Posts tagged with "iMessage"

The Elements of Stickers

With stickers coming to iMessage in iOS 10, Connie Chan has posted a great overview of stickers in WeChat and Line and why they're more than glorified emoji:

Besides invisible messages, bigger and predictive emoji, full-screen effects, and movie/TV GIFs, Apple recently announced that stickers, too, are finally coming to its most popular app, iMessage. It’s no surprise that messaging is the company’s most popular app — if smartphones are like extensions of our fingers, then messaging is like touching people and things.

What is surprising — especially when compared to the more mature messaging ecosystem in Asia — is that many people still tend to treat stickers (i.e., the ability to easily incorporate pre-set images into texts) as just-for-fun frivolity, when they’re an important visual digital language fully capable of communicating a nuanced range of thoughts. For example, a single sticker could convey very different messages: “I’m so hungry I could collapse” or “I miss you” or “I’m sound asleep snoring”. Complex feelings, actions, punch lines, and memes are all possible with stickers.

(via Jeremy Burge's excellent Emoji Wrap newsletter.)


How Apple Could Modernize iMessage

I don't usually cover concepts and mockups here at MacStories, but this idea by Michael Steeber is exactly what I've been wanting to see in Apple's Messages app for a long time.

One of the best parts of these inline previews is that they aren’t limited just to the Messages app. The same previews could work in other Apple apps like Mail and Notes, or even in third party apps that support document-style text input. A feature like this, while subtle in implementation, has the potential to save a significant amount of time and remove points of friction in anyone’s workflow.

Steeber has come up with several ideas for inline previews, such as web links and Twitter, but also calendar invitations, documents, notes, and weather conditions.

Here's what I wrote in my iOS 9 wishes in May:

Messaging services like Slack and Messenger have proven the utility of automatically generating previews for content shared in conversations such as direct links to images, tweets, or web articles. Considering Apple's integration with Twitter and Safari's Reader capabilities, I'm surprised they didn't consider richer previews for content shared over iMessage before. Compared to the aforementioned messaging services, sharing links to web content on iMessage feels primitive, without the context granted by snippets of information embedded directly in a conversation. It's time for a refresh.

As messaging continues to grow as an interface of its own, it only makes sense to make conversations faster and more contextual by using rich previews of what's being shared. Considering that Apple is using open standards such as and Open Graph for rich results in iOS 9's Search, they could use a similar system to build rich previews in Messages as well.


Apple’s Support Document On How To Report iMessage Spam

A support document by Apple (last modified today, July 30) that I've never seen before details how users can report iMessage spam (unwanted messages) directly to Apple (via Beau Giles):

If you're seeing unwanted iMessages (spam) in Messages app, you can report those to Apple.

To report unwanted iMessage messages to Apple, please send an email with the following details to:

I've never been the target of iMessage spam, but it's good to know that Apple has a basic reporting tool in place. Some users experienced iMessage "denial of service" spam messages earlier this year; in the support document, Apple doesn't explain how they will act against reported spam.


‘How strange is Apple’s iMessage? The strangest.’

Craig Mod has a few suggestions that would go a long way towards improving iMessage. He talks about conflicting IDs, unsynced histories (and someone else had to make an app to fix how terrible searching history is on the Mac), and the lack of proper profiles for the people you're conversing with.

The biggest problem I have with iMessage is that it's capable of but really poor at handling group conversations. Our issues revolved around the "Send and Receive" settings. For a group chat to really work, everyone has to be sending from the same address. More often than not, this was different between a Mac and iOS devices. If someone in the group was sending a message on their iPhone, the default was likely a phone number. If someone in the group was sending a message on their Mac, the default was probably an email address. Linking helps, but keeping track of all these settings is difficult. If one person in the group was sending from a different address, it would cause a new conversation to appear in iMessage (thus "splitting the thread") for the receivers. For the sender, everything would appear to be the same. With a big group of people this became a daily annoyance because it became difficult to follow conversations when different instances or pieces of it showed up in different places. It's a hard problem to describe, especially when receivers can opt to receive messages at multiple email addresses (and if the same person you're conversing with decides to send you something to an alternative address, I believe the message should show up in the same conversation). The reality is that the settings are kind of a mess and talking about this stuff caused a lot of frustration and we eventually gave up.

And we won't even get into the problems that the iMessage for Mac app has. But that was a mess for a whole different reason, the main problem being that it would lock up our Macs when they awoke from sleep as hundreds of messages were downloaded. This is why our team fled to Google Hangouts once those apps became available on iOS (more on that in a minute).

iMessage is fine for its intended use, as an SMS replacement for talking to friends or family one-on-one, but people are treating it as the next Aol. instant messenger. And can you blame people? Our expectations are measured by how fast iMessage is at sending messages. Today's virtual keyboards allow us to rapid fire messages and hold conversations a lot longer than our T9 phones did years ago. The days of traditional slow texting are over.

