Getting the most from iMessage in iOS 10

22 September 2016

One of the big, new features in Apple's iOS 10 is a revamped Messages app with plenty of fun ways liven up your iMessage experience. While there's lots of new messaging options to try out, Apple's hidden many of these away, so we've put together a quick guide on what's what. 

One thing's for sure though, there's never been a better time to have a blue bubble.

To use these features, you'll need to upgrade your iPhone or iPad to iOS 10. For more information on how to do so, follow our guide here. Also, the vast majority of these new features will only work when messaging other iPhone users who are also using iMessage on iOS 10. If you're messaging on an older version of iOS, they'll typically receive a photo or text description, such as "sent with invisible ink".

Message effects

iOS 10's new message effects give you a quick and easy way to bring a conversation to life. After you finish typing your message, long press or 3D Touch the send button (if you've got an iPhone with a 3D Touch) display. This will let send a message with either a "bubble effect" or a "screen effect".

Bubble effects change how the blue bubble your message is displayed in appears. You've got a choice of "slam", "loud", "gentle", and "invisible ink".

Screen effects will trigger an animation that takes over the entire background of your conversation. These currently include balloons, confetti, lasers, fireworks, and a shooting star.


Want to let a friend know you've seen a message, but don't have the time to write back? Simply long press or 3D Touch the message in question, and you'll be able to select from six different quick responses. These include a heart, a thumbs up, thumbs down, "haha", exclamation marks, and a question mark. When you send a tapback, it will appear on top of the message in question.

Emoji Autocorrect

Love it or hate it, emoji is very quickly becoming a universal language. To make life a little easier for emoji lovers, iOS 10 will automatically highlight words you can replace with the fun little icons. Change to the emoji keyboard, and any word that can be replaced will be highlighted in yellow. Tap these, and your words will be swapped for emoji.

On a related note, emoji will now also show up in predictive text. If you're sending an emoji only message, it will appear three times larger.

iMessage App Store

iOS 10 includes a new App Store just for iMessage. This lets you send stickers, share music, play games, and collaborate on simple tasks without leaving the Messages app.

The iMessage App Store lives in the app drawer. To find the app drawer, you'll need to hit the "A" sitting between the heart icon and the message box, then tap the four circles in the lower left hand corner. If you don't see the "A" hit the ">" next to the message box. Once the app drawer is open, the "+" icon opens the Store.

Out of the box, you'll have automatically have four apps: Recents, Music, #images, and Store.

Recents shows you highlights from your recently used apps, Music lets you share recently played tracks from Apple Music, #images lets you search for GIFs and images, and Store lets you download extra iMessage apps.


We've had stickers in messaging apps like Google Hangouts and Facebook Messenger for what feels like forever, but now Apple's made them part of the core iOS experience.

To get to see stickers you've downloaded, you'll need to hit the "A" sitting between the heart icon and the message box. If you don't see it, hit the ">" next to the message box.

Stickers you've recently used will appear in the "Recents" tab. Each sticker pack is given its own tab. You can swipe left and right to go between these. Tapping on a sticker will send it as an image. Long pressing a sticker will let you place it almost anywhere in your active conversation.

If you haven't downloaded any stickers, tap the "A", tap the four circles in the lower left hand corner, and then hit the "+" to go to the iMessage App Store. Some stickers packs are available for free, while others are paid purchases.

Digital Touch

Digital Touch is a new iOS 10 feature that might be familiar to those with an Apple Watch. The option lets you send animated sketches or little pre-rendered animations like heartbeats or kisses.

To find Digital Touch, you'll need to hit the heart icon between the camera and the App Store "A". If you don't see it, hit the ">" next to the message box. Once the black canvas is visible, here's how to get all of the effects:

  • Sketch: Simply move one finger to draw
  • Tap: Tap the screen with one finger, or repeatedly
  • Heartbeat: Touch and hold the screen with two fingers until you see a heartbeat
  • Fireball: Touch and hold the screen with one finger
  • Kiss: Tap the screen with two fingers
  • Broken heart: Touch and hold the screen with two fingers and drag down

You can also use Digital Touch to take a photo or 10 second video. You can then sketch or add effects on top of these.

The Messages app deletes video messages after two minutes. You can however tap "Keep" to save the video in the conversation.


If you pop your iPhone into landscape (make sure orientation lock is off) while in Messages, you'll have the option to handwrite a message. There's also a few prewritten options, just in case your handwriting isn't great. Mine is pretty abysmal.

Per conversation read receipts

Read receipts are a mixed blessing; they can be incredibly useful in professional situations, but they can also make it look like you're avoiding someone if you haven't had time to write back. iOS 10 lets you turn on read receipts on a per conversation basis, so you can switch them on for when messaging colleagues, but keep them off for personal conversations. Or you know, the other way around. Whatever you prefer.

To turn on per conversation read receipts, hit the "i" in the top right hand corner of a conversation, then toggle "send read receipts" to on or off.

Mute a conversation

Bae keep messaging you during meetings? If you need a bit of notification-free time, but only from certain people, iOS 10 now lets you mute chats on a case-by-case basis.

To mute a conversation, hit the "i" in the top right hand corner of the message thread in question, then toggle "do not disturb" to on. Conversations you've muted will have a small moon appear alongside them on the main screen of the Messages app.  



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