With iOS 10, Apple brought apps to iMessage. This has unleashed a flurry of jokes, confusion, and completely cluttered message threads.
With iOS 10, Apple revamped iMessage, adding several new features, including an improved Photo Sharing interface, and a variety of new ways to communicate. Similar to the Reply feature on the Apple Watch, you can now doodle and use Digital Touch to send your heartbeat or a “kiss” to a loved one. Totally necessary? No. Overly cheesy. Pretty much. Also kind of cool? Just a little. I’ve been using iOS 10 since the early betas, and I haven’t found myself using this new sharing options too often. Like anything else, it’s nice to know I could if I wanted to.
The largest update to iMessage is the inclusion of the App Store. There are now iMessage specific apps that you can search, purchase, and manage directly inside of your conversation. There’s no denying that the iMessage App Store is littered with Sticker apps, but there are a few that offer new, and meaningful, experiences inside of your messages. Don’t get me wrong, stickers can be cool; especially the Star Wars ones. More or less, they’re a quick cash grab for hundreds (maybe thousands?) of developers out there. I mean, the Backstreet Boys Sticker Pack is $1.99. Really?
One category that is quickly rising in the iMessage App Store is Photo & Video. We are all taking selfies, and Live Photos, and Beme’ing our experiences with others. There is a huge opportunity for app developers to innovate in this space. Work in Progress SRL is one such developer who I feel is down just that with their app Versus. This iMessage apps allows you to select two photos to put up against each other, and allow your friends to vote on them. If you can’t decided what to wear to your dinner party, use Versus to consult all of your friends in a group message. The UI is very intuitive and simple, which is what you want in an app that has one distinct purpose. My fiancé and friends are some of the most indecisive people I know, so I’m sure I’ll be getting plenty of use from Versus.
RPS (Rock Paper Scissors)
If you ask me, there is still no better way to settle a dispute than a good old fashioned round of Rock Paper Scissors. In fact, Dan and I resort to RPS at least twice a week to decide who is going to drive to lunch. I kid you not, as soon as the iMessage App Store launched, the first thing I searched for was a Rock Paper Scissors app, and I didn’t even blink at spending the $.99 for the app from Talkabout Design LLC. The premise is simple, select your play and challenge your opponent. They choose their play, and you’re both alerted of who won. The games are really quick. Mostly because you don’t stand around arguing whether you go on Scissors, or Shoot, or 1-2-3, or Spock, or whatever crazy variation you play. I would just like to go on record that I am, as of right now, still currently undefeated. Just saying.
Fandango is one of those apps that I always have downloaded on my phone. It doesn’t fit into that bucket of apps I can de-download when I need them; and I don’t even use it that often. I love movies and I love the theatre experience, especially since my local theatre added recliners. I might not get to the theatre as much as I used to, but every time I do, I always go to Fandango. It’s so easy to select your theatre and move, reserver your seats, and you can bypass the ticket window line. Coupled with Apple Watch and the Apple Watch, it’s one of the best app experiences ever (I’d say it’s tied with the Starbucks app for first overall). Now, with the iMessage app for Fandango, they’ve made it even easier to suggest movies to friends, coordinate a showtime, and even purchase your tickets right from the conversation. This is one of the apps that doesn’t seem totally necessary at first, but once you use it, you’ll almost always go to it first.
Installing the Fandango app for iOS will automatically include the iMessage app. If you don’t see it in your iMessage apps, go to the “Store” and select “Manage” to enable it.
Let’s say before you go see a movie with friends, you all want to grab dinner. Typical scenario. If your group of friends is anything like mine, you will spend 20 minutes standing in a circle in a driveway trying to decide where to go. Luckily, much like the Fandango app, the OpenTable app now ships with an iMessage companion app that makes this process super easy. You can hop right into OpenTable, select a handful of restaurant options based on the available reservation times for your party size, then send them off to your friends in a group chat and have them vote on where they’d like to go. It will also limit them to selecting a single option, so (hopefully) it will force them to make up their minds. I've been using OpenTable more and more lately, so I'm sure this new iMessage app will become part of my normal rotation.
I'm a sports guy. Have you seen the "Friends Don't Small Talk" commercials from NFL.com Fantasy Football? Yeah, that's exactly how I feel.
So naturally, any way that allows me to share more sports content, and provide context into a conversation, I'm all for. I'll be honest, the ESPN iMessage app is a little light. It more of less just allows you to send a score to another person. I'm not 100% sure when that will be valuable; if they had enough time to text you and ask what the score was, they could have just looked it up themselves. Unless you were trying to start a conversation with, "Hey! Did you see how badly the Browns beat the Redskins this week?!" You could then ship off the score with that tag line. I hope that's the case come this Sunday, because I am absolutely going to do that.
The real value in the ESPN iMessage app is after you select the score that was sent to you. This more-or-less opens the full ESPN app inside of iMessage giving you quick access to stats and highlights. So while the initial info sharing might not appear that useful, it's really just a tool to more quickly access in-depth information. Try it out tomorrow night in your group messages during Thursday Night Football.
Let me start off by saying that this is an app I've been waiting for, but that I feel it also has a long way to go.
I have a somewhat large group of friends, who fortunately still gets together fairly frequently. Depending on what the planned activity is, a few of us may not be able to make it, but there's usually at least 1 other person who is in for whatever it is. The I'm In app for iMessage from 2Geeks allows you to send an invite out to a group and see how many people are interested. Not sure who's gonna be in to hit up the Indians game tonight? Create an event in I'm In to gauge the crowd. The concept is simple, yet immensely useful.
I say this app has a long way to go because the options are fairly limited. They have you select from a predefined list of images in order to make the event message visually appealing, but there are only a couple free options and none of them seem to fit the occasion. The other big shortcoming is that you do not have the ability to select a time. I don't know about you, but whether I'm In or not is strongly dependent upon the time of the event.
I will continue to use I'm In as a general event planner, but I'd really like to see it be developed a little more.
UPDATE: 2Geeks has published an update to I'm In which adds the ability to set a time for your events. It also includes a $.99 Premium Upgrade which will allow you to sync your calendar and import your own images for the events. These are the two features I thought were missing. Now with them added, I am going to be using I'm In more and more.
I almost forgot about this app, just because of how seamless it is. The Apple Music iMessage app has been around since the early iOS 10 betas. Even early on, it never felt like a work in progress, or feature lacking. It is very direct in it's purpose, and even surprises me with the features it does offer. How often have you been listening to a song that made you think of someone and wanted to share it with them? Happens to me all of the time. Skeptical of which music service they may be using, I normally just text them and tell them to check out a song instead of linking them directly to it. Now, with the Apple Music iMessage app, I always send them a link. Regardless of whether they're an Apple Music or Spotify subscriber, if you have iMessage, you can send a full song through the conversation for that someone to listen to. It will play directly in the iMessage conversation, leaving you right in the context of the chat. If you want to add it to your library, check lyrics, or buy it, you can navigate away right from the "widget" which is super convenient. If you haven't checked this app out by now, you need to! It makes sharing as easy as it always should be.
So that's a handful of iMessage apps I've found to be pretty great amidst all of the sticker packs and GIF keyboards. What iMessage apps are you using? Sound off in the comments below!