16 of the Most Useful iPhone Messages Features You Should Be Using

16 of the Most Useful iPhone Messages Features You Should Be Using
Photo: Dedi Grigoroiu, Shutterstock

Apple’s Messages is probably one of the most-used apps on your iPhone that you spend the least time thinking about. After all, it’s just texting.

But this humble messaging app is actually remarkably feature-packed, and if you spend a few minutes poking around in your settings, you’ll be able to unlock lots of useful features to make it far more useful (and potentially less annoying) than it already it. The true measure of any texting app worth its programming is that it can be configured to sends alerts for important texts while filtering out the spam — and it’s totally possible to do that with Messages, and a lot more.

Customise your text notifications

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Your first step toward making Messages less annoying should be to the number of alerts you receive. Go to Settings > Messages > Notifications. Here, you can choose if you want to be pinged immediately when you get a text, or if you’re ok with receiving alerts as a part of iOS 15’s Scheduled Summary (this feature sends alerts only at preset times of the day). If you choose Scheduled Summary, be sure to keep Time-Sensitive Notifications enabled to ensure that you do not miss important alerts.

Next, if you have a lot of unread messages, you can get rid of the red notification badge that appears above the Messages app icon. Go to Settings > Messages > Notifications and disable Badges under the Alerts section.

You can also go to Settings > Messages > Notifications > Customise Notifications and change a few more useful settings: Under Allow Notifications, select which categories of notifications you want alerts for. This lets you disable notifications from Unknown Senders, or message categories such as Transactions or Promotions. Mute notifications for the messages you don’t need to see right away.

You can also tap Repeat Alerts on the same page and set it to Never to stop Messages from pinging you twice for every incoming message.

If you are a part of too-chatty group texts, you can mute conversations to stop notification spam from disturbing you. Open the Messages app, swipe left on any chat thread, and tap the purple crossed-out bell icon to disable alerts from that chat only.

Use an SMS filter app to curb spammy notifications

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If spam texts are a big problem for you, then you can use an SMS filter app in conjunction with Messages to do the quarantining for you. Apps such as SMS Filter, VeroSMS, and Truecaller can help you quickly hide junk messages and stop them from disturbing you all the time. Just as spam filters keep useless emails away from your inbox, these apps add a set of rules to hide unwanted texts on your iPhone. After installing any of these apps, you can go to Settings > Messages > Unknown & Spam and select the app’s name to enable the spam filter.

Control what Siri learns from your activity in Messages

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Siri’s on-device machine learning allows it to suggest people you can contact at specific times of the day, based on your usage patterns. If you don’t like these suggestions, you can disable them by going to Settings > Messages > Siri & Search and disabling Learn from this App. You can also stop content from messages appearing in Spotlight search on your iPhone by disabling Show Content in Search under the While Searching section on the same settings page.

Decide if you want to see Messages links in other apps

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When someone shares a link with you in a text message, you’ll notice that it appears by default in a bunch of other Apple apps, including Safari. If you’d rather not use this feature, you can disable it by going to Settings > Messages > Shared With You and disabling Automatic Sharing. Alternatively, you can disable automatic sharing for specific apps such as Safari or Music on the same page.

To disable links shared by specific people, open Messages and go to any chat in the app. Tap the name of the contact at the top and select disable Show in Shared with You.

Change your name and photo

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Want a nice profile picture for iMessage? Go to Settings > Messages > Share Name and Photo. You can either create a custom Memoji for yourself or choose a photo from your camera reel, and customise the name that you’d like to display to others.

Forward your texts to other Apple devices

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If you want to be able to read your text messages on your iPad or Mac, you can go to Settings > Messages > Text Message Forwarding and enable it on each of those devices. (Note that the devices must be linked to the same iCloud account for this to work.)

Control who gets iMessage read receipts

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If you enabled read receipts when first setting up your iPhone, iMessage sends them to everyone. That means everyone can see when you’ve read their messages, and begin silently judging you for not responding quickly enough. To change this, go to Settings > Messages and disable Send Read Receipts.

You can also choose who gets to see when you’ve read their messages from within the app itself. To do so, open any conversation and tap the contact’s name at the top, where you can choose to enable or disable Send Read Receipts. (Note that this option will not work for group texts with multiple participants.)

Pin your conversations in Messages

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If you frequently ping certain contacts, it’s a good idea to pin their chat threads to the top of the Messages app. To do this, tap and hold any chat thread and select Pin. Alternatively, you can swipe right on any chat and tap the yellow Pin icon.

Enable/disable Send as SMS

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When iMessage can’t find an internet connection to send a message, it automatically defaults to sending it as a text message. (Blue chat bubbles in your messages are iMessage texts, and green bubbles are text messages.) Not everyone has free text messages on their mobile plans, so sending text messages could actually end up costing you — especially if you’re travelling abroad.

To avoid this issue, you can stop converting iMessages to SMS messages by going to Settings > Messages and disabling Send as SMS.

Show character count in Messages

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When you are sending a text message, there is a 160-character limit in place. Any message above 160 characters gets split into two texts on older phones or in some group chats where users may have different types of devices. If you want to be sure that you’re sending what you need to in one go, head to Settings > Messages and enable Character Count.

Choose how long audio messages are saved before being deleted (and you they are played)

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Messages deletes voice messages two minutes after you play them, unless you hit the tiny Keep button to store them for longer. You can change this default setting and store audio messages for one year instead, if you wish to. Go to Settings > Messages and scroll down to the Audio Messages section. Here tap Expire and select 1 Year. You can also enable or disable Raise to Listen, which will play the message automatically when you put the phone to your ear.

Make sure you’re not sending blurry, low-resolution images

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If your friends are complaining about not being able to read what’s in your screenshots, the problem could be iMessage’s image compression. This option is enabled to save storage space on your phone and on iCloud, but if you want to send full-resolution images, you can go to Settings > Messages, scroll to the bottom, and disable Low-Quality Image Mode.

Back up your Messages in iCloud

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If you don’t want to lose your conversations in Messages, use iCloud to back them up. Go to Settings > [YOUR NAME] > iCloud and enable Messages. You’ll be able to quickly restore all your text conversations along with everything else stored in your iCloud backup should you get a new device or be forced to wipe and restore your current one. Be aware that this option will eat into your storage space on iCloud, especially if you text a lot of images back and forth, so you may have to delete some stuff to stay within your iCloud storage limit.

Automatically delete old messages

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If Messages occupies too much storage or iCloud space or you simply don’t like to keep your old textx hanging around for whatever reason, you can set them to be deleted automatically. Go to Settings > Messages and scroll down to the Message History section. Now tap Keep Messages and you can select either 30 Days or 1 Year as the default duration for storing messages. (Any older messages on your device will automatically be deleted when you enable this option.)

Quickly mark all messages as read

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If you have thousands of unread messages and you don’t want that little red notification number taunting you, you can mark them all read in one shot. Simply open the Messages app, tap the three-dots button in the top bar, and hit Select Messages. Now select Read All and you’re done.

Share your location with your friends

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You can also use iMessage to share your location with friends and family members. This doesn’t work with group chats, sadly, but you can share your location in any chats with individuals. To do this, open a two-way conversation in Messages and tap the contact’s name at the top. Now hit the Info button below the contact’s name, scroll to the bottom, and select Share My Location. You can choose how long you want to share your location for (one hour, one day, or indefinitely).

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