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iMessage: The ultimate guide

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How do you use iMessage to send text, pictures, videos, sound, location, and more — right from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac?

iMessage is Apple’s built-in instant messaging (IM) service. It lets you send text, picture, video, sound, and location quickly and easily to anyone else using iMessage on iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple Watch. Apple added significant updates to iMessage in iOS 10, including bubble and screen effects, emoji tapbacks and full-on emojification, Digital Touch and handwriting, and iMessage apps.

On your iPhone, iMessage lives alongside SMS and MMS, so you can keep in touch with non-Apple friends from the same app. Thanks to Continuity, you can even get those “green bubbles” on iPad and Mac as well! It makes for an incredibly powerful, unified experience. Here’s how to use it.

How bubble and screen effects work in iMessage

Messages has effects for iPhone or iPad that make bubbles slam, loud, gentle, or invisible, or turn the whole screen to balloons, confetti, lasers, fireworks, or shooting stars.

  • How do I add bubble effects to my iMessages?
  • How do I cancel a bubble effect in iMessage?
  • What do bubble effects do in iMessage?
  • Will the bubble effects I send show up in Messages on the Mac?
  • How do I add screen effects to my iMessages?
  • How do I cancel a screen effect in iMessage?
  • What do screen effects do in Messages?
  • Will the screen effects I send show up in Messages on the Mac?
  • How the Messages effects work on older iPhones, iPads, and Macs

How emoji and Tapbacks work in iMessage

Messages also takes emoji to the next level. If that doesn’t sound important to you, then you haven’t seen the kind of cheers emoji get on stage or the amount of interest they generate on social. They’re a big, smiley, thumbs-up deal! If you want to test them out, here’s how!

  • How do you get the 3x bigger emoji in iMessage?
  • How do you get emoji recommendations in iMessage?
  • How do you emojify an iMessage?
  • How do you react with an emoji Tapback in iMessage?
  • What do the new Tapback emoji reactions mean?
  • How do you change the emoji reaction Tapback in iMessage?
  • How do you delete the emoji reaction Tapback in iMessage?
  • Do the 3x emoji and Tapbacks work on the Mac?

How Digital Touch and handwriting work in iMessage

Digital Touch — the ability to send a hand-drawn Sketch, haptic Taps, or sensor-read Heartbeats — was one of the debut features of the Apple Watch. Now all those communication features are making their way to the iPhone and iPad as well. Will Digital Touch on the phone and tablet come off as a gimmick, or will it go mainstream? If you’re a developer, you can try it out now and decide for yourself.

  • How do you send a Sketch in iMessage?
  • How do you send a Heartbeat on iMessage?
  • How do you send a Tap on iMessage?
  • How do you add Digital Touch on top of a photo or video in iMessage?
  • How do you send Handwriting on iMessage?
  • Can you receive Digital Touch and Handwriting on your Apple Watch and Mac?
  • How to mark up photos in Messages on iPhone and iPad

How stickers and apps work in iMessage

Apple has opened up iMessage to the App Store. Designers can now create sticker packs that you can post send, modify, and stamp on top of other messages. And developers can create apps that let you share content, edit photos, play games, send payments, and collaborate with others, right inside Messages. It’s great for users, who get much richer functionality, and for developers, who get a chance to become as viral as the next hot meme.

  • How do I access apps in iMessage?
  • How do I go full screen for selections?
  • How do I browse all installed iMessage apps?
  • How do I get more iMessage apps?
  • How do I get animated stickers?
  • How do I put a sticker on top of another iMessage?
  • How do I collaborate with iMessage apps?
  • What happens if I’m sent an iMessage from an app I don’t have installed?
  • Do iMessage apps work on Mac?

How to set up, activate, and deactivate iMessage for iPhone and iPad

Before you can start using messages and everything else, however, you need to set it up. If you enabled iCloud on your iPhone or iPad, there’s a chance iMessage was enabled as well. If not, you can turn it on quickly and customize it just the way you like it.

If you stop using your iPhone, though, and switch to Android, Apple has to stop sending iMessages instead of SMS. The best way to make sure Apple knows you’ve switched, and to make sure you don’t miss any messages from those still using iOS, is to turn off iMessage before you go.