Google Hangouts has its own problems. The iOS apps in particular aren't terrible aesthetically, but they slow down and I get frustrated waiting for messages to be sent and received a lot. I'm mostly happy with the Chrome extension, except when I play video in the background and the app gets bogged down because of something intensive happening in the browser. The good thing is that we haven't had a problem following conversations and Google's history (especially for images) is fantastic. The bad news is that it's the opposite of iMessage: Hangouts fixes the history and contact stuff, but isn't very good with the sending and receiving part on mobile. It has a desktop app (Chrome extension) that works but mobile apps that struggle. Ugh!


Chaining Tweetbot, Pythonista, Drafts, and iMessage for URLs



Last night, Tweetbot for iOS was updated with support for the Twitter 1.1 API, which, among various requirements, includes the need of linking a tweet's timestamp – the date and time when it was sent – to its unique URL on In Tweetbot, you can now open the tweet detail view and tap on the timestamp to automatically open the Twitter website in your default browser; in terms of interaction, I like this change because it lets me open tweets in Google Chrome with just one tap.

In thinking about the update last night, I realized that:

  • My team and I use iMessage for daily communication;
  • The majority of URLs we share are Twitter URLs;
  • We all use Tweetbot on iOS and OS X;
  • Easier browser access means easier bookmarklet triggering;
  • Drafts can access iMessage.

And I concluded that:

  • I could chain every piece of the puzzle together;
  • Hopefully somebody else will find it useful and adapt the workflow to other similar scenarios.

Therefore, I created a browser bookmarklet, a Python script, and a Drafts action to automate the entire process and demonstrate how you can convert Twitter URLs to tweetbot:// URLs and send text from Pythonista to Drafts.

As usual, I am posting the following workflow as a proof of concept that you can modify and adapt to your needs. For instance, you can change the action that is triggered in Drafts, the x-success parameter that will be triggered, or the way Twitter links are converted to Tweetbot-specific URLs.

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iOS 6: Messages Now Automatically Selects Last-Used International Keyboard For Each Contact

I like to think that sometimes Apple takes a look at the crazy ideas people share about iOS and OS X on Twitter, and picks a couple that they think could be neat additions to the OSes.

In April, I tweeted the following idea:

iMessage should be able of automatically switching international keyboards based on the recipient's language.

The idea came from the fact that I'm constantly switching between the Italian and English keyboards on my devices. For most of my online communications, I use the English keyboard; for my Italian friends, family members, and acquaintances, I obviously use the Italian one. Wouldn't it be neat if iOS could remember the last keyboard used with a contact, so that you wouldn't have to switch keyboards every time?

Like I said, I like to think sometimes Apple listens. As @SiVola told me earlier today on Twitter, the Messages app of iOS 6 is now capable of automatically selecting an international keyboard based on the last one you used in a conversation. So, for instance, when I open a conversation with Chris, the English keyboard will be the active one; when I text my girlfriend, the Italian one will be automatically selected. No need to switch using the "globe" icon.

I tested this with various keyboards on iOS 6, and I can confirm it works. I tested on the latest version of iOS 5 to make sure as well -- this is new to iOS 6 (and I hope it's not a bug!); in my tests, it took 1-2 sent messages for iOS to "remember" the correct keyboard to use. Furthermore, Apple implemented this functionality in a way that it won't affect the keyboard you have selected at a system-wide level: after I've sent a text to my girlfriend, I can open Tweetbot, and the keyboard will be in English just like I left it.

Of all the minor additions and refinements of iOS 6, this is now my favorite one. It's the kind of detail that, to me, makes the experience more natural and fast without complicating my workflow with new menus or options to learn.

Perhaps Apple didn't read my tweet. Or maybe someone did. Whatever the story is -- thanks for this feature, iOS team.

Tip: Handle iMessage Notification Overload with Contact Settings

Since Apple released a public beta of Messages for Mac, we've been having a bit of a notification overload here at MacStories HQ. See, ever since iMessage was released with iOS 5, we've had our own group message with everyone on the MacStories team -- it was a portable water cooler, where we could chat about random things, share silly pictures and even co-ordinate things for the site, even when we were out and about. We used it quite frequently, but things turned for the worse last week when we all got that Messages for Mac beta. What might have been 10 messages in a given time period, suddenly morphed into 50 messages because of the convenience of having iMessage just a click way on our Macs. Things were becoming chaotic and quite distracting, Don had even turned off vibrations — meaning he got no notification for any message, from anyone.

We didn't want to give up on using Messages for Mac, and it was probably going to be a hard task to change our messaging behaviours to limit the number of messages sent, but it was clear this week that we had to do something.

Fortunately, we think we have found a solution. In iOS, Apple includes the ability to change the text tone and ringtone on a per-contact basis. What we did for everyone in the MacStories team, was to change the text tone to "None". You can do this by going into the Contacts app, selecting a contact and tapping the 'Edit' button and scrolling to "text tone".

This now means regardless of whether your phone is on Silent or not, you will not get any noise or vibration to alert you to the new message. There are two downsides to this 'workaround': the first is that you will still get the notification bar flipping down from the top of your screen. The second problem, which could be a deal breaker for some, is that any messages from that person will not cause a vibration or text tone -- important to remember if they are a participant in a few of your group message threads.

There should be another way...

