iOS 14: Every­thing new in the Mes­sages app

Mes­sages in iOS 14 fo­cuses on or­ga­niz­ing your mes­sage list and keep­ing track of group mes­sages. Ja­son Cross re­ports

iPad&iPhone user - - CONTENTS -

In many ways, Mes­sages is the most im­por­tant app on the iPhone. Ob­vi­ously, send­ing and re­ceiv­ing texts is one of the most pop­u­lar uses for smart­phones, and it is a nec­es­sary part of many two‑fac­tor au­then­ti­ca­tion set‑ups. But iMes­sage – the blue‑bub­ble In­ter­net mes­sag­ing plat­form in­tro­duced in iOS 5 – is a crit­i­cal part of the Ap­ple ecosys­tem. It solved a lot of the prob­lems with tex­ting at a crit­i­cal time, and it is

im­por­tant that Ap­ple con­tin­ues to make the ‘blue bub­ble’ as mean­ing­ful as pos­si­ble.

With each new re­lease of iOS, Ap­ple makes some im­prove­ments to Mes­sages. This year, iOS 14 will bring sev­eral wel­come new fea­tures that rec­og­nizes the way peo­ple use it to­day. The fo­cus is on or­ga­niz­ing an in­creas­ingly big list of mes­sages, and more clearly car­ry­ing on group con­ver­sa­tions. When you up­grade to iOS 14 this au­tumn (or par­tic­i­pated in the iOS 14 beta) these are the fea­tures you’ll find.

Bet­ter mes­sage fil­ter­ing

In iOS 13, you can fil­ter Mes­sages from un­known senders by go­ing to Set­tings > Mes­sages and turn­ing on Fil­ter Un­known Senders. This will put iMes­sages

re­ceived from peo­ple who aren’t in your con­tacts into a sep­a­rate tab and stops you from get­ting no­ti­fi­ca­tions from them. Any SMS mes­sage or iMes­sage from some­one in your con­tacts will go into a sep­a­rate tab and still gen­er­ate mes­sages.

With iOS 14, Ap­ple im­proves both the logic and the in­ter­face for this. With Fil­ter Un­known Senders en­abled, you will see a Fil­ters se­lec­tion in the up­per left cor­ner of the Mes­sages screen. Tap that and you can switch be­tween three views: All Mes­sages, Known Senders, and Un­known Senders.

Known Senders is a list of both iMes­sages and SMS mes­sages from peo­ple in your Con­tacts, as well as those from num­bers you have re­cently called or sent the

first text to. You don’t need to add the plum­ber to your con­tacts if you called them and then got a text later on. Un­known Senders in­cludes every­thing else, such as all those SMS ver­i­fi­ca­tion codes and spam texts.

Pinned con­ver­sa­tions

We get so many mes­sages these days that the con­ver­sa­tions with peo­ple we most want to reach are of­ten buried sev­eral screens down. Rather than hunt­ing for your most im­por­tant con­ver­sa­tions, you can pin them. You can swipe a con­ver­sa­tion to the right to pin it, or long‑press and choose the Pin op­tion. You can pin up to nine con­ver­sa­tions, and they’ll ap­pear in cir­cles at the top of your screen. Long‑press one to un­pin it.

Pinned con­ver­sa­tions sync across iPhone, iPad and macOS (af­ter the Big Sur up­date).

In­line replies

It can be hard to keep track of replies in group mes­sages, or to re­ply to a mes­sage that some­one sent ear­lier in your con­ver­sa­tion.

In iOS 14, you can long‑press on any mes­sage and choose ‘re­ply’ to cre­ate an in­line or ‘threaded’ re­ply. It will show up as the most re­cent mes­sage as it nor­mally would, but users on iOS 14 will see the orig­i­nal mes­sage as well, with a lit­tle bracket con­nect­ing it, and a list of how many replies are in the thread. You can tap those to see and read the en­tire in­line con­ver­sa­tion.

The in­ter­face and de­sign for this can be con­fus­ing, and Ap­ple may pol­ish it a bit be­fore re­lease, but it’s less con­fus­ing than try­ing to keep track of what ev­ery­one is talk­ing about in a six‑per­son group mes­sage.

Men­tions

A key part of most group chat soft­ware is the abil­ity to grab some­one’s at­ten­tion with a ‘men­tion’ or ‘namecheck’. Now iMes­sages can do that, too.

Just type the name of any­one in the mes­sage and it will turn grey. Tap it to see a lit­tle name icon, and se­lect that to turn their name into a Men­tion. It will light up blue with a fancy an­i­ma­tion.

You can also sim­ply type @name and it will im­me­di­ately be­come a Men­tion.

What’s the point? Well, group texts can re­ally blow up your no­ti­fi­ca­tions. It’s not un­com­mon for peo­ple to long‑press on a group mes­sage con­ver­sa­tion and choose ‘hide alerts’ or swipe from right to left and tap on the bell icon. With Men­tions, you have the op­tion (in Set­tings > Mes­sages > No­tify Me) to hide no­ti­fi­ca­tions for chats but still get one only when you are men­tioned.

Cus­tomized groups

Groups no longer have to ex­ist as a string of names in your mes­sage con­ver­sa­tion list – in iOS 14 you can name them.

Sim­ply open a group text, tap the round icon at top, and choose Info. From the Info page you’ll have the op­tion to change the name and photo of your chat group, us­ing a photo, bold text or Emoji and Me­moji. The name and im­age will up­date for ev­ery­one else in the group. When peo­ple in the group chat, their im­ages will show up around the edge of the group icon, with the most re­cent per­son to talk a lit­tle big­ger and even a pre­view of their mes­sage. It’s a good way to get a vis­ual in­di­ca­tor of the group ac­tiv­ity when you don’t

have no­ti­fi­ca­tions en­abled for it and aren’t check­ing up on it con­stantly.

Emoji search

While it’s not specif­i­cally a Mes­sages thing, the iPhone key­board in iOS 14 adds a fea­ture that will prob­a­bly be used in Mes­sages more than any other app: a

search bar for the Emoji picker. Yes, the Emoji picker how has a search bar on top, so you don’t have to type a word in your text and then hope that the Emoji you want comes up in the pre­dic­tive text line or else scroll through pages of lit­tle yel­low faces to find what you’re look­ing for.

And it’s pretty smart, too: it doesn’t just look for a spe­cific name, but sur­faces all rel­e­vant Emoji. A search term like ‘birth­day’ brings up the birth­day cake and birth­day face, but also the bal­loon, present, con­fetti, and so on.

Fil­ter­ing mes­sages is smarter, and there are no tabs to get in your way

Pin con­ver­sa­tions so you don’t have to go scrolling to find the ones you use most

In­line mes­sages can be a lit­tle con­fus­ing, but not nearly as much as con­ver­sa­tions with no threads at all

Men­tions will let you ig­nore a group text un­til some­one grabs your at­ten­tion

Groups can have cus­tomized names and im­ages, and the lat­est ac­tiv­ity shows around the edge

The Emoji picker fi­nally has its own search, and it’s re­ally good

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