Watch Out WeChat, Apple iMessage is Coming for You

If you use an iPhone, every time you send a ‘text’ and see a blue speech bubble, it means you’re using iMessage. You’re not alone: 1Bn of us use it. It’s important to specify this as a couple of folks I talked to weren’t even aware they currently used iMessage. That’s because most of us just call iMessage, ‘texting’. That’s how commonly we use it and how pervasive it really is.

As there’s an app for everything these days, it’s annoying how many different apps I have to open (or drain my battery by keeping open) to find what I need. E.g.) I want to go to a movie with my buddy Bryan. I’ll open Fandango to see what’s playing at the theater, open IMDB to check reviews, open my calendar to look into scheduling, open OpenTable to maybe grab dinner beforehand, and then open Uber to get a ride. With the new update, I no longer need to minimize my text with Bryan and open 5 separate apps to get everything done. I can facilitate everything from within iMessage, instantly reducing friction. For a while now, you’ve been able to do stuff like this (and way more) within WeChat.

But big things are afoot for the 1Bn-strong iMessage ecosystem. I predict we’ll see a flood of utility iMessage apps emerge for payments, making reservations, making plans with friends through polling and calendar integration, etc., followed swiftly by existing branded apps such as Yelp, Square, Venmo, etc. to help facilitate much of this. Bots will grow in popularity as brands try to instantly access 1Bn+ built-in customers through the increasingly popular ‘conversational interface’. Brands and advertisers will now have the opportunity to gain contextual awareness of billions of social-group conversations with opt-in bot integrations, contextually entering these conversations. Emoji, GIFs (largely provided by Tenor), stickers, drawings, and other expressive features will become more prevalent and indeed, more expressive, with the new update. Natural language processing and AI applications of Siri into iMessage apps will be huge. You’ll be able to interact with apps’ iMessage extensions just by talking to them! My friend (and coinvestor) Matt Mazzeo referred to iOS10's iMessage platform as a gold rush on his recent FB live session. I couldn’t agree more.

See more detail below for a description of what to expect from the new iMessage. Please share and comment with your thoughts and predictions for what else we’ll see with the new update!

High Level Impact of iMessage

  • With iMessage apps, users will have easy access to developers’ apps without having to leave their text message, significantly reducing friction to integrating multiple apps within a text message convo
  • Users can easily create and share content, add stickers, make payments, play games, and collaborate with friends within a custom interface that you design, without leaving Messages.
  • It makes your apps available for download directly from the iMessage App Store

Stickers

  • Users can express themselves in richer ways w/stickers for purchase on the App Store for iMessage
  • Users can tap-to-send stickers in a thread, adjust their size, or place them on top of bubbles, onto other stickers, and photos
  • For devs, there’s no need to write code to create stickers — simply drag the images into the designated folder in Xcode

Features

  • ‘Rich Links’ show picture previews from web links and previews of videos that are linked-to within a conversation
  • Preview what the camera sees (within iMessage) before you send a photo or video
  • Emoji may now be 3x bigger
  • Messages will recognize what you’re typing and find a relevant emoji so you don’t have to search for one
  • Messages will highlight words that can be turned into emojis:
  • Bubble effects for text
  • Animations to emphasize certain messages; e.g. ‘Congrats’ is more exciting with fireworks in the background, than a static text bubble
  • Invisible Ink hides messages in a glittery effect that you have to swipe away with your finger to read the message (it can also hide photos)
  • Tap Back lets you add mini reactions to your received messages
  • You can hand-write messages & send drawings:
  • You can get full-screen animations for certain messages, like saying “happy new year”
  • Easily send Apple Music songs; support for lyrics
  • The fonts are much bigger and bolder
  • Advanced computer vision brings insanely accurate object, scene, and face recognition, while it also searches locally on device to search photos for Memories to resurface trips and highlight certain dates.
  • New Keyboard sounds (typing characters, space key, delete key)

For Developers

  • The app for the first time can be used to complete financial transactions with Square Cash
  • Third-party developers can tap into and expand iMessages with their own creations:
  • iMessage app developers will be able to customize user interfaces, create custom or dynamic sticker browsers, insert text or media files, create interactive messages with app-specific data and update interactive messages like games or collaborative apps
  • iOS 10 features a revamped version of Maps designed for ease of use
  • Apple’s SiriKit enables developers to design and deploy apps that work with Siri for messaging, phone calls, photo search, etc; Users will be able to interact with your app on the go by simply speaking at it.
  • With the new sticker packs, developers can easily incorporate the images into their apps by simply dropping the images into the app’s Sticker Pack folder inside the Sticker assets catalog (100X100, 136X36, or 206X206)

Thanks for reading, everyone. For more, see here and here.

Sunny Dhillon is a founding partner at Signia Venture Partners, an early stage venture fund in the San Francisco Bay Area. He cofounded one of the first mobile dating apps in the App Store in 2011 and is a Board Observer at Tenor. Summon him on Twitter at @SunDhillon.

Sandeep Dhillon