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Apple jazzes up iMessage with pinned contacts, mentions and in-line replies

Messaging apps are a competitive business, and Apple is raising its game in iOS 14.

This story is part of WWDC 2021. All the latest coverage from Apple's annual developers conference.
Now playing: Watch this: Apple debuts Messages for iOS 14 with new Memoji
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Apple is bringing changes to Messages.

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Apple announced a whole range of changes coming to the next version of its iPhone software, iOS 14, on Monday during its annual Worldwide Developers Conference. Among them are some crucial additions to Messages, its homegrown messaging app. At WWDC 2020, the company showcased the work it's been doing to beef up its messaging app, which will be available via the new iOS update later this year. Messaging apps are a competitive market, and Apple arguably had some work to do to catch up to rivals such as WhatsApp. It has also had a busy year, seeing more messages sent than ever before, as well as more people using group messages.

The first big change is that you'll now be able to pin your favorite contacts at the top of the app so you can access your most important conversations more quickly and easily. You'll see new messages as they come in with an animation on the pin.  

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Apple is also keen to help you bring some order to the chaos of your group messages. In-line replies will allow you to reply specifically to one message or person, and you'll be able to view these as part of the larger conversation or in individual threads. Typing someone's name out in the group will also tag them directly in the group conversation. You can choose to only be notified of new messages in the group when your name is mentioned.

At the top of the group's chat, the icon, which is now fully customizable, will be surrounded by pictures of the people in the chat, with those who were active most recently pictured more prominently. If you like to use Apple's Memoji as your personal avatar, you'll also be glad to hear that the company has introduced new Memoji customization options, including face masks.

For more changes coming to iOS 14 and other Apple software, be sure to check out CNET's full WWDC coverage.