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Posts tagged with "iMessage"

The iMessage App Store and Paid Stickers

Ortwin Gentz, one of the developers behind Where To, has noticed that the majority of iMessage apps and sticker packs in the top charts seem to be paid ones. He collected some numbers from the iMessage App Store and concluded:

The distribution of business models is even more interesting. In contrast to the iOS App Store where freemium titles dominate the top-grossing charts, the overwhelming revenue in the iMessage App Store comes from paid titles. This reminds me of the early days of the App Store where In App Purchase wasn’t even available.

Probably the #1 reason for this is the lack of IAP in no-code sticker packs. These sticker packs consist only of the actual artwork and are easy to create for designers who don’t want to code.

Currently, basic sticker packs – the ones that only require dropping a bunch of image files into Xcode – can't offer In-App Purchases. As soon as Apple offers an integrated solution to bring In-App Purchases to iMessage sticker packs without writing code, I have no doubt we'll see the iMessage App Store follow the "Free with In-App Purchases" model of the iOS App Store.

Unless Apple is deliberately pushing artists towards paid packs because they do not want to repeat what happened with the App Store? The perception of sticker packs right now reminds me of the early days of the App Store – that good work is worth paying for.

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Sticker Pals Messages Sticker Pack

When we published our roundup of iMessage apps and sticker packs yesterday, we had to leave out one of our favorite sticker packs because it hadn't cleared App Review yet. Fortunately, Sticker Pals from Impending was approved last night.

Sticker Pals, which features illustrations from David Lanham, is the single most ambitious sticker pack I've tested with hundreds of stickers divided into categories accessible from buttons along the top row of the sticker viewer. The first four buttons access animated character sets. The other two buttons are a combination of static and animated ’playsets,’ which include things like hats, beards, googly eyes, and food. I've had a lot of fun with these stickers, especially when combined with other stickers.

Sticker Pals also has a store where you can spend coins to collect new stickers or send sticker gifts to friends. The coins and gifts are replenished periodically throughout the day at no charge giving you a reason to return to Sticker Pals over and over, collecting new stickers each time. You can also purchase additional character sets and playsets as In-App Purchases; currently Sticker Pals offers one of each.

Sticker Pals, with its standard set of stickers, is available for as a free download from the iMessage App Store. Additional character packs are $1.99 and new playsets are $0.99.


Messages Apps and Sticker Packs Roundup

Messages started life as an innovative app that unified SMS with Apple’s own free iMessage service when it was introduced five years ago. As time passed, Messages fell behind many of its competitors like Facebook Messenger, Telegram, WhatsApp, LINE, WeChat, and others.

With the introduction of iOS 10, Apple has made up substantial ground with Messages while upholding its commitment to customer privacy. Few third-party developers would have imagined even a couple of years ago that Apple would open up one of its most important first-party apps to them, but that is precisely what Apple has done with iOS 10.

In the process of unlocking Messages, Apple has created a whole ecosystem of apps and sticker packs with their own dedicated store built right into Messages. Developers immediately sensed an opportunity and an all-new land rush is in full swing.

Over recent weeks, Federico and I have tested dozens of iMessage apps and sticker packs, exchanged hundreds of stickers, made interactive to-do lists, played games, edited photos, and much, much more. Some of the things we’ve tried are highlighted in Federico’s iOS 10 review to illustrate particular aspects of the Messages app, but we’ve seen so many interesting apps and stickers, we wanted to share them with readers in one place.

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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.)

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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 schema.org 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.

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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: imessage.spam@icloud.com

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.

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‘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!

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Chaining Tweetbot, Pythonista, Drafts, and iMessage for URLs

DraftsMessages

DraftsMessages

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 twitter.com. 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.