Apple’s iOS 17now available in a public betaplans for the Messaging app by adding some of the best features we’ve already seen on WhatsApp, Signal, Google Messages and other rivals to iMessage. And in a move that moves the Messages app forward, Apple is also bringing a new Check In feature – to notify friends or family when you get home – which could very well be the next feature we see copied back by other text messaging apps. app .
Even if some of these new features in Messages are already familiar to someone juggling multiple texting apps and group chats, wider adoption will only make communication on phones better, regardless of your preferred chat app. Plus, some of iOS 17’s new features will indirectly help you text in a non-Apple chat app — like the updates to autocorrect keyboards that recognize contextually whether swearing is a regular part of the way you speak.
It’s worth noting that while these iOS 17 improvements are certainly welcome, there are certainly a few points that Apple could improve on for a better universal chat experience. Chief among these are the infamous conflicts between the green and blue bubbles. So far, Apple hasn’t announced any improvements for SMS conversations, but there are features that exist on other messaging services and apps that are worth a closer look.
Check in is the new messaging feature to be copied
Apple’s upcoming Check In feature answers a common request and makes it easier to fulfill. It has often happened that after a gathering with friends or family, we asked each other to text when we got home. It’s so common in my life that it’s almost part of the farewell ritual, just to make sure everyone arrived safely by subway or car. Despite this, it is also very common to forget to send that text message.
Apple’s Check In could solve that problem. While CNET has yet to test the feature, it could in theory be turned on right away if friends or family ask for the “made it home” message. Then it can automatically send the ping when I’ve walked through my door. That way the status update still goes off if the hour is late or if I’m just too tired from the trip.
Check In builds on a location-sharing tool for friends and relatives that Apple has had in Messages for years, and the new feature makes that tool much more automated. Check In takes it a step further by allowing notifications when a delay could hold someone up. For friends and family who want such a security check, it can be an additional tool that allows loved ones to look out for each other.
There are currently other ways to set up a similar ping, using navigation apps like Google Maps, but the version Apple previewed at this year’s WWDC shows an easy way to get those notifications right in the Messages app. Hopefully, other chat apps will find their own ways to emulate this idea, whether through integration with a map service or improvements to an already existing location sharing feature.
Catch Up makes group chats much easier to follow
Apple’s Catch Up group chat feature caught my eye when it was unveiled. An arrow indicates where you left off in a busy group chat that went on while you were away from your phone.
This is a feature that’s pretty common in other chat apps, and I didn’t realize Apple didn’t have it until the company pointed it out. For example, the unread label in WhatsApp helps me when I check in to a neighbor’s group chat that I have for my apartment building within that app. This is a group chat that I don’t actively participate in (and I often mute) but on days when I do want to check it, an unread label helps me find the last part of the conversation I viewed.
Currently, there’s an unread filter in the iPhone’s Messages app, but the Catch Up Arrow should make it clearer which messages you’ve missed. The adoption of Catch Up in iOS 17 could be an indirect sign that Apple is bridging the gap between iMessage group chats and an SMS/MMS chat that encompasses other types of phones. While we’ll have to wait for the release of iOS 17 this fall to confirm, a simple indicator that helps organize a conversation will only help when chatting with friends or family.
Audio message transcription adds a great Pixel feature to iPhone
Google’s Pixel phones have included several audio transcription features for years Pixel 7 series adding the ability to transcribe any audio message received in the Google Messages app. Now Apple plans to roll out the feature on its iPhone line with iOS 17.
New audio messages received in the Messages app are automatically transcribed, which is a boon for accessibility. For someone who prefers to do audio messages, the essence will be immediately available to the recipient, and sometimes that transcription can be more than enough.
However, until the transcription feature is incorporated into more services, anyone who regularly sends audio messages will have to be patient while waiting for others to have a chance to listen.
Swipe to reply fits right (or left) in
I’ve been using Signal a lot lately and like Telegram, it offers the ability to quickly reply to messages with a swipe. It’s faster than holding down a message and then tapping a corresponding option.
Swiping to reply can streamline the menu of options that appear when you press and hold on a message. Apple’s Messages app already includes shortcuts for emoji reactions, replies, copy, translate, and a “More…” option for selecting multiple texts. By turning this into a swipe action, Apple could eventually decide to add additional functions to this menu, or simplify the menu to its basics.
In an unrelated organizational move, Apple moved iMessage apps from a row above the keyboard in the Messages app to a list that appears when you tap a plus sign. It shows that Apple is trying to clean up where it can and provide answers faster.
Improvements in iMessage are (hopefully) yet to come
While we wait for the final version of iOS 17 to be released this fall, there’s a possibility that even more Messages features will be added as Apple continues development. For example, the XDA Developers website says that the iOS 17 developer beta is keeping some iMessage features available for group chats with Android phones. Should this indeed become a public release, it could be a relief to iPhone users who still want to use threaded replies and message edits. However, XDA’s report notes that non-iPhone participants may not see any of these message changes.
We’ll eventually have to wait for the official release of iOS 17 to see if all of these iMessage features announced at WWDC make it, or if some get pushed to a later release. For example, iOS 15’s SharePlay missed the September launch of that year’s OS, but arrived a month later. But the fact that these improvements to Messages are in the pipeline shows that substantial improvements are on the way for texting on the iPhone.