iOS 8 Preview: Messages gets a major update

iOS 8 Messages

iOS 8, the next major mobile operating system for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch includes a number of new features and improvements such as Interactive Notifications, Widgets, support for third party keyboards and lots more.

We kick off our iOS 8 preview series with an in-depth look at the Messages app, one of the stock apps that has received a lot of attention in iOS 8.

Apple has to say about the Messages app in iOS 8:

Look forward to doing amazing new things with the app you use most. In iOS 8, Messages has fun, useful, even surprising features that will change the way you think about messaging.

Here’s what’s new in the Messages app in iOS 8:

  • Apple has completely changed the way you send photos and videos via iMessage, and also added a new tap to talk feature that lets you send audio messages. When you launch the Messages app in iOS 8, you won’t notice the new features and improvements immediately as most of the changes are in the compose window. Even after you tap on the Compose button, you won’t notice some of the radical changes made in the Messages app.
  • You will notice the first change when you add the sender, as the send button will automatically change into a microphone. Tapping and holding on the microphone icon with start recording the audio message and also display a translucent menu. You can swipe up to send the message or swipe to the left to dismiss the audio message. Alternatively, you can lift the phone to your ear to start recording the voice message or listen to an incoming voice message like a phone call.
iOS 8 Messages - Send Audio
  • Apple has adopted a similar design pattern for sending photos and video messages. Tapping and holding on the Camera icon will display a new translucent menu as you can see below. You can take an instant photo and send it by swiping up or take a video by swiping to the right. It may take some time getting used to, but it is certainly more intuitive and faster than the previous workflow of tapping on the Camera button, then tapping on “Take Photo or Video”, agreeing to “Use the Photo or Video” and then tapping on the Send button.
iOS 8 Messages - Video
  • After you send the audio or video message you can keep it by tapping on the Keep label just below the thumbnail of the audio message or they will automatically expire in two minutes from both yours and recipients phones.
  • In iOS 8, if you want to send photos and videos in the library, then all you need to do is tap on the Camera button. The user interface has been updated to give you quick access to recently taken photos, which is a nice touch as you typically want to send recent photos.
  • There are other improvements to the user interface. Instead of asking you to confirm that the selected photo is the one you want to send like in iOS 7, it enlarges the photo and gives you an option to “Send n Photo(s)”. You can add more photos before tapping on the Send option. If you want to send older photos or video, then tap Photo Library and select the photos and videos you want to send.
iOS 8 Messages - Send Photos
  • The microphone will automatically switch to Send when you start typing a message.
  • iOS 8 also brings some enhancements to group messaging. You will finally be able to rename a group conversation in iOS 8 so that you can quickly get the context of the conversation. You need to tap on Details, and swipe down to enter the subject to rename the conversation. You also have the option to mute notifications for a group conversation in the details screen by enabling the Do Not Disturb toggle.
iOS 8 Messages - Group conversation
  • iOS 8 also makes it easier to share your current location with people you choose. You can either send the current location, or share the location for an hour, until the end of the day or indefinitely with a contact or people in a group conversation. You can also see people in the message thread on a map if they’ve shared their locations.
iOS 8 Messages - Location Sharing
  • You can also browse through the attachments such as photos and videos from a conversation via the details screen.
iOS 8 Messages - View Attachment
  • You finally get an option to store messages for 30 days, 1 year or forever (Settings > Messages > Store Messages), which can come in handy if you want to recover the storage space occupied by message attachments as  messages can end up taking up significant storage space over a period of time.
  • In addition to these Messages centric features, thanks to iOS 8’s Interactive Notification feature you will also be able to reply to a message without leaving the app you’re currently in, by pulling down on the banner notification. On the lock screen, you will be able to reply to a message or mark it as read by swiping left on the notification.
iOS 8 Message Notifications

You can check out the video below to see the new features and enhancements in the Messages app in iOS 8:

It is refreshing to see some of the design choices made by Apple, especially the liberal use of gestures. While it may take some time getting used to them, they’re based on habits we’ve got into, by using apps like SnapChat, Whatsapp etc. They shouldn’t be completely alien to users. But it is a bold move by Apple when you consider that the Messages app is probably one of the most used apps on the iPhone.

The new improvements and changes in the Messages app will be available when iOS 8 is released this fall. Let us know what you think of iOS 8’s Messages app in the comments below.

[Images via Apple, Scott Hurff]

iOS 8 Preview Series: