iOS 10 preview: Messages does stickers, apps, animations & more

iOS 10 Messages preview teaser 001

Apple’s iMessage system has officially become a chat platform in its own right as Messages in iOS 10 now supports third-party apps, stickers and more. In addition, Messages on iOS 10 brings out a number of useful improvements, including animated chat bubbles and full-screen motion backgrounds.

But we’re just getting started: Messages on iOS 10 supports inline media previews, sports a redesigned built-in camera, provides downloadable stickers and apps, includes handwriting recognition, Digital Touch for your media and more.

Here’s our walkthrough showing off every new feature in iOS 10 Messages.

Messages in iOS 10: video hands-on

It’s not surprising that Messages is being advertised as one of iOS 10’s tentpole features. After all, Messages is the most frequently used iOS app, and with iOS 10 Apple wants to make Messages even more expressive and fun.

Our own Andrew O’Hara has put together a nice video walkthrough showing off every new feature in iOS 10 Messages that you might care about. The clip runs nine minutes long so give it a quick watch if you have time.

If not, check out detailed feature descriptions of Messages on iOS 10 below.

Messages was obviously a huge cross-functional effort across Apple and the results, in my opinion, far exceed what most of the people have been hoping for.

Siri intelligence meets QuickType keyboard

Siri’s proactive assistant in iOS 10 makes the stock QuickType keyboard smarter than before, especially in Messages. Currently, QuickType analyzes the context of your conversations to offer up suggested words as you type.

iOS 10 QuickType keyboard Siri suggestions teaser 001

Taking advantage of deep learning and techniques like Long Short Term Memory (LSTM) networks, Siri’s QuickType suggestions are more intelligent and in longer context.

Suppose someone asked for your whereabouts. Siri understands that so it automatically puts a Current Location button right above the keyboard, letting you send a map of your current location with a single tap.

iOS 10 QuickType keyboard Siri suggestions teaser 002

In another example, someone might be inquiring about the email address of a person you happen to have in your Contacts. Siri takes it from there, serving up relevant contact information right above the QuickType keyboard, ready to be shared instantly with a tap.

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Tapback your reactions

Tapback is a quick, simple way to respond to a message with just a tap.

After receiving a message, tap it to reveal a contextual menu to quickly send one of six built-in reactions to let your friend know what you’re thinking.

iOS 10 Messages Tapback teaser 001

Tapback responses are available for any message in the thread, no matter how old. For example, you could post a Tapback reaction to a message received a while ago.

Inline media previews, not dull URLs

Messages currently shows photo and video attachments as thumbnails, but that’s about it. On iOS 10, Messages renders rich links inline along with the article image and title. You can even play videos inside the transcript without ever leaving your conversation.

wwdc 2016 rich links messages

Another example includes Apple Music.

Now when you send an Apple Music URL to someone, they’ll see the song title and cover artwork inline and can play that tune with a tap within Messages, without being taken to the Music app. As if that weren’t enough, third-party iMessage apps support these rich media previews, too, so you might be seeing an Uber map within the chat.

Enhanced camera functionality with live feed

Messages includes improvements for camera functionality. Upon tapping the Camera button inside the text entry field, up pops a redesigned picker with a live video preview of what’s in front of the camera. Additionally, your recently taken photos are now displayed alongside the camera view, just a swipe away.

iOS 10 Messages Camera teaser 001

Bubble effects for subtle emotion

With bubble effects, Messages lets you add more emotion to your conversations by allowing you to pick among built-in effects to deliver your message in style. You could, for instance, have the chat bubble zoom in if you wanna say something out loud, or shrink gently for an added effect, and so forth.

iOS 10 Messages chat bubble effects teaser 001

To access bubble effects, tap and hold the Send button and then choose an appropriate animation. Some of the built-in animations include Slam, Loud and Gentle.

Full-screen effects for impact

Aside from the animated chat bubbles, Messages takes things a step further with animated backgrounds that can take over an entire screen. This is great for situations when you want your message to make an impact.

iOS 10 Messages full screen effects teaser 001

Some of the built-in ones include balloons, confetti, fireworks and disco lights, making it funnier to say things like “Happy Birthday!” or “Congratulations!”. Just tap and hold the Send button and then select the Screen tab to pick your animation.

Emoji predictions as you type

Emoji in iOS 10 Messages now render three times bigger inside chats when sent alone, which will be good news for the types with a vision problem like myself who used to resort to Accessibility features like full-screen zoom to decipher them properly.

iOS 10 Messages emoji predictions teaser 002

And with automatic emoji suggestions as you type, Messages takes advantage of the stock QuickType keyboard to suggest emoji based on the contents of your communications.

