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Shake, Jitter and Bold: How iPhone Messages Get More Expressive in iOS 18


In person I’ve been known to communicate with wild gesticulations, something that just doesn’t come across when I’m texting friends. Using Apple’s new text formatting and animations coming in the Messages app in the newly announced iOS 18 update, anyone will be able to express themselves with a bit more energy (and less arm flailing) on their iPhone or iPad.

At its WWDC 2024 keynote on Monday, Apple focused on the personal aspects of using its products, from pulling information together using Apple Intelligence to adopting your handwriting when composing text using the Apple Pencil. And what’s more personal than messaging your friends and family? Here’s how the new messaging features for iPhone and iPad will work based on what Apple has revealed so far.

If you’re a registered developer, you can install the beta iOS 18 right now, but since this is the first prerelease version of software that isn’t expected to be finished until September or October, you should think twice about installing it on your main iPhone

Tapback on iPhone and iPad with color and any emoji

Sometimes a simple thumbs-up is all you need to respond to someone’s text. iOS 18 turns the flat monochrome “tapbacks” that you can hang onto the edge of a message into full-color expressions with some shading. You’ll also no longer be bound by the usual six reaction icons. You’ll be able to choose from the entire range of emoji, as well as stickers you’ve made, as a tapback icon.


This is an example of what Apple calls a “tapback,” which is otherwise known as an emoji.

Apple/Screenshot by CNET

Communicate boldly (or italic-ly or… you get the idea)

To add emphasis to words or phrases, you’ll be able to style them with bold, italic, underline or strikethrough formatting. A new button to the right of the suggestion bar seems to open a panel with those options. We’ll know for sure when we have a chance to try it for ourselves, but that’s what I gather from what Apple shared during its presentation.

ios 18 messages on phone

Being able to underline, bold and strikethrough words is new for Apple Messages.

Apple/Screenshot by CNET

More animated conversations in Messages

If that traditional formatting is still too mundane, you can get really animated. In the same panel, Messages includes eight animations to apply to selected text, such as making text expand or contract in size, shake, jitter or explode.

messages on iphone

Shaking up the text and exploding it away will be two new features for iOS 18 to add pizzazz to your messaging. You can also (whisper) with small text or shout with large font.

Apple/Screenshot by CNET

These are just a few of the features Apple announced at WWDC for iOS 18. Don’t miss the long overdue addition of the Calculator app to iPadOS, what’s new in WatchOS 11 and see where Vision OS 2 is headed. Messages will also be getting RCS in Messages, but barely acknowledged it today.

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