It was clear before iOS 10 launched that sticker packs and iMessage apps were going to be big. The only question was – how big? In the last 30 days, the iMessage App Store has exploded. According to SensorTower, there were over 1,650 sticker packs and apps available in the iMessage App Store after just ten days. The first couple of weeks felt like the early days of the App Store. If you wanted to, you could browse every sticker pack and iMessage app available. There were a lot, but you could make out the edges where the store stopped. One indication of the iMessage App Store's growth is that those edges are rapidly disappearing.
Over the past four weeks, we've been scouring the iMessage App Store for the best stickers and apps. We started sharing some of the best in the Club MacStories Weekly newsletter, but every time we went back to the store there were three more cool things for every one we had shared. So, to mark the first full month of iOS 10, we thought we would do another, even bigger roundup of iMessage apps and sticker packs with the best ones shared with Club MacStories members so far, plus a whole lot more.
Stickers have taken off like a rocket. It's not hard to figure out why. Sticker packs can be created without writing a single line of code and are a great promotional tool for existing apps. But most of all, stickers are a lot of fun.
It’s not surprising that coffee stickers are plentiful on the iMessage App Store. Fussy coffee drinkers will like the Coffee Snobs Stickers (Free), which features pour-over coffee, elaborate brewing contraptions, and other stickers. The over-caffeinated will appreciate Espresso Stickers (Free with IAP), a collection of animated stickers of a jittery coffee cup character freaking out.
Every meal and food style is represented in the iMessage App Store. You can start your day off right with a wide variety of nicely-illustrated stickers in the Breakfast Food for Stickers ($0.99) set or go straight to dessert with a pack of anthropomorphized pastries and treats in Sweets Stickers (Free) . When it's quitting time and you are trying to coax someone out for a drink, Joe Cieplinski has you covered with a beautiful sticker pack of classic cocktails and beers called The Mixologist ($1.99).
Sometimes sticker packs get strangely specific. Pun Pals ($0.99) is a good example. It’s a nice collection of groan-worthy puns, but not just any puns - food puns.
As often as not, food stickers come in the form of characters. Two of the more bizarre are Pizza Friend (Free), a small set of animated stickers featuring a slice of pizza doing a random assortment of things, and Bibmbap Friends ($0.99), a set of stickers that uses the Korean rice dish as the basis for cartoon characters that are as cute as they are strange. Another favorite is Moodie Foodies ($0.99) an animated set of hapless fruit, vegetables, and other food characters.
Probably the most artistic of the food sticker packs I’ve tried is Parakeet Snacks ($4.99), which includes breakfast foods, snacks, sandwiches, fruit, pie, and mixed drinks. The artwork is among the best I’ve seen on the iMessage App Store, though it’s also the most expensive sticker pack I've come across.
Travel is a category that I expect to see expand quickly. Right now it's a little hit-and-miss, but there are some clever gems to be found.
For Anglophiles, the British Sticker Pack ($0.99) has a variety of brightly colored British landmarks and other icons with white borders and drop shadows that simulate vinyl stickers. Places ($0.99) is an assortment of faux postage stamps and stickers dominated by cities around the world that are beautifully illustrated. My only complaint is that I wish Places included stickers for more cities. Passport Stickers ($0.99) is a clever idea that is exactly what it sounds like, a series of passport stamps from around the world. Finally, you can fly the flag of any country (and even the beloved Nail & Gear) with World Flag Stickers ($0.99) from MacStories' own Graham Spencer.
Holiday and seasonal sticker packs are just getting started. With Halloween around the corner, spooky sticker packs have started showing up in the iMessage App Store. The Iconfactory alone has released six different sticker packs for Halloween, including Lore ($1.99), which is a collaboration with the Lore podcast, Hack-O-Lantern ($1.99), BoneHeadz ($0.99), Spook On ($0.99), Macabre ($0.99), and Ravenswood Manor ($0.99), all of which we covered in more depth earlier this week.
Wee Monsters ($0.99) is a combination of happily smiling monsters and fangs, hats, and other props that can be added to photos. Halloween Friends ($0.99) from Matt Braun and Merrill Rainey is wonderfully illustrated set of big-eyed classic Halloween characters. Rag Tag Spookyish ($0.99) is more cute than scary with everything from dancing candy corn to a hand rising from the grave to give a thumbs up.
Stickers are a perfect compliment to photos. It’s a lot of fun to decorate pictures of your friends with funny hats, glasses, and other accessories. Stickers: Photo Props ($0.99) is a great way to get started with an assortment of glasses, hats, hair, beards, mustaches, and ties. If glasses are your thing, Sunglasses ($0.99) has everything from classic sunglasses to novelty glasses, some of which are images of folded up sunglasses, but others of which are designed to be added to photos. To go completely nuts, try the claymation-style Aardman Face Bomb (Free) which were released to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the popular British animation studio. Photos themselves can make great stickers too. Stickeys (Free) lets you make your own round stickers from your photo library or with the iPhone’s camera. The stickers you make are saved in the app for repeat sharing.
Animals is one of my favorite categories. Nyan Cat (Free with IAP) and Crossy Road (Free iOS app with IAP) are both iOS games that have turned game assets into animated stickers. Flying pixel art cats with Pop Tart bodies streaming rainbows aren’t for everybody, but the stickers breath new life into the five-year-old Nyan Cat meme. Crossy Road’s set of animated stickers is a little limited given the number of characters that can be found in the game, but they are nonetheless fun and worth checking out.
Cat stickers are especially popular on the iMessage App Store. My favorite set is the quirky Toca Life Paper Bag Cat (Free) stickers, which are full of personality. Meow Stickers (Free) from designer Cat Lo and developer Cory Bohon are a funny offbeat way to communicate with cats.
For every cat sticker pack, there is an equally good one for dog lovers. Chapik ($0.99) is a sticker pack of cartoon dog stickers that work well to convey many different feelings. Another excellent dog sticker pack is Sploot the Corgi ($0.99) from Becky Hansmeyer, which was just updated with five new Fall-themed stickers.
Some sticker packs are factories for creating your own unique stickers. Emoji Remix (Free), which is also an iOS app, lets you mix and match parts of standard emoji images into hybrid emoji-style stickers. The sticker pack comes with some examples like a ghost with one eye and lips, but the fun part is mixing and matching the parts yourself.
Sticky Draw ($0.99) is a basic drawing app within Messages for drawing pictures and sending them to friends. imoji (Free) comes with an assortment of stickers, but what I like most about it is the ability to trace things in photos to turn them into stickers. It’s especially good for making floating heads of your friends.
Assembly (Free with IAP) and SketchBook Motion (Free) are more serious art tools that have sticker components. Assembly is a simple graphic design app for iOS. Its iMessage app includes built-in stickers, but you can also turn your Assembly creations into your own stickers. Sketchbook Motion is an animation app from Autodesk that is the only iMessage app I know of that is iPad-only. With it, you can create animated art that its iMessage app can turn into stickers.
Stamps are perfect for a quick reaction to a message you receive. Stamp Stickers ($0.99) is a solid basic stamp pack with red-inked stamps, including 'Yes,' 'No,' 'Rejected,' and many more. Red Tape ($0.99) goes further with a wider variety of styles and colors with stamps like 'Nerd,' 'Loser,' 'NSFW,' and other handy stickers. Logical Fallacy (Free) shows just how specialized even a sub-genre of stickers can get with a variety of logical fallacy, cognitive bias, and red herring stickers you can use to punch holes in your friends' arguments. Comic-style stickers are multiplying quickly across the iMessage App Store. My current favorite is Emotrix ($0.99) because in addition to animated speech bubbles it includes narrative text boxes like 'Stay Tuned' and 'Join Us Next Time.’
Icons, Emoji, and More
If you've ever felt limited or constrained by the standard hand emojis, check out Gestures (Free) an appropriately hand-drawn set of hand gesture stickers. Words by Rachel Ryle ($0.99) is also a nice change of pace that lets you respond to friends with hand-lettered reactions.
Bringing the analog world into the digital one is a theme that runs throughout sticker packs. An excellent example is Pencil Doodles ($0.99), a series of pencil drawings and reaction phrases you can drop into a conversation. You can even correct your iMessage mistakes with flair using White Out ($0.99), which simulates the old-school typewriter correction fluid so you can obscure mistakes in your messages.
Stickers are already part of Swarm’s iOS app (Free) for checking into places you visit. With a recent update, Swarm made some of the stickers used in its app available in Messages. It’s a somewhat random assortment of stickers, but they’re all well-done.
The Noun Project is dedicated to collecting and categorizing hundreds of thousands of icons. Nounji (Free with IAP) is a collection of excellent iconography you can use to add character to your iMessage conversations. If the included icons aren’t enough, you can use the search bar to find even more. If an icon you want to use is not in the free set, you can access the entire collection of over half a million icons for $3.99/year or forever with a one-time $9.99 payment.
