iOS 12 Wishlist: 10 Features We Want in FaceTime and Messages Apps


iOS 12 Features

We’re just two months away from WWDC 2018. On June 4, Apple will introduce new versions of the software that powers its gadgets for 2018. On that day, beta software enthusiasts and developers can start using iOS 12, macOS 10.14, watchOS 5 and tvOS 12, all of which will be released to the general population by September (alongside new iPhones).

Although it’s not been a smooth sailing year for the company. After several issues cropped up in recent versions of iOS and macOS, reports suggest that Apple is pushing some big planned features to 2019, while keeping performance and stability the focus for 2018’s software releases.

Having said that, it is unlikely that Apple won’t have any major features to talk about. And so, we present to you the iOS 12 wishlist for Messages and FaceTime apps, that have a lot of catching up to do.

Why Do I Care When We Have WhatsApp, Telegram, etc?

You’re kinda right. For many, popular messaging apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, etc are the primary mode of communication. This is in part because these apps work on non-Apple platforms like Android and Windows. But not just that, they also regularly add new features, making them a pleasure to use (although not every time).

Still, FaceTime and Messages are important because in many parts of the world, these default apps have become the primary means of talking to one another. And because Apple doesn’t (and probably never will) allow changing default apps, they will always continue to be relevant. So, here are the changes we’re hoping for.

1) Quoted Replies

Quoted Replies is a god-send for one-to-one and group conversations, so much so that I sometimes wonder how did we chat before this. For the uninitiated, this feature lets you quote something someone said in a chat thread and append a reply. It helps with clarity in conversation, especially when it’s happening asynchronously.

Telegram and WhatsApp both support this. On an iPhone, you can also quickly quote a reply with a nifty gesture (swipe left on the message in Telegram, swipe right in WhatsApp). It would be nice for the Messages app in iOS 12 to have this.

2) Group Video Calls

After announcing FaceTime Audio in iOS 7, Apple added call conferencing capabilities to it the very next year. But it’ll nearly be eight years since FaceTime video first launched, and it hasn’t received any multi-calling love.

Popular video chat platforms like Skype and Facebook Messenger already support video calls with multiple participants. Its usefulness does depend upon every participant’s internet speed. But assuming that’s not a problem, Facebook Messenger lets you see up to 6 streams simultaneously!

Last year, it was rumored that iOS 11 will support multi-user FaceTime video for up to five people. Let’s hope this is the year it happens.

3) Better Spam Filter Management

iOS 11 opened the doors for third-party apps to filter incoming SMSs as spam. This has been a very useful feature in several countries where SMS spam is rampant. Having said that, the mechanism isn’t perfect. SMS filtering won’t organize your existing messages; it’ll only work for ones after the feature is enabled.

 

Next, if a sender gets accidentally tagged as ‘spam’, there is no built-in option to mark the sender as ‘not spam’. Traditionally, this can be solved by adding the person to the phonebook. But in countries like India, most spam doesn’t come via typical phone numbers; alphanumeric Sender IDs are used instead. And you can’t save a Sender ID as a contact, since it doesn’t have any phone number associated.

4) Granular Controls for Media Auto-download

In the Messages sub-menu of the iPhone Settings app, you can choose to upload a low quality image instead of one in high resolution. But beyond that, there are no settings that prevent the automatic downloading of images in the Messages app.

Just think about this — your mobile data limit is running low or running low on storage, and someone sends loads of photos or videos to you via iMessage, there’s no way to prevent them from downloading. Most messaging apps like WhatsApp let you choose if media should auto-download either only over WiFi, WiFi and cellular both, or not at all. The last option means you can manually choose to download each media sent to you.

5) @Mentions in Group Conversations

Group chats can be annoying when several people are talking and you’re not part of the conversation. Fortunately, the Messages app added a Do Not Disturb option back in iOS 9 (it’s kinda hilarious there wasn’t even an option to leave a group till iOS 8).

As modern messaging apps evolved, we saw the likes of Slack take an interesting approach — the phone doesn’t buzz for every group message received, but if someone in the thread @mentions your name, only then you get a notification. This way, when others want to involve you, they can draw your attention using this feature.

Today, WhatsApp, Telegram, and Facebook Messenger also let you tag a participant in a group conversation by adding an @username in the text. Let’s hope iOS 12 brings this feature to the Messages app.

6) Editing and Deleting iMessages (For All)

Popularised by apps like Slack and Telegram, editing and deleting messages makes it easier to remove an erroneous entry from a message, instead of typing the whole thing again. Modified text gets an Edited tag to the side, letting recipients know that a change has been made.

Although you can’t edit messages on WhatsApp yet, you can at least delete them for everybody. When you delete an iMessage, it only disappears from your phone, and not the receiver’s phone. In WhatsApp, the “Delete for all” option also leaves a Message Deleted tag for everybody to see.

7) More Tapbacks

Right now, holding down on an iMessage lets you choose Tapbacks — symbols like thumbs up, thumbs down, heart, question mark, etc — that can be attached as reactions to that message. Although many may find the range of these default graphical responses satisfactory, for others it’s somewhat limiting, considering the variety of emoji we have at our disposal.

Apps like Slack allow you to append any emoji to a particular message. This makes it easy to quickly emote to things being said, without the need to compose a new message. Hopefully Apple could add more Tapbacks to the Messages app, or better yet, allow to respond with any emoji.

8) Marking iMessages as Unread

Marking emails as unread is an easy way to get back to the ones that need your action, but not right away. Similarly, on WhatsApp you can mark already-viewed conversations as unread, by swiping right over the thread in the chat list. This would be a nice addition to have in the Messages app in iOS 12.

9) Attaching Documents

Now that iOS has a dedicated Files app, there should be no reason why we can’t send documents (like PDFs, Office Productivity documents, PSDs, etc) via iMessage, the same way we send photos or videos. Apps like WhatsApp and Telegram have long supported this.

And while on the subject, it’s a shame that you can’t quickly share contacts in the Messages app. Gboard on iOS can pull up contact information from your address book without leaving the app. To be fair, in iOS 10 Apple did introduce “Siri Intelligence” that uses the default keyboard to automatically populate relevant contact details when someone asks for it, but you can’t proactively share a contact card yet.

10) Turning Off Video Feed During FaceTime

Now this is a nitpick. There may be times when you’re on a video call and need to temporarily switch off the video feed. Apps like WhatsApp allow you to easily switch without having to disconnect the ongoing call. Switching over from a FaceTime Video to an audio-only call today means you have to disconnect, go back to the Phone app, and make a FaceTime Audio call. There’s scope for this to become a bit easier for FaceTime in iOS 12 with a one-click button, like WhatsApp does.

And that’s it. So, can you think of any improvements to Messages and FaceTime on iOS? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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