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How to Use iMessage Like a Pro

The one messenger to rule them all.


Part of the trepidation people have about leaving their iPhones for Androids is that the latter doesn’t support iMessage — and that’s big. iMessage is more than just another messaging app because it consolidates all your iMessages (texts, photos and videos sent between anybody with iPhone) and SMS and MMS messages (texts and media files from Androids) in one convenient place. Most importantly, if you don’t have an iPhone, communicating with people with iPhones can be a bit of a nightmare. Messages go missing. Group chats get separated. And many of your iPhone-wielding family and friends will dislike you, for real — nobody wants to be the green bubble.

If you have an iPhone, you’re likely using iMessage every day just for texts, and you probably use it on your other Mac devices as well. That’s good — but you’re underutilizing it. You can play third-party games, share your location and, with iOS 11, pay your friends; no need to open Venmo or PayPal. When Apple launched iOS 10 last year, iMessage got a ton of new features. And iOS 11 builds on that too.

Share your location with a friend.
If you don’t want to take the time to write out where you are over a text, sending an iMessage with a picture of your exact location on a map is a pretty simple solution. To do this, go to your iMessage conversation, select the Details tab in the upper right-hand corner (it’s the “i” with a circle around it), and then select “Send My Current Location.” You’ll send them your pinned location in Apple’s Maps app. No, you can’t change the default to anything else.

If you select the “Share My Location” feature, located in the same window as “Send My Current Location,” iMessage will share your location over a specific period of time. If you’re moving around in a crowded location, like in a baseball stadium after the final inning or on a crowded street, this can help your friends find you more easily.


Play games with friends.
iMessage apps were introduced with iOS 10, seamlessly integrating the messenger service with many of the apps you already use. Dropbox, Evernote and Yelp all have integrated iMessage apps, which makes sharing files, to-do lists, and information about places, easy. But being able to play games with your friends is arguably the best part of this feature.

You can access iMessage apps through the iMessage Apps Store, which you can find by opening iMessage, selecting a conversation, selecting the Apps Store icon in the lower left-hand corner, selecting the App Shelf button (four dots in a square formation), and downloading whichever apps you please.

Of the games you’ll find there, one of the best is GamePidgeon (free). Once downloaded, you can play a variety of games with your friends, like billiards, connect four, chess, checkers and word searches. Each time your turn ends, the app sends a message to your opponent telling them that it’s their turn, and vice versa.

Become a gif-sending master.
You can easily answer texts with gifs through iMessage, although there are several ways to do it. The most straightforward is probably with Giphy or the GIF Keyboard by Tenor. Both are iMessage apps that you can access through the iMessage App Store. Once you’ve downloaded and opened either of these apps, simply search for a specific gif and share.

There’s also Google’s Gboard, which adds a Google icon next to your text bar. By clicking it, you can access Google’s immense search engine to find the perfect gif. Gboard is a particularly great gif finder, and it can do a lot of other things, like share restaurant reviews, YouTube videos, weather information and sports scores. (Note: Gboard is not an iMessage app, so you’ll need to download through the App Store proper.)

Pay all your friends over iMessage.
If you’ve updated to iOS 11, you can pay your friends over iMessage — if you use Apple Pay. It works exactly like Venmo, PayPal and Square Cash, but all within iMessage. To use it, just download the app extension in the iMessage App Store and navigate it like any other iMessage app. Keep in mind, both you and the person you’re iMessaging need to be using Apple Pay for this to work.


Get flashy with iMessage effects.
If you have iOS 10 or higher, you’ve probably noticed that if you send an iMessage saying “Happy Birthday” or “Congratulations,” you’ll see some visual pizzazz in the form of sparks bursting or balloons flying. You can add these effects to any iMessage if you know the few simple steps. After you write an iMessage, and before you send it, hold the up arrow in the right-hand side of the text box — it’s the same button you tap to send the iMessage. You’ll then be directed to the “Send with effect” screen. (Feel free to stop holding the up arrow at this point.) You can then select between a number of “bubble” or “screen” effects. Play around with them to see what they do, and once you find one you like, click the up arrow again to send your newly spiced-up message.

Use Digital Touch to send handwritten messages.
If you’ve owned an Apple Watch before, you’ll know what Digital Touch is. If not: It’s a feature that allows you to draw sketches or effects with your finger and send them to your friends via iMessage. To access it, open the iMessage app, go to a conversation and tap the icon with the blue heart and two fingers on it. From there, select the right side of the screen, with all the Digital Touch options (such as tap, kiss, heartbeat and fireball). The screen will give you instructions on how to perform each individual Digital Touch option — the “sketch” option allows you to write handwritten messages. When opened, these messages will animate in front of the reader as if they were being written right in front of them.

React to iMessages without saying a word.
You can react to iMessages by liking or disliking them, similarly to how you can like and dislike Facebook posts, as long as your iPhone or iPad is updated with iOS 10. Apple calls this new feature “Tapback.” To do this, double-tap on the message bubble or photo you want to respond to, and the different Tapback options will appear over the bubble. Tap the option you want and it’ll send right away.

Use iCloud syncing to free up storage on your iPhone.
Perhaps the most notable change to iMessage with iOS 11 is its capability to sync via iCloud across all your Apple devices. (The feature is officially called “Messages on iCloud.”) If you delete a convo on your iPad, it’ll also delete on your iPhone. This wasn’t the case before. The biggest advantage of this new and improved iCloud syncing is that it’ll free up your iMessage storage, which is handy because you’ll want more storage for all those special effects. To enable this feature, select “Settings,” then “Messages,” then switch on “Messages on iCloud.”

And in case you haven’t already — here’s how to synchronize iMessage across your iPhone, iPad and Mac.
On your iPhone, select “Settings,” then “Messages,” and then “Send & Receive.” Make sure your phone number is selected. You also have the option to select an email address that you want to be connected to the iMessage account; however, that’s not necessary. Next you’ll need to verify this information on your other Apple devices. If you have an iPad, follow the same steps as on your iPhone: Select “Settings,” then “Messages,” and then “Send & Receive.” Make sure your Apple ID is the same on both devices and that the same phone number and email address is selected for both the “You Can Be Reached By iMessage At” and “Start New Conversations From” sections.

If you have a Mac, select “Preferences,” then “Accounts,” and make sure you’re using the same Apple ID as on your iPhone or iPad. Make sure the same phone number and email address is selected in the two sections, “You Can Be Reached By iMessage At” and “Start New Conversations From.” And that’s it — you’re synced.

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