iMessage: 9 features not to be missed in Apple’s messaging platform

There’s just something about addictive blue bubble by iMessage. I switch between countless Android devices all year round, but iMessage is so appealing to me that I just can not leave iPhone.

To be clear, it’s not because I’m looking down on the green bubble text messages I’m receiving from my Android-using friends. That’s because group conversations are better in iOS, and it is not possible to share full size photos and videos via regular sms.

To me, Apple’s chat platform feels much more complete, and it’s largely thanks to the large selection of useful features that go beyond just writing a message and sending a link with. Here’s a list of my favorite iMessage features and how to use them.

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iMessage is an important part of the Apple experience, and rightly so!

Jason Cipriani / CNET

Tailor your iMessage settings to work for you

It’s a good idea to open the Messaging Settings screen and spend a few minutes reviewing the various options and customizing how Messaging works. Most importantly, double check your sending and receiving settings.

I can not tell you how many times I have been asked why some messages appear on a Mac or iPad ($ 289 at Amazon), but not an iPhone – or vice versa. Fortunately, this is an easy solution: Do not use your email addresses, just use your phone number in Send and receive section of the message Settings.

Or if you do not have an iPhone but use iMessage on a Mac and iPad, make sure your Send & Receive settings look identical. I have a thorough review of that process here.

The rest of the settings determine things like e.g. whether read receipts are for each iMessage conversation, whether you want text messages (the green bubbles) forwarded to your other Apple devices or stored on your iPhone, how long you want to keep messages on your device, and so on. Spend a few minutes, reviewing each option and deciding how you want messages to behave.

If you are new to iMessage and are unsure how to turn it on, skip to the bottom of the post. We cover the process there.

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Messages in iCloud keep everything synchronized and backed up.

Jason Cipriani / CNET

Back up iMessages via iCloud

Having a constant backup of your iMessage conversations that sync across all your Apple devices is another one of my favorite benefits of Apple’s messaging platform. Apple uses iCloud to back up and sync your Messaging conversations (it also includes text messaging).

The short version of the instructions is this: Open Settings > tap on your name> iCloud and be sure to switch next to it Messages is on.

Remember that if you delete a conversation from one device, it will be deleted from all your devices. It also means that if you chose to have conversations only stored for 90 days, then your iCloud backup of messages will follow suit.

We go into details about Messaging in iCloud and how to enable it on your Mac here.

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Messaging is a robust app with lots of hidden features.

Jason Cipriani / CNET

Hide alerts, block numbers from sending you messages and more

Sending and receiving messages in the Messages app is easy enough, and it’s also easy to separate iMessages from text messages – if the messages you send are green, it’s a text message. If the bubble is blue, talk to another iMessage user.

We have a overview of 10 tips that will take you beyond the basics of sending and receiving messages. You can e.g. turn off individual conversations by swiping left across the conversation and selecting Hide warnings; especially useful if you are in a noisy group that can not help but talk about yesterday’s football match.

Also, be sure to take advantage of the new search feature. You can search the Messages app for pictures, links, attachments, and text in a conversation. Just open the Messages app and tap the search bar at the top.

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You can use Apple Cash to pay people through the Messages app on your iPhone.

Patrick Holland / CNET

Send money to iPhone users through Apple Pay – it’s like Venmo

You can send and receive money using Apple Pay in an iMessage conversation, just as you can with Venmo or Square Cash.

The process is simple – setup Apple Pay Cash and link a debit card to your account. With the Apple Pay setup, you can use the Apple Pay app inside iMessage to pay rent, request money from a friend to share a dinner bill, or use it to randomly send someone enough cash to cover a cup of coffee.

You will also notice that when you send a message to someone containing a dollar amount, the number will be underlined, meaning you (or the recipient) can tap it to start Apple Pay with the number already filled out. It’s pretty cool.

There’s a lot more to it, though fortunately we have a complete guide to answer any lingering questions.