Whilst the ability to change the text tone (and ringtone) on a per-contact basis is really cool (and can be used for a number of other purposes), perhaps there should be another way to control message notifications differently -- especially now that iMessage is bundled in iChat, and may lead to an increased number of messages sent to iOS devices. Specifically I'm talking about muting specific message conversations. This would allow me to mute the message thread that has all of the MacStories members, but still receive notifications from Federico, in case he urgently wanted me to cover something.

Apple could easily implement the option inside the Messages app, simply displaying a mute icon next to each message thread when in the 'Edit' mode. Just like changing the text tone on a per-contact basis, this power-user option wouldn't make the UI messy, because it would only appear in the 'Edit' screen. That way, users could choose between completely muting on a per-contact basis or on a per-message thread basis -- all whilst still receiving notifications for your other messages.

“iChat for iOS” Rumors Revived With New Code Strings Found

In the past few years, Apple has been rumored several times to be building a mobile version of iChat -- its desktop IM communication tool -- for the iPhone and iPad. And in spite of the iMessage protocol being essentially a stripped-down version of iChat for iOS users with typing indicators, attachments and even new features like read and delivery receipts, speculation has always pointed at Apple as being developing a full-featured iChat app for iOS to integrate with IM services like AIM and Jabber, just as iChat on OS X.

New code strings found by developer John Heaton inside iOS 5 (via TUAW) are bringing new life to the mobile iChat rumors. But unlike previous speculation, this code seems to indicate Apple may integrate iChat functions with its existing Phone and Messages apps. Speculation on the "facetimeService", "aimService" and "iMessageService" strings suggests typical IM functions like text and video chat might as well live into a single existing app, rather than be scattered around the system with standalone applications. The Messages app for iOS, in fact, already integrates regular SMS and iMessage, photo and video attachments and group messaging. On the Mac, Apple was rumored to be integrating iMessage into iChat, rather than building a dedicated iMessage app. Putting all the rumors together, could this be an indication of a unified, cross-platform and integrated Messages app coming soon to iOS and OS X with iChat and iMessage functionalities?

Code strings aren't the most reliable indicators of new features to come, as Apple often likes to bury functionalities in code and hide them from public release, even when they're fully working and seemingly ready to go. Speculation on iChat for iOS has been growing strong lately especially after the release of iMessage, and many think it'd only make sense for Apple to least extend iMessage's features to the desktop.

Free and Integrated

Impressive milestone reached by WhatsApp, a free cross-platform messaging solution for iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Nokia phones: [via Ben Brooks]

Coinciding with our planet crossing the 7 billion population mark this week, last week WhatsApp crossed its own milestone for the first time by sending just over 1 billion messages in a single day. Similar to the awe we feel that our planet will now hold over 7 billion people, all of us at WhatsApp are extremely humbled and excited about the future.

I've been using WhatsApp for quite some time to communicate for free -- even though I have a pretty good text messaging plan with my carrier -- with my girlfriend and some close, non-tech savvy friends (who, however, are tech savvy enough to buy apps). WhatsApp sends free messages, but it's a $0.99 app on the App Store. Ever since the release of iOS 5, I've deleted WhatsApp from my iPhone because my girlfriend and those friends have upgraded their iPhones to iOS 5, thus getting the benefits of iMessage.

I have many friends who don't use and don't even like iPhones. But going through my Address Book today -- trying to figure out how many people are using iMessage -- it's amazing to see how every iPhone user I know has upgraded to iOS 5, and how other people I didn't know had iPhones (or iPads, or iPods) are now "turning blue" when creating a new message. Put simply: there's a lot of iMessage going on in my Address Book.

I'm sure WhatsApp will continue to prosper, add features and bet on its cross-platform nature. Keep in mind that BlackBerry users already have BBM, iOS users have iMessage, and Google-loving Android folks are probably using the native Google+ app for some occasional free messaging. Tools like WhatsApp -- and WhatsApp is admittedly the most popular "third-party free messaging app" out there -- clearly still have a market when it comes to cross-platform. They're great if you message with a lot of friends using different phones.

But I'm thinking about people who know their friends are using iPhones, and engage in conversations with them on a daily basis. Free, native and integrated beats "free and third-party" any time for the majority of users when it comes to iOS-to-iOS communication. And it's not like iOS-to-iOS messaging is a rare scenario nowadays, with over 250 million iOS devices out there and quite possibly a large percentage of them being iOS 5-enabled (iOS 5 runs on the older iPhone 3GS, iPod touch 3rd and 4th generation). iMessage works on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. It's free and supports text and media. Apple has got a few minor issues to iron out, but there's no doubt the system has been working well for most users since its release two weeks ago. This should explain my friends' excitement in upgrading to iOS 5, and my surprise in discovering several new iMessage users in my Address Book.

There's difference between "free and third-party" and "free and integrated": whereas free services may have a big initial bang but often fail to make real money in the long term, Apple can leverage free iMessages -- integrated in the native messaging experience -- to sell more devices. iMessage is just one of the features that will make people think "Maybe I should get an iPhone" -- but it's a powerful one. "Free messages between iPhone users" is something even my mom immediately understood.

Frictionless integration. Let's check back on third-party messaging apps in six months.