iMessage apps that are currently installed. It also contains a switch for enabling auto iMessage app installs when you have apps on your device that feature iMessage app or sticker pack extensions. This option, which is enabled by default, is available at the top of the Manage tab.

To uninstall an app, slide the switch to the off position, tap Done, and the app will be removed. If the app is an iMessage-only app, meaning it isn’t an extension of a larger app installed on your Home screen, then the app will be removed completely from the Manage tab. If the app is an extension to an app installed on your device, then the app will remain in the managed tab in an off position.

You can access your full list of iMessage apps from the Purchased section of the traditional App Store. Apple includes a handy link to that section at the bottom of the list of installed apps under the Manage tab.

How to search for iMessage apps

Although Apple showcases many iMessage apps under the store’s Featured tab, you can search for apps as well. To search for apps in the iMessage App Store, launch the store, and tap the search button in the upper left-hand corner of the interface.


Use the search feature to locate specific apps

Rearranging and uninstalling iMessage apps

You can rearrange apps in the App drawer by long-pressing an app icon within the iMessage app interface to enter edit mode. Tap and drag an app icon to move it to a different location within the App drawer. Additionally, you’ll see an ‘x’ in the upper left-hand corner of each app while in edit mode. Tap the ‘x’ to remove the app. Removing an app in this manner is the same as turning an app’s switch off in the Manage tab of the iMessage App Store.

Presentation styles

The iMessage app interface features two presentation styles: compact, which lets users swipe left and right to switch between iMessage apps, and an expanded mode that lends a full-screen view of a selected app’s interface.


The Apple Music app allows you to share recently played music inline with other users

To switch to expanded presentation mode, tap the chevron in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. To switch back to compact mode, tap the chevron in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.


Stickers can be sent as standalone messages, or peeled and attached to already existing message bubbles found in a conversation. To send a sticker as a standalone message, tap the sticker to add it to the transcript, along with a comment if desired, and tap the Send button.


Stickers can be sent as standalone messages, or peeled and placed on message bubbles

To peel a sticker and attach it to a conversation bubble, long-press the sticker that you wish to use, and drag and drop it on a message bubble. Before you release the sticker, you can use a pinch or swipe gesture to resize and rotate the sticker.

Removing stickers

To remove a sticker attached to a message bubble, long-press on the sticker and tap Sticker Details to invoke the Sticker Detail interface. You can then use a left-swipe delete gesture to delete each individual sticker attached to the message bubble.


Removing stickers requires several actions

You can also delete the corresponding message bubble to delete any attached stickers. To delete a message bubble, long-press on a sticker and tap the More button. This will place the conversation into edit mode, with the corresponding message bubble selected. Tap the Delete button to remove the message bubble and any attached stickers. If you send a sticker as a standalone message, this is the method that you’ll need to use to remove the sticker.

Not just stickers

As mentioned, iMessage apps are real apps that can take advantage of the iOS SDK to access the Camera, Apple Pay, etc. Some apps require that both the sender and recipients have the app. For example, the GamePigeon app, which lets users play 8-ball, poker, a version of Battleship, and various other games, requires that each player have the GamePigeon iMessage app installed.


There are a variety of turn-based games available on the iMessage App Store

Turn-based gameplay

Games on the iMessage app store are generally turn-based affairs that allow for multiple participants to take turns making. moves. After making a move, each player confirms the move by tapping the Send button to send the game to the other participants in the conversation.


Turn-based gameplay allows multiple people to join in on the fun

When a move is made, the Message bubble containing the game is updated and movement is passed on to the next player. In other words, you won’t have a ton of different message bubbles containing game content, because only one bubble is dedicated to the game as it is played.


When you send a message using an iMessage app or sticker, the recipient will see an attribution footnote under the message that links to the app on the iMessage App Store for easy discovery. Games and apps that require all parties to have the app will utilize this attribution link if the app isn’t installed.


Attribution links point directly to the iMessage App Store location for downloads


The Messages app in iOS 10 is a ridiculously deep experience. Although it may take a while for new iOS 10 users to get used to everything the app now offers, it’s worth investing the time to learn. In my opinion, the revamped Messages app alone is reason enough to upgrade from older versions of iOS, but as you’ll learn from many of our upcoming walkthroughs, it’s just one piece of a bigger puzzle. Stay tuned for more coverage of everything iOS 10 in the coming days and weeks, and sound off in the comments section below with your thoughts and opinions.

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