Every way Apple made iMessage for iPhone better in iOS 13

Here's what to expect when you update to Apple's new software.

Jason Cipriani Contributing Writer, ZDNet
Jason Cipriani is based out of beautiful Colorado and has been covering mobile technology news and reviewing the latest gadgets for the last six years. His work can also be found on sister site CNET in the How To section, as well as across several more online publications.
Jason Cipriani
3 min read

There's a lot to like about iMessage on iOS 13. 

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Apple's Messages app combines text messaging and the company's own iMessage platform into one of the best messaging experiences you can find on a phone. With each major iOS release, Apple adds new features to Messages, increasing iMessage lock-in and competing with third-party messaging apps like Facebook Messenger. In other words, Apple wants you to hold onto that iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro, in part, because of iMessage. 

In iOS 13 and iPadOS 13, Apple didn't add a ton of new features at first glance. But when you look a little closer, there's a lot here: Improved search, pseudo iMessage profiles, and custom stickers. And trust me, you'll want to know how to use all of them. 

Here's what you need to know about the new Messages features on your iPhone and iPad.

You now have an iMessage profile... kind of

Most chat apps, be it WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, have some sort of profile where you can add your own photo and name. Apple's iMessage platform, until now, has relied on users creating and managing contact cards for the same effect. 

As of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13, you can now set your own photo and name and then share that with fellow iMessage users, personalizing your contact info and having fun with it in the process. 


Setting up your iMessage profile is simple. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Here's how to set it up:

  1. Open the Messages app and tap on the three-dot icon at the top of the screen.
  2. Select Edit Name and Photo.
  3. Take a new photo, use an Animoji, or use a picture from your photo gallery.
  4. Enter your name.
  5. Select if you want to always share your profile with contacts, or be asked each time.

When you start texting, iMessage will either automatically share your information or ask if you want to share it depending on what you selected during setup. You can change your preference at any time by going to Settings > Messages > Share Name and Photo

If you're talking to someone with an iMessage profile, you'll be asked if you want to use one or both pieces of information. When someone changes their photo, you'll get a prompt letting you know the photo has changed and ask if you want to use the new photo. As far as I can tell, you can't opt-out of these prompts -- we all have one of those friends who is always changing their profile photos, it could get annoying.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Improved search

During the beta program, I used Messages search to find the name of some obscure dance shoes my wife sent me six months ago -- something I couldn't have previously done without scrolling through the entire chat history.

Searching the Messages app, on iOS and Mac, has always been terrible. With iOS 13, search is reliable and impressively smart.

Messages will surface recent links, photos and attachments in your conversations whenever you start a search.

Use the new search feature as you normally would -- view your conversation list, scroll down to reveal the search field, and enter your query. Maybe it's a website you need to recall or the name of a restaurant you're supposed to make reservations at.

When you're done typing, Messages will display several results, and it will list the same contact more than once if it finds your search term multiple times in the conversation.


There's more than just photos in the Info section of your conversations now. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Find links or attachments with ease

Apple has also made it easier to find a link or attachment if you know who shared it with you. When in a conversation thread, tap on the contact name at the top of the screen followed by Info

There you'll find a link to their contact info, as well as options to hide alerts or toggle read receipts for the specific conversation. Below those settings you'll now find all photos, links, locations and attachments that have been shared in the conversation thread. Previously, only photos were available.


Memoji Stickers are going to be fun. 

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Memoji Stickers

Animoji and Memoji, the cartoon characters you can customize and bring to life, aren't new to Messages. But what is new is the ability to turn your Memoji into custom stickers that you can then use in place of standard emoji. 

If you already have a Memoji, you only need to open the emoji keyboard when composing a messenger or email. Swipe left on the emoji keyboard to view your personalized stickers. Tap on the "..." button to view more stickers and create new ones.

Apple also added a dedicated dark mode, a swipe-to-type keyboard, and a way to block unknown callers from ever ringing your iPhone.