Expand Your Messaging App's Powers
iOS 10 introduced a brand new app platform to a familiar place — the iMessage protocol in the Messages app. That's right, you can now install apps directly into Messages, and boy oh boy are there a lot of them, which you can access directly from a store within the messaging app. If you're having trouble finding the signal through the noise, here are a couple dozen that you might want to check out.
It's hard enough to decide which restaurant to go to when you're sitting on the couch; it's even worse trying to do it over text message. OpenTable has added a free iMessage app that tries to simplify the process. Browse a list of restaurants; pick a date, time, and party size; then send them to one or more people who can vote on where to go. You can even make a reservation right from inside Messages.
Making plans can easily spiral out of control, especially when you're considering a variety of options. Minipoll makes that simpler by — as its name suggests — letting you create a simple poll to send to your friends. Allow multiple answers or create private polls where only you can see the responses. Answering polls is always free, and you can create three free polls. For $1.99, you can create as many polls as you want.
You might notice a lot of these apps are about making plans, which should give you some idea of just how hard that is. Doodle, the popular scheduling website, has launched a nifty and free iMessage app to help folks pick dates for plans with a handy calendar interface. Recipients can choose the dates that work for them, and update their answers at a later date.
Sharing a weather forecast can be a handy way to remind someone to bring an umbrella, figure out what you need to pack for your vacation, or even just muse how about you wish you were somewhere else. The $3.99 Carrot Weather app for iOS now includes an iMessage app that lets you send a detailed forecast, accompanied by the app's trademark snark, to your contacts.
When you're trying to arrange a trip to the movies, the Fandango's iMessage app can simplify things. Just browse through to pick the movie you want to go see, then select the theater and the showtime. You and your recipient can even buy tickets for the feature without leaving Messages; movie night has never been easier.
We may not have hit Star Trek's universal translator quite yet — we're getting closer — but the free iTranslate is getting closer and closer. With its iMessage app, you can send a text in a language you don't even know, from Afrikaans to Zulu, or translate a phrase from another language just by copying it. Even dictate your initial phrase using your iOS device's microphone.
Apple already encrypts iMessage end-to-end, but when you absolutely, positively need to be totally certain your messages are secure, an app like Confide is one alternative. It sends encrypted text messages or photos to your contacts, which they can reveal a bit at a time; once messages have been read, they self-destruct. (It doesn't even take five seconds, Mr. Phelps.)
Never mind emoji and stickers: GIFs are the crème de la crème of expressing your reactions. Though Apple includes its own image search iMessage app — even as it works out the kinks — it's hard to stack up against the free Giphy app, which is one of the most prominent repositories of the animated images. Search for the perfect GIF right from Giphy's iMessage app and paste it into your conversation.
Speaking of GIFs, maybe you're looking to share one that's a little more personal. Momento's a clever $1.99 iMessage app that takes a look at your photo library and turns some of your pictures into animated images. All you need to do is pick one and send it along.
Get around, get around, get around town with the free Citymapper's handy iMessage app. It lets you quickly share your current location as well as other locations, such as your home and work addresses, or other places that you've saved to the iOS app. Recipients can then load a map of the location and easily get directions there through Citymapper's iOS app.
OK, we can't completely ignore sticker packs, which have rapidly become one of the most used features in Messages. There are probably hundreds of stickers out there in the Messages App store, but the official $2 Star Wars Stickers is our only hope. There's Lando, Rey, BB-8, and—best of all—a BFF sticker featuring Han and Chewie. You love them. I know.
Sonic the Hedgehog
If you like your stickers geared more toward classic video games than classic sci-fi, check out Sonic the Hedgehog. This mobile recreation of the gaming console platform includes stickers of Sonic and Doctor Robotnik that you can send along to your friends. Best of all, since Sonic the Hedgehog is now part of the Sega Forever program, it's available as a free download.
Wireless providers' data caps have gotten higher, but sending photos and videos back and forth can still eat away at those limits. The free pico is a photo compressor with an iMessage app that lets you shrink down those photos and videos to a manageable size before you send them, as well as strip metadata and location information if you're concerned about privacy.
Can't decide between two things, like which shirt to wear to dinner? Happens to me all the time. The free Versus makes it easy to solicit advice from friends: just pick two images and send them over. Your friends can tap on the option they like better, and you'll see a final tally and an indication of which is the winner.
Do With Me
Sure, there are plenty of iOS apps that let you share to-do lists with people, but many of them require a lot of setup. Do With Me is a free iMessage app that makes it easy to share a list with friends, allowing you all to check off items as you complete them. You can create as many lists as you want, in one or more conversations.
Shoe shopping may not seem like the most obvious candidate for an iMessage app, but hold your tongue. If you're the straight-laced type who treads carefully when picking the perfect piece of footwear, the free iMessage app from online shoes superstore Zappos, which boasts the sole purpose of letting you search its catalog and send results to your friends, may be just the right fit for you.
If you're trying to suggest a good restaurant, coffee shop, or other local business to a friend, it can be a pain to have to bounce back and forth among multiple apps. The iMessage app for the $3.99 Where To? lets you do all that searching without ever leaving Messages. Just type in the place, kind of business, or specific address you're looking for, and it'll drop a map right into your conversation.
Sending money just got a whole lot easier with Square's free Cash for iMessage. Enter a dollar amount you want to send your friend — $5 for last night's beer, for example — and tap Pay. They can redeem it on the other end with a minimum of fuss.
Circle is also offering a way to send money with its free app for iMessage. Just open the app, and select a certain amount—unlike Square, its iMessage account supports cents as well as dollars—then pay away. It even supports transactions in British pounds, Euros, and Bitcoin, in addition to U.S. dollars.
There are plenty of sticker apps for iMessage, but if you're looking for one to channel your internal grammarian, then it's got to be the $0.99 Grammar Snob. Notate messages — your own and, if you're feeling brave, your friends— with these stickers to correct common errors, like "your" for "you're" or "too" for "two." Just be prepared for some annoyed emoji responses.
If sharing podcasts is your jam, then the iMessage app for the $4.99 Castro may be just what you're looking for. Share podcast episodes with friends and even add episodes directly to your listening queue right from Messages.
I enjoy learning about words and sharing that knowledge with my friends — you might say I'm a bit of a logophile. The $2.99 LookUp makes it facile to share the word of the day with a friend, and it has a beautiful illustrated interface to boot.
Want to keep up to date on sports scores and perhaps do a little trash-talking to your friends? ESPN has it covered with its free iMessage app: search for MLB, NBA, NHL, NFL, and soccer scores, and send them to a friend with a tap.
Words With Friends
All work and no play makes for a pretty dull Messages. So why not download a game that's been customized for the messaging app, like the free Words With Friends? You can match wits and word power with your contacts, without ever having to leave Messages — perfect when you want to text someone a celebratory message after your last move consigns them to defeat.