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The confetti screen effect is probably my favorite, but I need to use it more.

Jason Cipriani / CNET

Make your iMessage personality up to 11

Did you know that you can add lively animations and fun stickers to your messages? It is true. Another fun tool to use is the emoji converter. After typing your message, press the Emoji button on your keyboard, and iOS will automatically find words that can be converted to emoji. It’s pretty cool and an easy way to use emoji without having to scroll through them all.

Some other fun effects include:

  • Bubble and screen effects for individual messages
  • The ability to drag and drop stickers from Sticker packages into a picture or message
  • Send Memoji and Animoji-speaking messages
  • A built-in image search that returns some of the best GIFs

Find out how to bring as much fun and interaction to your iMessage conversations as possible, and stay tuned as we guide you through all that and more.

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Your iMessage profile allows you to show off your personality.

Jason Cipriani / CNET

Take the time to create a Memoji profile – it’s worth it

When we talk about personality, you may have noticed that you can now set your own profile icons using Memoji. It’s a wealth of fun, incredibly easy to do, and is something that is easily overlooked or skipped when setting up a new iPhone. Not only does it allow you to show your personality through photos or Memoji, but as your friends and contacts configure theirs, the conversation thread in the Messages app will start to look more lively thanks to everyone’s profile photos.

Edit your photo and contact name by opening the Messages app, tapping the three-dot icon in the upper right corner, followed by Edit name and photo. You can then take a picture, use a Memoji, or use a picture from the photo gallery.

In future, every time you update your image or name, the contacts you share your information with will receive a request to use your new image.

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Screenshots by Jason Cipriani / CNET

Only use reading receipts for those who matter

One of my favorite features of iMessage is the ability to disable read receipts for anyone who sends messages to me, yet turn them on for specific contacts. For me, that means I have read receipts 99 percent of the time, with the only exception being my wife and kids so they know I have seen important messages.

That way, if I receive a message from a friend or colleague, I do not feel compelled to respond the moment I open the message, especially when I am in the middle of a task that requires my full attention (which I often do ).

To enable read receipts for individual contacts, open the iMessage thread and then tap your contact’s image at the top of the screen. Then press Info and then turn on Send receipts for reading.

The same option can be used, conversely, by using it to disable read receipts for a specific contact, if you prefer to leave read receipts on for everyone. This means you can disable read receipts for the person who constantly sends messages to you and asks why you let them read while leaving read receipts on for everyone else.

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Chat with companies for help.

Jason Cipriani / CNET

Chat over iMessage with companies for customer service issues

Friends, colleagues and acquaintances are not the only people you can talk to via iMessage. You can also talk to companies for help with things like an order you placed on Newegg, or have a fraudulent transaction reported on your Apple card to Goldman Sachs in the Messages app.

A company that uses Apple Business Chat is easy to spot, where most companies indicate a “Chat with Messages” button on their respective support pages or in their apps. Just tap it to open a conversation. Right now, there is no way to search iMessage for a company name.

You can read more about how Apple Business Chat works here, where you will also find a complete list of companies offering Business Chat services.

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iPhone has a lot of great features, but one of its best is iMessage. Undoubtedly.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Get iMessage set up

When you set up your Apple device – whether it’s an iPhone, iPad or Mac – you’ll be prompted to sign in to your iCloud account with your Apple ID. When you sign in, Apple automatically turns on iMessage and links it to the email address or addresses you use for your Apple ID, as well as your iPhone’s phone number.

If you only use iMessage on a device that does not have a phone number, e.g. a Mac or iPad, iMessage will depend on your email address.

open Settings app on your iPhone or iPad and go to Messages and make sure the contact is highlighted iMessage at the top of the screen is in On position.

Once you have mastered iMessage, be sure to check all of them hidden tricks in iOS 15. And when you’re done with that, look at that which features are still missing.


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Originally released in January 2020 and updated frequently.

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