12 Tips for Taking Advantage of Your Messaging App's Best Features

Messaging is a core feature of your iPhone that lets you connect with friends and family instantaneously, without interrupting whatever activity you're doing. This roundup of tips is all about helping you get the most out of Apple’s Messages app. We’ll cover all of the basics, starting with teaching you the difference between sending an iMessage and a text message. We’ll show you how to include emojis in your texts, how to send videos and photos, and how to manage how you’re notified of incoming messages.


1. Set Up iMessages

With iMessage, you can use your cellular data or Wi-Fi to send texts from your phone number, email address, or Apple ID. To set iMessages up, go to Settings > Messages and toggle iMessage on. Tap Send & Receive within the Messages menu to add another email to be reached by via iMessage and control which (number or email) is used when starting conversations. 



2. Create Emoji Shortcuts

If you use a lot of emojis and would prefer not to have to switch between keyboards, you can create shortcuts for emoji characters by going to General > Keyboard > Text Replacement and then tapping the + in the upper right corner to create a new shortcut. In the Phrase field, enter the emoji you are creating a shortcut for. Tap the ABC icon to switch back to the English keyboard and then enter a word in the Shortcut field and tap Save in the upper right corner. 



3. Use Diverse Emojis

Apple offers different skin tone options for many of its emojis—such as the single human characters and body parts. The first time you tap on one of the 60 different characters, a pop-up menu will show five different skin tones in addition to the default yellow emoji face. Once you select your preferred skin tone, it will be the default skin tone for that particular emoji unless you press and hold the emoji to select a different default skin tone.


4. How to Switch Between Keyboards

To add keyboards, go to Settings > General > Keyboard > Keyboards > Add New Keyboard. From the list, you can add new keyboards or edit them. Tap Edit in the top right to reorder your existing keyboards or delete them. You always have to have one enabled! Once you have a keyboard picked out, you can access them by tapping the globe to the left of the space bar/microphone, or holding down the globe, which gives you a list of the keyboards you’ve added. Simply tap on the one you want to switch to.


5. Create Groups in Messages

To start a Group Message, first make sure Group Messaging is on by going to Settings > Messages and toggling Group Messaging on. Then open the Messages app and tap the new message icon. Tap the blue plus sign to enter the friends you want to add. Then type your message and send it. You’ve started a group message. To add an additional contact to a group message after it’s created, tap Details and then Add Contact. Choose the person from your Contacts list and press Done.


6. Share Video Messages

Did you know you can send video messages directly from the Messages app? To do this, first make sure iMessage is turned on and then select a contact who also has an iPhone. Tap and hold the camera icon to the left of the text box. When you’re ready to start shooting the video, tap the red record button. Tap it again to stop recording. You can preview the video by tapping the play button. To send the video, tap Send. 


7. Use Raise to Listen to Reply to Audio Text

If you receive an audio message, you don't even need to press play—just enable the Raise to Listen feature by going to Settings > Messages on your phone and toggling Raise to Listen on. When you receive an audio message, raise the phone to your ear and the audio message will start playing automatically. After you’ve listened to the message, you’ll also have the option to Raise to Respond.


8. Send and Receive Audio Text Messages

To send an audio message, simply press and hold on the microphone icon to the right of the text entry box in Messages. Lift your finger to end recording. To hear the message playback, press the arrow; to delete the recording, press the X; to send the message, press the up arrow (or swipe up to send the message immediately. 


9. Send International Texts

iMessage lets you text friends (if they have an iPhone) from anywhere in the world for free, as long as you have a Wi-Fi connection. To text internationally via iMessage, first turn off your Cellular Data and then go to Settings > Wi-Fi and check that Wi-Fi is on and connected. Now you're ready to use iMessage from anywhere in the world.


10. Forward Text Messages

To forward a text, open the conversation in Messages containing the text you want to pass on and then double-tap on the body of the message. A black box will appear above the message; tap More and all the messages will shift to the right, with the message you've tapped on selected (you can also select additional texts). Now tap on the bottom right arrow and a new message will open. There will be nothing in the new message to indicate it is a forwarded message, so you will have to add a few words to let your recipient know.



11. Mute Someone Who’s Pestering You

Sometimes particular conversations or individuals can become a bit of a nuisance in Messages — so much so that you'd like to stop receiving notifications for that conversation. Fortunately, you can turn on Do Not Disturb for any particular conversation by opening the conversation that you'd like to mute and then tapping on Details at upper right. From there, you can toggle on the Do Not Disturb button. 


12. Shake to Undo Actions

To delete what you've typed, just give your iPhone a gentle shake and the Undo Typing menu will pop up. Select Undo. If you want to recover typing you just deleted, give your phone another shake and the Redo Typing menu will pop up. This also works in Mail if you accidentally delete an email or save it in the wrong folder.

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Author Details

Rheanne Taylor's picture

Author Details

Rheanne Taylor

Rheanne Taylor is the Video Production Manager of iPhone Life. Before discovering her love for video production, Rheanne was the Managing Editor. In her 6+ years at the company, Rheanne has helped produce 19 issues of iPhone Life magazine, edited countless podcasts, and produced over 1,000 educational videos showing people how to get the most out of their Apple devices. She continues to be a regular contributor to iPhone Life magazine, using her 10+ years of photography experience to create content primarily covering photography tips and photography gear. Rheanne is a passionate photographer both in and outside of work and loves to remind people that they don't need a fancy camera in order to capture beautiful shots—her most recent photography show featured work mainly shot on an iPhone!

Rheanne holds a bachelor's degree in Literature & Writing from Maharishi International University. When she isn't overseeing video content, she loves drinking tea, holding up traffic by taking entirely too many photos of bugs, and hanging out with her Instagram famous cat Wesley (IG: wesley_the_pirate_cat).