  • How to activate iMessage for iPhone or iPad
  • How to add multiple email address to iMessage on iPhone and iPad
  • How to turn read receipts on or off in iMessage for iPhone or iPad
  • How to turn message previews on or off in iMessage for iPhone and iPad
  • How to set up and use SMS/MMS relay to send and receive texts on your iPad
  • How to deactivate iMessage before switching from iPhone to Android
  • How to manually deactivate iMessage from Apple’s servers
  • Can someone else in your family see your texts? Here’s the fix

How to send iMessages on IPhone or iPad

With the Messages app, you can send all kinds of things to all kinds of people. You can send iMessages over Wi-Fi or cellular data to anyone and everyone using an iPhone, iPad, Mac, iPod touch, or Apple Watch. That includes text, pictures, audio, video, location, and more. You can also send standard carrier SMS/MMS text and picture messages to anyone on any phone. Here’s how!

The Messages app also lets you forward iMessages. You can forward the message to one or multiple contacts, or copy the contents and paste into an entirely new message. Copying is also a great way to get a message into another app, like Mail, Notes, or Safari.

  • How to tell if you’re sending an iMessage or an SMS/MMS
  • How to send a text message via iMessage on iPhone or iPad
  • How to send an instant photo or video using iMessage on iPhone or iPad
  • How to send an existing photo or video using iMessage on iPhone or iPad
  • How to send your current location using iMessage for iPhone and iPad
  • How to share your location for a period of time using iMessage for iPhone and iPad
  • How to copy a message on iPhone and iPad
  • How to forward a message on iPhone and iPad

How to share location, contacts, and more with iMessage on iPhone or iPad

iMessage lets you send more than just text, images, and video. You can also send contact cards, voice memos, map locations, and more. You do have to go to other apps to fetch the information you want to send, but once you’re there, the Share Sheet makes it easy to do.

  • How to share a contact card via Messages using the Contacts app on iPhone and iPad
  • How to send Map locations and directions via iMessage on iPhone and iPad
  • How to send a voice memo through iMessage on iPhone and iPad
  • How to quickly track your flights in iMessage for iPhone, iPad, and Mac

How to quickly send and reply with iMessage for iPhone or iPad

Once upon a time, you had to slowly and methodically tap your way through apps and between them just to send and respond to messages. Thanks to the Messages app and Notification Center, though, you can rapidly respond from any app, and immediately send soundbites, selfies, location, and more right over iMessage.

  • How to quickly reply to a message from notification center on your iPhone or iPad
  • How to quickly reply to a message from the lock screen of your iPhone or iPad
  • How to quickly send audio soundbites on your iPhone and iPad
  • How to quickly send selfies faster on your iPhone and iPad

How to use iMessage groups on iPhone and iPad

You don’t have to send iMessages to just one person. Thanks to groups, you can share text, photos, videos, soundbites, location — almost anything you like — with two people, three people, and more. You can even name a conversation thread to make it easier to find and keep track of or mute it for when it’s getting too noisy to follow.

  • How to start a group message on iPhone or iPad
  • How to rename a group message
  • How to mute or leave a group message

How to delete, block, mute, or report spam iMessages on iPhone and iPad

You can’t delete iMessages or SMS/MMS on someone else’s iPhone or iPad — so always be careful what you send — but you can delete any record of them from your iPhone or iPad. So, whether you don’t want to be reminded of an embarrassing or hurtful text, or you want to get rid of storage-consuming pictures and videos, the Messages app lets you wipe them out or set them to expire automatically.

And just because anyone can send you an iMessage on your iPhone or iPad doesn’t mean you have to let them. If you’re getting messaged too often, if you keep getting messages meant for someone else, of if — ugh! — you’re getting spam, you can absolutely take action again it. Mute, block, and reporting are all here for you.

  • How to delete messages on iPhone and iPad
  • How to delete multiple images at once on iPhone or iPad
  • How to set messages to delete after a period of time on iPhone and iPad
  • How to change expiration settings for audio and video messages on iPhone and iPad
  • How to mute conversations on iPhone and iPad
  • How to block someone via iMessage on the iPhone or iPad
  • How to report iMessage spam to Apple

How to use iMessage with Siri and shortcuts

Whether you’re driving or your iPhone or iPad is simply across the room, you can combine iMessage with Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri to send texts and even have incoming texts read to you, all with the power of your voice.

If voice isn’t your thing, there are also a variety of gesture shortcuts built into Messages. Not all of them are obvious, but all of them are useful — once you figure them out!

  • How to send messages via iMessage using Siri for iPhone or iPad
  • How to check for new messages with Siri for iPhone or iPad
  • Secret iMessage shortcuts: Twelve gestures to speed up your chat!

Any iMessage questions?

If you have questions about any of the features in Apple’s Messages app or iMessage service, new or old, drop them in the comments below!

iOS

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