One of the big changes in iOS 10 is that Messages now has apps. You can bolt on all kinds of productivity aids, games and stickers, cluttering up your threads with all manner of madness – and sometimes even usefulness.
But there are already hundreds of apps available, so how can you possibly know which ones to try? By reading our list below – that’s how.
Assembly starts out as a bunch of nicely designed, somewhat arty stickers, herded into categories like Doodles, Food and Pop Icons. But the magic really happens in the parent app, where you make your own stickers. The process is a bit like a modern take on fuzzy felt shapes. It’s intuitive and immediate, but there’s enough depth to create mini masterpieces for slapping on your messages.
Download Assembly (free + optional IAP)
There are loads of weather apps for sending forecasts to friends, but most are pretty dull. Carrot, though, dials up the snark, due to being ‘hosted’ by a malevolent AI hell-bent on the destruction of the human race. While biding its time, it’ll sort forecasts for you (with decidedly oddball illustrations and commentary), and send the week’s outlook to a friend. All this happens without leaving Messages.
Download Carrot Weather (£2.99)
If you feel cash is a bit old-hat but owe a friend some money, Circle Pay is a great way to cough up by way of an app. Link a card, send as much money as you want, and bask in the lack of fees. Previously, this required the Circle Pay app; now, you can hurl virtual money at anyone you’re chatting to in Messages.
Download Circle Pay (free)
Inside Messages, Citymapper gives you fast access to saved locations and also any recent or favorite searches made in the app itself. These can then be sent on to contacts in Messages – handy for meeting up somewhere, or just showing off when you happen to be somewhere nice and they’re at work. Regardless, a tap on a tempting GO button launches Citymapper so they can make their way to you with smile or a steely glare, as appropriate.
Download Citymapper (free)
Digital dumping ground Evernote is used by millions of people to save to-dos, notes, scans, and bits of audio, in the hope of making sense of it all by way of tags and searches. Within Messages, you can quickly get at recent documents and search your entire archive, before lobbing a note a contact’s way.
Download Evernote (free + optional IAP)
Make some searches in the Trainline UK app and they then become available within Messages. This is handy if you live in Messages yourself and need to know the next train to somewhere you regularly go. But also you can share these details with contacts, who can follow your journey’s progress within Messages (assuming you didn’t miss the train when faffing about on your iPhone).
Download Trainline UK (free)
If you’re on Team Lynne Truss and can’t stand friends who haven’t fathomed the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’, have your revenge using the Grammar Snob sticker set, correcting their messages while laughing maniacally. An added benefit is the likelihood of fewer distracting messages once said contacts decide to no longer be your friends, on account of your dogged determination that no-one should incorrectly use 'less' instead of ‘fewer’.
Download Grammar Snob (79p)
WIT • Puzzles
We’re not convinced by games in Messages just yet, but WIT (“What is This?”) is rather lovely. You load a photo from Camera Roll, drag across it to define a grid size, and tap Shuffle. A brief upload later and you can share the result in Messages (and delete the original if you’ve privacy concerns). Your contact can then spend five minutes dragging bits of a photo around before spending a further five minutes wondering why you sent them a semi-randomised photo of a burger.
Download WIT • Puzzles (free)
Words with Friends (free)
OK, so on the games thing we’ll make an exception for Words With Friends, or ‘Not Scrabble, Honest’, which is a pretty accurate description of this tile-based word game. You don’t need a login and can play entirely within Messages – great for those people who ‘forget’ about games in the app itself. Bow you can just bug them in Messages until they give in or stop talking to you entirely.
Download Words with Friends (free)
This app replaces your keyboard in Messages. A flags button denotes which languages the app will translate between, and then you simply tap out words and let iTranslate perform its magic. If you’re feeling lazy, you can dictate rather than type, and if both people have the app installed, there’s the potential for two-way real-time communication. It’s a Babel fish, essentially, apart from the bit where it fits in your ear. (iPhones are too big – we tried.)
Download iTranslate (free + optional IAP)
Loop by Seedling
Apple bundles its own app for inserting amusing and probably also entirely inappropriate animated GIFs into a conversation, but Loop gives you the means to create your own. Take a series of photos (overlaying the previous one if you’ve gone all Aardman and are crafting a stop-motion masterpiece), select a filter, fiddle with FPS settings and – boom – instant adulation! Or at least a possibly nice reply from the recipient.
Download Loop by Seedling (free)
Message threads about where to eat are often full of links, procrastination, and arguments about whether or not ice cream is a suitable meal for grown-ups. OpenTable adds focus and democracy when finding somewhere to eat: pick a location, select some restaurants (along with a time, date, and how many will be going), and then vote, directly in Messages. You can also book if a minor miracle occurs, several people actually agreeing on the same place.
Download OpenTable (free)