With more than a billion users worldwide, iMessage is one of the giants of the messaging world – but many users don’t take advantage of the app’s hidden features.
Launched in 2011, iMessage is unique in that it only works on Apple products and macOS, iOS, iPadOS, and watchOS.
Lots of new features have been added in recent updates – this year’s iOS 17 brings everything from improved sticker support to the ability to “check in” with a traveling friend.
Below are some of iMessage’s best new tools and settings that you might not be familiar with, from tracking flights to playing games right in the iMessage app.
Turn your photos into stickers
The latest iOS 17 update added the option to turn your own cut photos into stickers that you can share in iMessage.
Open Photos, find an image, tap it to open it full screen, then long-press a person to cut them out. Then select a border or just save.
Transform photos into
If you use iMessage, you can respond to any message with a sticker: You can find your stickers in the Frequently Used section of the menu where you access emojis.
Play chess in iMessage
You can play games like chess with friends right in iMessage: you’ll need to download an app labeled “In Messages.”
One of the games you can play in iMessage is chess (from Chess.com).
You can play games, including chess, in iMessage (Apple/Chess.com)
You can then select it from the app list to play it in a chat.
Share your expected arrival time (and receive a notification if you don’t show up)
The latest version of iOS lets you share your estimated time of arrival while traveling – and send a notification if you don’t show up.
To activate it, tap the plus button next to the text field in your conversation.
Select “Check In” and then tap “Edit” (there are two options: “When I arrive” or “After a timer”).
If you select “When I arrive,” you select a destination, mode of transportation, and estimated time of arrival; if you choose “On a timer,” you set a time.
After the set time, you will receive a simple query asking if everything is OK: if you do not respond, a notification will be sent to the contact you are chatting with that something may be wrong, along with information such as Your last known location and your cell phone battery level and signal.
Track live flights
You can track flights directly within a flight, with updates in chat, the arrival time, baggage carousel number and a map showing where the plane is.
To activate this, a person needs to send the flight number, then you can long press on the number and click flight preview.
Use secret effect codes
Multiple words trigger full-screen effects when used in iMessage: For example, typing “pew pew” fills the screen with lasers.
You can spice up iMessage messages with special effects (Apple)
Messages automatically uses the following screen effects for specific text strings:
Balloons for “Happy Birthday”
Confetti for “Congratulations”
Fireworks for “Happy New Year”
Get rid of all your two-factor codes
One of the things science fiction writers couldn’t predict about modern life was how much time we would spend typing six-digit security codes.
Over time, these can seriously clog up your iMessages. Luckily, there is a way to get rid of them.
Go to Settings > Passwords > Password Options, then select Verification codes, then select Auto-clean.
Send any effect you want
You can manually add effects to messages instead of relying on keywords.
You can either send bubble effects or full screen animations like a laser show, fireworks or spotlight.
To add effects, long-press the Send button in a message, select a bubble effect, or select Screen and choose an animation.
Then tap Send.
Share your location
Sharing location is now easy in iMessage (Apple).
You can share your location or request someone else’s location directly from the Plus button in iMessage.
The location will continue to appear inline as a bubble in the transcript until the location sharing session ends.
View voicemail transcripts (and pause recording)
The new iOS 17 allows you to pause and resume recording the same message before sending.
You can now see transcripts of voice messages as well as paused recordings (Apple)
People who receive voice messages can now also pause them and, when they return to iMessage, continue listening, see a transcription, and play them at twice the speed.
Reply to a specific message
Group chats can actually get very hectic: The latest iOS 17 update makes it easy to reply to a specific message in the queue: just swipe right on any bubble.
You can also press and hold on the message and click Reply. The person who sent the original message will then be notified.
Go straight back to where you left a conversation
Most of us have group chats that get a little out of hand, and when you come back to them, there’s a whole lot of messages to discuss.
Apple has made catching up a little easier in the latest iOS: If you see a little arrow in the top right, tap it and you’ll go back to where you last were.