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iOS 8 Is Updating How We Compose, Send, and Receive Text Messages

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In this article, Jason R. Rich takes an advance look at the iOS 8 edition of the Messages app and explains how iPhone and iPad users will soon discover new ways to communicate using text messaging and Apple’s own iMessage service. You’ll also learn more about iOS 8’s predictive QuickType virtual keyboard feature.
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Text messaging has been around for a while, yet it continues to evolve. When Apple releases iOS 8 this coming fall, the Messages app will continue to allow iPhones to send and receive text messages using a wireless service provider’s cellular network, plus communicate with other Mac, iPhone, and iPad users using Apple’s iMessage service via the Internet.

However, thanks to iOS 8’s new Continuity feature, a Mac or iPad that’s within wireless range of your iPhone will also now be able to send and receive text messages via your smartphone’s cellular network, in addition to utilizing the Internet-based iMessage service. You’ll also discover a variety of new features within the Messages app that provide additional ways to communicate with others via text messaging.

Instead of simply sending and receiving text-based messages that can include photos, pre-recorded video clips, and/or emoticons, the iOS 8 edition of Messages will also allow users to record short video clips or audio messages, and send them to one or more recipients as part of a text messaging conversation. In addition, the updated Messages app will give users increased control when participating in group conversations.

When typing out text-based messages using the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch’s virtual keyboard, iOS 8’s new QuickType feature will actually anticipate when you’re going to type, and suggest words as you’re typing. This feature (shown in Figure 1) can improve typing accuracy and speed. Over time, QuickType will learn your habits and even adapt its recommendations based on who you’re communicating with.

Figure 1 The new QuickType feature that’s built into the iOS 8 edition of the Message app predicts what you’re typing and offers word recommendations

For example, if you’re composing a text message to a business associate, the QuickType feature will recommend more formal, business-friendly vocabulary. However, when you’re chatting with a friend, less formal, more conversational vocabulary will be recommended as you’re using the virtual keyboard.

Record and Send Audio Messages

Instead of typing text messages and sending them using the Messages app, once iOS 8 is installed on your mobile device, you’ll be able to record short audio messages and then send them to one or more recipients. Unlike text-based messages, after someone listens to an audio message that’s received via the Messages app, the audio portion of the message will self-destruct in order to save storage space within the mobile device. Users can, however, opt to manually save incoming audio messages.

To record an audio message using the iOS 8 edition of the Messages app, press and hold down the microphone icon that’s displayed to the right of the text message composition field. As long as this icon is pressed (shown in Figure 2), audio will be recorded. Remove your finger from the microphone icon to stop recording, and then send the audio message to the recipient using a finger swipe gesture.

Figure 2 It’s now possible to record and send audio messages using the iOS 8 edition of the Messages app

If you receive an incoming audio message, either tap the Play icon to listen to it, or hold the iPhone up to your ear.

Record and Send Video Messages

If you’d prefer to use one of the cameras that are built into your iPhone or iPad to quickly record a video clip, and then send that clip to one or more recipients via the Messages app, tap on the camera-shaped icon that’s displayed to the immediate left of the compose text message field and than tap on the Take Photo or Video option. Next, when the Camera app launches (shown in Figure 3), make sure the Video option is selected, and then shoot your desired video clip. When you’re done, you can playback the video clip or tap on the Use Video option to send the video clip via the Messages app.

Figure 3 From within the iOS 8 edition of Messages, it's possible to record and send video clips with ease

Take Advantage of Alternate Virtual Keyboards

Of course, it’s possible to continue using the Messages app to compose and send text-based messages to one or more recipients at once, plus engage in multiple but separate text messaging-based conversations with different people, and easily switch between conversations using the Messages app.

As you’re composing text messages, tap on the globe-shaped alternate keyboard key that’s displayed as part of the virtual keyboard (shown in Figure 4) in order to quickly switch between virtual keyboard layouts.

Figure 4 The globe-shaped alternate keyboard key allows you to quickly switch between keyboard layouts as you’re composing a text message

Upon doing this, the traditional QWERTY-style virtual keyboard will initially be replaced by a series of Recently Used emoticons and/or special characters. Along the bottom of the screen will be a series of emoticon and special character keyboard layout options you can choose from. Tap on one of these options to view an alternate virtual keyboard layout.

In addition to emoticon keyboard layouts (shown in Figure 5), alternate keyboard layouts can be selected for any of several dozen different languages. To preselect these alternate keyboard options, first launch Settings, tap on the General menu option, and then tap on the Keyboard option. Next, from the Keyboards submenu, tap on the Keyboards option. Then, near the top of the Keyboards menu screen will be a listing of alternate keyboard layouts already selected. To add additional layouts, tap on the Add New Keyboard option. From the Add New Keyboard menu, select from the list of available keyboard layouts.