Tap to Replace words with emoji

You’re also going to love another Messages feature that makes it ridiculously easy to emojify messages by replacing words with appropriate emoji characters.

iOS 10 Messages emoji tap to replace teaser 001

Called Tap to Replace, you simply bring up the stock Emoji keyboard and Messages highlights all emojifiable words with their appropriate emoji symbols. With just a tap, the word “pizza” can easily be replaced with the pizza emoji and so forth, it’s really cool.

And if you tap and hold a word like “love”, a menu pops up letting you choose the right character among the available heart emojis, similar to the stock Emoji keyboard.

Handwritten notes

For added personalization, handwritten notes can be added to your chats. Taking advantage of Apple’s robust implementation of ink and handwriting recognition, this feature lets you draw with your finger on the screen to quickly sketch a note.

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And in a typical Apple fashion, your friends see your note animate with ink settling in to the transcript as if it were flowing on paper.

Digital Touch: handwriting, sketches, hear beats and more

Your sketches, videos and photos can be souped up with Digital Touch, a feature which debuted on the Apple Watch. To access this feature, tap a new button in Messages’ text entry field next to the Camera button.

This shall invoke the Digital Touch interface, where you can sketch notes, send your heartbeat and more. You can even doodle on video with Digital Touch, how cool is that?

iOS 10 Messages scribble teaser 001

As mentioned, the Digital Touch interface makes it very easy to send your heartbeat as a reaction through Messages. For instance, if I’m feeling a little competitive I could send my fitness-obsessed buddy my racing heartbeat just as I’m wrapping up my training session.

iOS 10 Messages Sketch teaser 003

As you can see for yourself, you can choose a color to draw with on photos and videos, add a heart beat animation by tapping and golding, or insert a Digital Touch with a single tap. All these doodling features are available via an enahnced Markup tool in iOS 10, which now supports Messages in addition to Mail.

Invisible ink: not just a gimmick

Invisible ink, another cool feature, allows you to send a message that will only be revealed after a recipient swipes over it. It’s not a security-focused enhancements per se as much as it’s a way to share a surprise message.

iOS 10 Messages invisible ink teaser 004

Invisible ink works with any chat item, not just text. For instance, you can send a photo with invisible ink that will require swiping to reveal itself on the recipient’s end. Invisible ink can be accessed in a menu revealed by holding the Send button.

Interactive Messages alerts on Lock screen

Enhancements in Messages extend to iOS 10’s much improved Lock screen.

With 3D Touch, you can press a Messages notification on the Lock screen to dive right into the message preview. But unlike before, now you can actually type out your response, scroll through the message thread, send attachments and more, all within the context of the Peek sheet.

iOS 10 Messages Lock screen Messages notification teaser 001

iMessage apps for your pleasure

By opening up Messages as a platform via a new framework, developers can now build upon Apple’s foundation and deliver more new features.

Two types of Messages extensions are currently allowed: sticker packs and iMessage apps. When it comes to iMessage apps, some of the examples include apps to personalize GIFs or edit photos, send payments or schedule dinner or a movie and more.

App Store for iMessage web screenshot 001

iMessage apps run inside the context of Messages and can use custom user interfaces. You can access iMessage apps via a dedicate drawer similar to that on Facebook Messenger. The drawer reveals itself upon tapping the App Store icon in the text entry field, providing quick access to your favorite iMessage apps and third-party stickers.

iOS 10 Messages apps teaser 003

Downloadable third-party stickers

Stickers can be created with zero code and users can paste them into conversations, adjust their size and place them on top of bubbles, other stickers and photos.

App Store for iMessage web screenshot 002

According to Apple’s developer documentation for iMessage Apps, it looks like branded stickers won’t be free. “Help users express themselves in richer ways by providing stickers for purchase on the App Store for iMessage,” reads the webpage.

Both stickers and iMessage apps can be distributed as a standalone app or as app extensions within a containing iOS app.

iOS 10 Messages teaser 001

Wrapping it all up

And with that, we conclude our tour of Messages in iOS 10.

“With iOS 10, you will be able to do more and say more, faster, more simply, and in more expressive ways than ever before—like with a freaking fireworks display,” said Apple.

How do you like the bevy of new features and enhancements in Messages, which one is your favorite and why? Tell us in comments!

More iDB previews

We’ve made it a mission to dive deep into Apple’s upcoming software updates to inform you of both major new features you’ll care about and the little things that’ll delight you.

Here are our iOS 10, macOS Sierra, tvOS 10 and watchOS 3 previews:

More previews will be added to the list as they become available.

If you’d like us to focus on specific new features, please do feel free to shoot us a quick email message at

iOS 10 availability

iOS 10 is available to members of the Apple Developer Program and will launch to public beta testers signed on the Apple Beta Software Program in July ahead of general availability in the fall.

System requirements for iOS 10 are the same as those for its predecessor, but the iPhone 4s, original iPad and iPad 2 are no longer supported.