How to use bubble and screen effects in Messages for iPhone and iPad

iOS 10 Messages teaser 001

Apple’s expressive Messages app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch allows you to change the way the message bubbles look and deliver your chats across in an impactful way with animations that take over the entire Messages screen.

Messages offer four built-in effects to animate the bubbles with different expressions and five fullscreen animations. Here’s how you can use these animated effects to deliver your chats in style.

Bubble and screen effects in Messages require an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad with a 64-bit processor and iOS 10 or later. Every iPhone from the iPhone 5s onward has these chips, as well as the iPad Air and later and iPad mini 3 and later.

All bubble and screen effects animate on any Apple Watch with watchOS 3 or later. On Macs with macOS Sierra, screen and bubble effects don’t animate with the exception of Invisible Ink.

Screen and bubble effects sent as part of MMS or SMS messages do not animate. Mac owners and non-iMessage users see a description of the effect in parenthesis (i.e. ”Sent with Balloons”, “Sent with Slam” and so forth).


Messages won’t play animations if iOS’s Reduce Motion feature has been enabled in Settings → General → Accessibility → Reduce Motion. For other possible issues with Messages animations, see Anthony’s troubleshooting steps.

How to use bubble effects in Messages for iOS

1) After you have typed a message, tap and hold the blue Send button to bring up a “Send with Effect” overlay, then tap the Bubble tab to access chat bubble animations.

You have the following bubble effects at your disposal:

  • Slam—slams the bubble and makes the screen ripple
  • Loud—enlarges and shakes the bubble, then shrinks it
  • Gentle—the bubble grows slowly
  • Invisible Ink—the message is blurred until the recipient swipes to reveal it

2) Tap a dot next to any bubble animation to preview it.


3) To send your message with the selected bubble effect, tap the Send button. Messages on the recipient’s end animates the chat bubble appropriately.

iOS 10 Messages chat bubble effects teaser 001

To cancel the effect and return to the message, tap the “x” sign. Keep in mind that Messages bubble effects work with both plain text messages and photo attachments.

How to use screen effects in Messages for iOS

1) Type a message, then tap and hold the Send button to pull up the Messages effects overlay. Now hit the Screen tab to show the available fullscreen effects.

The following screen effects are built into Messages:

  • Echo—floating text bubbles
  • Spotlight—puts a round light over the text bubble
  • Balloons—big, colorful balloons gradually flying upward from the screen bottom
  • Confetti—colorful confetti falling from the screen top
  • Love—shows a blow-up heart, like a balloon
  • Lasers—renders laser effects while playing a Party Boy-like beat
  • Fireworks—fireworks blowing up from the center of the screen
  • Shooting Star—a shooting star traveling from the left to the right screen side
  • Celebration—shows a sparkler-like display raining down

2) Swipe left or right to preview the built-in screen effects.

3) Hit the Send button to send your message with the selected fullscreen animation.

iOS 10 Messages auto full screen effects Happy Birthday silver iPhone screenshot 001

Messages on the recipient’s end fills the entire screen with the chosen effect.

Getting to Messages effects screen with 3D Touch

If you have a device with 3D Touch, you can get to the Messages effects screen faster by pressing instead of tapping and holding the Send button. Another shortcut: continue pressing on the effects preview screen while slide your finger vertically across the effects to preview each without having to tap it.

Messages effects on the Lock screen

It’s particularly awesome that bubble and screen effects play normally in iOS’s rich notifications. Say you received an animated message while on the Lock screen and the device is locked: the notification won’t include a message preview for security reasons, but you’ll see a description of the animation.

But as soon as you unlock the device and interact with the notification, the bubble/screen effect will play right inside the Quick Reply overlay, even on the Lock screen.


Auto-playing Messages effects

Lastly, Messages automatically plays appropriate screen effects for texts like “Happy Birthday”, “Congratulations” (or just “Congrats”) and “Happy New Year”, regardless of the language used.

The following screen effects are automatically applied for specific text strings:

  • Balloons for “Happy birthday”
  • Confetti for “Congratulations”
  • Fireworks for “Happy New Year”

Unfortunately, this feature cannot be disabled.

Wrapping it up

If you don’t like Messages animations, turn on Reduce Motion in Settings → General → Accessibility → Reduce Motion to prevent Messages from sending or receiving them in the first place.

Are these eye-candy effects just a passing fad or something that you may use from time to time? And if so, what’s your favorite bubble/screen animation, and why?