Apple did a big upgrade to Messages in iOS 10. But did the company overload Messages with too many new features?
Eye on Apple
By Jim Lynch, CIO
Some of iOS 10’s most notable changes can be found in the Messages app. Apple, wanting to compete with Snapchat and other popular messaging apps, pulled out all the stops in adding new features to Messages.
I’ll share my own thoughts below, but if you aren’t familiar with Messages’ new features in iOS 10, check out this overview from Macworld:
Apple worked for an entire year on a new file system, but according to Craig Federighi, “every time we’d add a couple new emoji, it would be the biggest thing.” So, in iOS 10 emojis are three times bigger. Not only that, but Apple added a handful of visual tricks to Messages, and transformed iMessage into a platform for third-party apps.
If sending an emojified message is not enough to grab your friend’s attention, you can rely on all-new bubble effects and full-screen visuals. After typing your message, press down on the blue up-arrow on the right of the input field. That will take you a “send with effect” page where you can slide up to select your text to appear as “Gentle” like a whisper, “Loud” as if you’re yelling, or “Slam” down on the screen. Here, you can also choose “Invisible Ink” to send a hidden message or photo that the recipient can reveal by swiping away the particles.
A feature that originated on the Apple Watch has come to iOS 10. Tap on the icon with the heart and the two fingers that sits on the right of the input field to access Digital Touch. Here, you can doodle and insert animations on either a black canvas or on a photo or video. Select from seven colors on the right of the canvas and you can use one finger to sketch, hold two fingers to create a beating heart, tap gently to create a vanishing circle made out of particles, tap with two fingers to create lips, drag down with two fingers to create a broken heart, and press down to create a glowing burst. You can tap on the camera icon on the left to add all these animations to a selfie, too.
Perhaps the most profound change iOS 10 brings to Message is the integration of third-party integrations, turning iMessage into a platform. Access your iMessage app drawer by tapping on the icon right next to the input field on the left. The launch iMessage apps include Recents, Music, and Images. As with iOS apps, you can press down on them to make them wiggle and rearrange them or delete them.
As you can tell from the Macworld article, Messages in iOS 10 is full of new features. Alas, the new features and interface changes in Messages are not being welcomed by everybody. Some iOS 10 users are wondering if Apple goofed by engaging in feature overload in Messages.
A recent thread on Reddit illustrates the fine line Apple had to walk between adding new features and avoiding massive interface clutter in Messages:
SkyGuy182: “With all of the new features added to Messages, everything just seems way too crowded. The app seems to have lost its former elegance and simplicity, which is disappointing. Does anyone else feel the same?”
Wiclif: “I feel exactly the same. The new messages apps looks like Line or WeChat, something to please the chinese market.”
Thatsnotpc: “It looks cluttered and foreign to most US users for sure. But it doesn’t follow that it’s “for China”. Apple has very little probability of supplanting WeChat or LINE. Both of these apps have super high penetration (LINE is on 94% of smartphones in Japan, whereas iMessage usage is anecdotally way lower).
Also WeChat and LINE are on more than one platform. There are rumors about iMessage for Android, nevertheless WeChat and LINE have crazy lock in. Apple is more likely vying with Facebook Messenger for the next generation chat app crown in markets other than Japan and China.”
Banelingz: “Young people, including those in the states, like extra funkiness in their chat apps. That’s why Facebook and Snapchat’s messaging has been so popular. That’s of course in addition to Line and Wechat you mentioned.
It’s absolutely absurd to think Apple is changing its entire message app ‘to appeal to the Chinese’, which isn’t even a significant part of their income. It’s like Americans blaming China for ‘taking er jerbs’ or the British blaming immigration for their own woes.
If anything Apple sees the trend, and sees what young people like, and they want to jump on it so that iMessage does not become irrelevant.”
Cnhajzwgz: “As a Chinese I would say Apple is jumping on the same boat as Snapchat (and maybe even Facebook) rather than WeChat or Line. The UI still looks western enough to not invoke the image of these two apps at first sight.”
Techie404: “What I would do firstly is to shrink down the top bar back to how it used to be, by putting the picture besides the person’s name and not on top, and also auto-hide the buttons. Maybe, on first use, they should provide a hint saying “Press this button for media and apps”. Keep it simple, without sacrificing all the new-found power underneath.”
BertBrecht: “I dont understand why they had to add so much stuff. I mean a select subset would’ve been fine in order to catch up with other apps but they crammed every random gimmick they could possibly find in there.
Stickers, gifs, invisible ink (wtf?), drawings, heartbeat, fireworks, slams. Wtf is all that?”
Tarpit_Carnivore: “A small problem I’m starting to have with iOS apps is they feel like they’re cramming new features into an old design. Rather than redesign iMessage/Messages to accommodate this, they just shoved it in. I felt the same with Apple Music on iOS 9.”
Slandeh: “The stickers are entirely optional as it’s actually an installed app that you can remove.
Invisible ink/slams/fireworks are all hidden behind a menu, so you as a typical user who doesn’t want these would never see them, and the heartbeat is also the same way.
I don’t understand where this “it’s too cluttered” opinion comes from because it looks exactly the same as before, but there’s a pull over arrow to the left of the message box. Some of the features I feel, yes, are gimmicky, but at least it’s not cluttered with an extreme amount of buttons.”
Kingfang: “…Aside from the bugs, iOS10 has been great, and I love all the extra flair added to iMessages. I love the recently played music, stickers, drawing, handwriting, and all the little animations added to everything that just enhance how interacting with messages is. Especially like the “responses” to messages.”
I’ve been running iOS 10 on my 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and my iPhone 6s Plus. So far I’ve found myself really enjoying the new Messages app. It needed some serious upgrades in terms of features and it got them in iOS 10.
Apple did a very good job at adding new features without forcing them to be seen by users at all times. If you don’t want to use the new features, it’s quite possible to simply ignore them and just use basic text messaging.
I know that some folks might still find it annoying if the people they know make use of those features, but there’s not much that Apple can do about that. Each of us chooses to use the features in Messages that we like.
So far my favorite new feature in Messages in iOS 10 is the rich media link previews. It’s so nice to see a headline and image when sending or receiving a link. It makes it easy to get a feel for the content that is being linked to and it’s much easier on the eyes than a bland text link.
People will get used to Messages in iOS 10
I suspect that most people will quickly get used to all of the new features in Messages in iOS 10. Oh sure, initially some people will bark about this feature or that feature. But give it a few weeks and most people will quickly adjust and integrate the new features into how they use the Messages app.
My own feeling, after using Messages in iOS 10, is that I could not go back to the old version of Messages. The new features are just too useful and, in some cases, just too fun not to have them on my iOS devices.
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