Apple's Messages app has been the focus of several big updates over the past couple of years, but in iOS 12 this year, Messages is receiving just a minor update. There's a new iMessage app drawer, plus a new process for adding previously captured photos to a conversation.
The Messages app inisn't receiving a ton of new features or changes. Instead, there are a few minor tweaks that should make messaging somewhat easier. The i button is also gone from the top-right corner of a conversation thread. To view a contact's info, tap on the picture at the top of the screen.
If you're looking for the Photos picker, tap on the Photos icon in the iMessage app drawer. It's an extra step, and it's frustrating.
The Camera app in Messages is getting a few new features. After launching the camera in a conversation, you can take photos or videos with filters, apply stickers or add drawings to spice up photos shared with a loved one. To use the new photo tools, tap on the button in the bottom-left corner of the camera app.
There are also three new Animoji characters, and a new Memoji feature lets you create an Animoji that looks just like you. Check out.
When Apple first announced iOS 12, group FaceTime calls were announced. The ability to chat with up to 32 people using FaceTime was promised, then taken away before iOS 12 was released, with a promise of the feature coming back.
Fast forward to the release of iOS 12.1, and group FaceTime calling is alive and well, complete with Memoji and Animoji.
You can read more about placing a group FaceTime call here, but the process is similar to how it's always been. When you're in a call, thumbnails -- referred to as a Tile -- are displayed with each person's video. If the user is connected by audio, a colorful Tile and the first letter of their name will be displayed. As a person begins to talk, the Tile gets bigger and other participants' cards shrink.
Oh, and those fancy new camera effects Apple added to the Messages app -- you can use those in FaceTime as well. To find the fancy effects, tap on the Star button and then select the effect you want to use.
Originally published June 7.
Update, Nov. 1: Added the latest information about the release of iOS 12.1 and the release of group FaceTime.
: How to update and what to expect.
: How to use it on your iPhone or iPad