iMessage apps have become pretty interesting and useful

Not stickers, apps. I’ve been a sticker proponent for quite a while, as stickers have been a massive (and profitable) hit in other countries for years. They also just make people happy, and in a world like this one, we need more of that. But some apps like Line attribute most (if not all) of their attraction and impressive revenue to stickers. Apple and iMessage basically just closed a five-year gap there.

iMessage apps are different. They appropriate functionality, which lives elsewhere outside of iMessage, and place it right in the conversation with you. For a while, I figured “why not just open that app and tap a share or copy link?” But tinkering with two iMessage apps helped things click for me: Pocket and Fandango.

They remove friction from switching apps to grab content, a link, or even functionality, and keep that stuff right there with me and my friends. There’s something useful about not having to break away from a conversation to go get this stuff.

In the case of Pocket, I save a lot of links there to either read or share with the Pocket community. Now, when I’m chatting with friends in iMessage, those links are just a couple taps away with the Pocket iMessage app, complete with rich media previews.

Fandango for iMessage gets even more interesting. You can go through the entire process right there in an iMessage—pick a movie, a day, choose from your favorite theaters you’ve marked in the app, buy tickets with Apple Pay, pick seats (at theaters that do reserved seating), and send a rich media preview to your friends, all right within the app (I think it can share the Apple Wallet ticket pass to the chat, too. But I’m not buying tickets just to verify for this post 😄).

Besides covering the big tasks of finding a showtime and buying tickets, Fandango’s iMessage app makes many of the little details of organizing an outing like this much more convenient—telling people which theater, offering directions, and sharing a link to find out more info.

Now that these two apps clicked for me, I flipped the switch on a bunch more iMessage apps to see if they’re a good fit as well. Copied and GIFwrapped are good candidates for sticking around, so is Citymapper and its list of recent, shareable locations you’ve saved or searched. There are a few others that I deliberately added to my first or second page of iMessage apps for testing. It’s a big help for me in making them convenient enough to use on any kind of regular basis. We’ll see if they stick, too.

If you haven’t bothered much with iMessage apps, now might be a good time to give them a look. Like Watch apps (especially after watchOS 3), I think developers (and us!) just needed some time to understand the platform and put it to good use.

Some of the apps are getting pretty polished, fast, and useful. I may have my gripes about iMessage, but at least it finally started to compete with the industry in becoming much more useful beyond sharing text and photos. I think iMessage apps have become one of the many little ways that iOS is moving beyond the Mac in not just interestingness, but genuine utility for regular folks.