Figure 5 Choose from hundreds of emoticons that are built into the Messages app, or switch between keyboard layouts that display foreign languages

Now, when you return to the Messages app and tap on the globe-shaped alternate keyboard icon (located between the ‘.?123’ and microphone key), the selected alternate keyboard will replace the default virtual keyboard layout. If you press and hold down the alternate keyboard icon, a pop-up menu displaying the various pre-selected alternate keyboards you have loaded will be displayed, and you can quickly switch between them (shown in Figure 6).

Figure 6 Press and hold down the alternate keyboard key to display a list of alternate keyboards preloaded into the Messages app

Keep in mind, as you’re displaying an alternate keyboard, it’s sometimes possible to swipe horizontally across the keyboard to see additional key options.

Discover Enhanced Features When Group Messaging

When using the iOS 7 edition of the Messages app, it was possible to compose and then send the same text message to a group of people by adding multiple names, cell phone numbers, or email addresses into the To field after tapping on the Compose New Message icon within the Messages app.

Group text messaging is still possible. However, the iOS 8 edition of the Messages app gives you greater control when it comes to managing group conversations. Once you’re engaged in a group messaging conversation, tap on the Details option in order to reveal the new Details menu (shown in Figure 7).

Figure 7 When engaged in a group messaging session, the new Details menu allows you to do things like temporarily mute a conversation or remove yourself from it altogether

From this menu, it’s possible to manually add or remove people from the group message conversation, and/or share your location-related details with participants. You can then choose for how long you want to share real-time location-related information with the people you’re conversing with.

Tap on the new Do Not Disturb option to temporarily remove yourself from a group conversation, so you won’t be bombarded with new messages being broadcast to the group, plus see each group member’s responses. At anytime, you can opt to leave the conversation permanently by tapping on the Leave This Conversation option, which is displayed as part of the Details menu.

QuickType Speeds Up Your Text Message Writing

As you’re manually typing text messages within the Messages app, instead of just relying on Apple’s infamous Auto Correct feature, which is supposed to automatically correct typos in real-time, the new QuickType feature anticipates what you’re typing, and in a row of tabs that’s displayed directly above the virtual keyboard, now offers recommendations for the word you’re typing or about to type. Once your intended word is displayed, simply tap on the tab that displays the appropriate word, or continue manually typing.

According to Apple, this new QuickType feature is context sensitive, and learns your vocabulary preferences and habits over time. From within Settings, you can turn on or off the Auto-Correct, Check Spelling, and Auto-Capitalization features, as well as the Predictive Typed String (QuickType) feature. To access these options, launch Settings, tap on the General option, followed by the Keyboards option.

See a Summary of Photos and Video Clips

While you’re conversing via the Messages app, you can always scroll upwards to review past messages included within the conversation you’re currently engaged in. However, another new feature that’s built into the iOS 8 edition of the Messages app is the ability to quickly display thumbnails that represent all attachments included within that conversation on a single screen. 

This new edition of the Messages app also now allows you to select and send multiple attachments at once. For example, if you want to attach three photos that are stored within your iPhone or iPad into an outgoing text message, tap on the camera icon that’s displayed to the left of the compose text message field, tap on the Photo Library option, select the Album that contains the images you want to send, and then tap on the related image thumbnails to insert those images directly into your outgoing text message.

Final Thoughts...

Once you begin using the iOS 8 edition of the Messages app, you’ll discover that all of the features and functions you’ve become accustomed to using within the iOS 7 edition of the app are still available. For example, when you’re using Apple’s Internet-based iMessage service to send and receive text messages, the messages you compose and send will be displayed within blue text bubbles.

Using the Messages app, the iMessage service allows you to send and receive an unlimited number of text messages, as long as your Apple computer or mobile device is connected to the Internet and you’re communicating with other Apple users.

When you’re communicating with non-Apple users and sending text messages to a smartphone or tablet via your wireless service provider’s cellular network, those messages will be displayed within green bubbles. While some cellular service providers offer unlimited text messaging via their cellular network, some plans are limited to a pre-determined number of messages per monthly billing cycle, or charge on a per-message basis. Additional fees may apply for sending or receiving text messages internationally.

Text messaging has already become a popular way to communicate. The new iOS 8 edition of the Messages app offers a handful of new features that make text messaging more efficient and convenient, whether you’re using an iPhone or Internet-enabled iPad, Mac, or iPod touch.

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