With iOS 10, Apple gave iMessage a much-needed upgrade to the 21st century of messaging. Numerous competitors have blazed trails with all sorts of innovative features, from stickers to ride-sharing, and even built-in mini-apps and games. Billions of people have been using these apps—such as Line, WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger—for years, and Apple has finally responded in the most Apple way possible—by building a full platform for iMessage stickers and apps.
But how do we download iMessage apps? Once we do, how do we use them? And what are these newfangled ‘stickers’ anyway? I’m glad you asked. Let’s explore the basics of how to find, manage, and use iMessage apps and stickers.
1. What are stickers and apps?
The first thing to clear up is that the iMessage App Store stocks two types of products: apps and stickers. When people talk about them in a broad sense though, they may simply refer to both as “iMessage apps” to cut down on syllables.
iMessage apps are a lot like regular apps—they can do things like make lists, grab content from the internet, play games, even buy things with Apple Pay. The big deal is that, instead of switching in and out of other apps, you use iMessage apps right inside your conversations (note: you need blue bubbles for iMessage apps to work, not green).
iMessage stickers are kinda like jumbo-sized emoji, but with some neat perks. First, they can be animated in delightful ways, though not all will be; sticker makers usually state this somewhere. Second, an Apple innovation is that you and your iMessage recipients can tap-and-drag stickers on top of each other in the conversation, or even onto text messages. Third, like emoji, stickers originated largely in Japan, where they’ve been immensely popular for years. Line, for example, has had Stars Wars stickers for at least the last three years I’ve used it. Paul McCartney has a pack there, too. Not kidding.
The point is: while emoji took quite a while to catch on in the US, then a while longer to go mainstream, companies have been well versed in stickers already. If there isn’t already an iMessage sticker pack for your favorite movie, sports team, comic book, or other fandom, I guarantee at least one is in the works.
2. Say it with stickers and apps
A key detail with iMessage apps and stickers is that they can be installed stand-alone, by themselves, with no app on your home screen to manage them. However, like Today screen widgets, iMessage apps can also be installed by a parent app you download from the store, such as Fandango, Copied (a great clipboard utility), and GIFwrapped, a GIF search app and organizer.
To start using iMessage apps and stickers, simply open an existing conversation or start a new one. To the left of the text entry box are now three icons: the camera, a heart with two fingers on it (for sharing scribbles and your heartbeat), and an app icon. If you don’t see these three icons, you might see an arrow pointing right, towards the text box. Tap that, and it should reveal these three icons.
Tap the app icon, and you should now see the “app drawer,” which contains the iMessage apps and stickers that are installed. Apple gives you a few sticker packs to start with—a pack of animated smileys, another pack of old-school Apple icons, etc.—and the first thing you see is probably one of these. Tap a sticker to add it to your text box, then tap the blue send arrow to start stickerin’.
Next: Switching Between Stickers and Apps, Deleting Apps