Retro Emoji is one of my favorite Kaomoji sticker sets, which we covered in the first roundup of stickers. But for a subset of Kaomoji, Kaomotion (Free) has Retro Emoji beat, which it accomplishes by bringing some of my favorite Kaomoji to life with animation. I don’t know how anyone could go back to using the static version of table flip guy when you can send a version of him actually flipping the table.
We covered CARROT Weather’s excellent iMessage app in the first roundup. CARROT has followed that up with a sticker pack that doesn’t disappoint. Full of sass and snark, the CARROT Sticker Pack ($1.99) is perfect for tormenting your friends.
Some sticker packs I love for no reason other than the artwork. Chris Hannah painstakingly created a wonderful collection of pixel art called the Pixel Sticker Pack ($0.99), which includes hand gestures, food, and an assortment of other objects. Rag Tag Classic Pack (Free) is an animated sticker pack with a retro feel and everything from a mic drop to dancing bacon.
The Nose Knows ($1.99) from designer Jon Contino, whose work you may be familiar with from a Daring Fireball t-shirt he designed, includes text stickers in Contino’s unique hand-lettered style and an assortment of his illustrations. Contino is one of my favorite designers, so it’s fun to have little bits of his work to stick in conversations.
Messages is a natural place to wish someone a happy birthday. MacStories’ own Graham Spencer has created Birthday Celebration Stickers ($1.99) a sticker pack complete with balloons, party hats, gifts, and candles to decorate the birthday wishes you send.
Simple turn-based games have started popping up all over the iMessage App Store. GamePigeon (Free) is a collection of eight games including 8-ball, Anagrams, and Sea Battle, a Battleship clone. The animation and gameplay crammed into the iMessage app is impressive. With Wit ($0.99), you pick a photo from your library or take one yourself. The photo is divided into a grid of squares that you scramble. It's your opponent's job to try to put your photo back together into its original order. Peak (Free) is an iOS brain training game with a iMessage app. In Peak, you race against the clock to fit Tetris-like shapes onto a board. Whoever solves the puzzle the fastest wins.
Word games work particularly well as iMessage apps. MsgMe WordGuess (Free) is a bit like the classic game hangman. You and a friend take turns guessing the letters of each other's words and the first to guess the word wins. Qiktionary (Free with IAP) is another iOS word game with a iMessage app. You and an opponent take turns guessing a four-letter word. You are told how many letters you correctly guess, but not their position. Figuring out the correct word is harder than you might imagine.
Sharing and Productivity
Pedometer++ (Free with IAP), David Smith's step-counter app for iOS recently added an iMessage app that lets you share your step count along with a graph of your hourly activity for the day. App in the Air (Free with IAP) is a full-featured flight and trip tracker app on iOS. Its iMessage app lets you share your detailed flight information with someone in a nicely-designed card format. Tapping on the card displays a map of your flight path.
There are also some great iMessage apps that are exclusive to the iMessage App Store. Versus (Free) lets you send side-by-side photos to someone to ask them to pick which they like best. The recipient just has to tap the photo they prefer and send back the answer. Versus is perfect if you can't decide between two things and want the input of a friend. Blur (Free) lets you send photos that self-destruct. When you send the photo, it is blurred until the recipient taps it, which starts the self-destruct timer. Polls with Friends (Free) is a good way to try to reach consensus with friends about things like where to go out to eat. Set up a poll with multiple choices, pick your preference and send it to your friends, who can add their votes and send the results to everyone.
Daybook and Kukutana are both useful iMessage apps for scheduling with friends and family. Kukutana (Free) is very close to the 1-2-3 Trip Planner app that Federico imagined in his iOS 10 review. With it you can pick free blocks of time in your calendar and send them to a recipient who then picks which time works best. Daybook (Free) takes a different approach, letting you share dates and times or locations with friends, take a poll, or ask 'Who's in?' for an activity. Daybook doesn't have the advantage of access to your calendar, but it does capture a wider variety of ways to coordinate with friends.
Despite the explosive growth of the iMessage App Store over the past 30 days, I still feel like developers have barely scratched the surface. The obvious meme sticker packs have been made, as have the simple turn-based games and sharing adjuncts to existing iOS apps. With categories like those filling up fast, I suspect the next wave will include stickers with more name-brand media properties (Simpsons stickers anyone?) and increasing innovation and experimentation with apps as developers get a better sense of what is popular and what works within the confines of iMessage.