Last year, Apple launched mini apps for iMessage in a bid to liven up its default messaging app and fend off competition from third-party alternatives—but are any of these add-ons actually any good? We went deep to look for iMessage apps that offer something genuinely useful or fun (or both).
One of the clever new features recently added to Google Maps is the ability to share real-time journey updates with your contacts, and ETA lets you do the same for iMessage: your friends can see where you’re headed, how you’re getting there, and when you’ll show up. The iMessage plugin is part of a full-fledged iOS app with some cool extra features, like the ability to launch navigation directions in Apple Maps, Google Maps, or Waze.
Fandango Movies is one of the big-name iOS apps with an iMessage extension, and it does exactly what you would expect if you’re already familiar with the ticketing app: It lets you sort out trips to the movies with your iMessage buddies. You can see local show times, lists of new films, and book tickets right inside the app, which means your tedious group chats about which flick to go and see at the weekend can get resolved faster than ever.
One of those quirky, fun little apps that Microsoft seems to throw everywhere now, Who’s In lets you plan events with friends, which makes it perfect for iMessage. Simply pick an activity, like visiting a restaurant or watching a movie, and everyone in the chat can indicate if they’re coming or not. If you’re at a loss for what exactly to do, a built-in Bing search can help you narrow down the options.
If you’re in a foreign country, a translation app can be indispensable. Instant Translate ticks most of the boxes you’re going to need: support for a host of languages, offline history, speech recognition, autocorrect built-in, and all the flexibility you need to make yourself understood. In iMessage, simply choose your language then start typing what you want to say to see a translation.
Have a browse around the iMessage App Store and you’ll notice quite a few poll-making tools that allow you to survey the opinions of the people you’re chatting with. Despite being very simple, Emoji Poll works exactly as advertised without any of the quirks of clunkier alternatives.
Liven up those otherwise dull iMessage conversations with animated gifs, prominently featuring your own face. JibJab lets you snap a selfie and then slap it on more than 1,000 different animated clips before spamming your friends with them, and you don’t need to switch to a different app or load up a different keyboard to do it.
Don’t be that guy! Settling your debts is a good way of not souring your friendships. The Square Cash app plugs right into iMessage, making the process of pushing some dollars to your contacts easier than ever. As you’ll know if you’ve used the app before, the lucky recipient of the cash doesn’t even need a Square account, and it’s free to use when paying from standard debit cards and bank accounts.
If you’ve got something to show to your friends that goes beyond a simple scribble, then install Tayasui Sketches. The app is an impressive drawing suite in its own right, and the iMessage plugin gives you many of the same features right inside your conversation threads—you get a choice of brush styles, colors, and text tools, so you can create eye-catching art without having to switch to an app outside iMessage.
We’ve mentioned JibJab above, but no app does gifs as well as Giphy does them, and its iMessage add-on is almost as much fun as the main app. Run a search for anything you like and you get dozens of excellent gifs or animated stickers to entertain your iMessage pals with.
Some of the best iMessage apps are games you can use to while away the time with your chat partners. Let’s Puck It! is one of the best. The gameplay is based around the simple-but-addictive Pong template, the graphics are slick, and the app comes with a few fun extras—such as the option to set the stakes for the game (like buying a round of beers) before play starts.