If you own an iPhone or an iPad, you’ve got access to the built-in Messages app that handles both traditional SMS texts and Apple’s own iMessage service—and if you’re a blue-bubble member of the latter, you can make use of a library of mini-apps that run on top of it.

These apps live inside the Messages app and carry a wealth of extra functionalities, from song sharing to sticker creating. No matter what type of chatter you are, you’re bound to find at least a few that are of interest. To get at them, open an iMessage conversation and tap the gray app store icon to the left of the message box. There you’ll see apps you’ve already added, and you can find more by tapping the blue app store icon.

For emojis: Iconfactory Sunshine Smilies

A simple, well-designed library of super-sized emojis, this tool will help you liven up your conversations with something a little bit different. Almost everyone else is using the standard iMessage emoji set, so this will ensure you stand out. The catalog covers a broad range of emotions, and there are even some animated emojis if you want to make your expressions a little more lively.

Iconfactory Sunshine Smilies is free.

For journeys: ETA

ETA is a full-fledged iOS app that also has an iMessage component, and it simply uses a range of stylish buttons to tell your contacts how long it will be before you arrive. The destinations you’ve searched for in the app will appear in iMessage, with your ETA to those spots calculated based on the latest live traffic data sourced through the app.

ETA is $8.

The Pocket app's Messages extension for iMessage on iOS.
Even if you don’t get to read an article in a reasonable time, maybe your friends will. David Nield

Pocket is another full iOS app with an iMessage mini-app included. If you install the app and tap the Pocket icon while you’re in an iMessage conversation, you can instantly share any of the articles you’ve saved to your account. This makes it perfect for sharing your reading list with others, and if it’s a lengthy list, you can search through it from right inside the mini-app.

Pocket is free, with a $5 Premium upgrade.

For gaming: 8 Ball Pool

Messages isn’t just for messaging—you can play games inside iMessage as well. There are several games available, but we’ve chosen 8 Ball Pool because it’s fun to play, quick to get started with, and requires no training. You can launch and play the game right inside any iMessage conversation, and you can keep on chatting between taking turns at the virtual table.

8 Ball Pool is free, with in-game purchases.

For drawing: Tayasui Sketches

Tayasui Sketches is one of the most elegant sketching apps available for the iPhone, with a variety of realistic-looking drawing tools to pick from and hardly any learning curve, even for complete beginners in digital art. You can install it inside iMessage as well, making this mini-app the perfect way to share your artistic skills in a chat.

Tayasui Sketches is free, with a $6 Pro upgrade.


The Giphy app extension in the iOS Messages app.
Well done! You have installed a massive GIF library. David Nield

Nothing livens up a conversation quite like a GIF—a short animated clip is often worth a thousand words—and GIPHY is one of the largest repositories of them on the web. With the GIPHY app for iMessage, you get access to all of these GIFs right inside your chats, so all you’ll have to do is simply run a search for what you’re looking for and select the best one.

GIPHY is free.

For files: Dropbox

If you’re a regular Dropbox user, you’ll want to get the Dropbox app for iMessage installed as well as the main iOS one. It puts access to your Dropbox files and folders two taps away inside your iMessage chats, making it quick and simple to link up anything you want to share. Any files shared with you can be saved straight to your Dropbox too.

Dropbox is free, with a Plus upgrade for $12 a month.

For weather: Meteored

For those times when you want to share a weather forecast with someone—either for your current location or anywhere else in the world—get Meteored installed in iMessage. It can come in handy whether you’re planning a walk or picking out potential vacation destinations, and the forecast includes temperature, wind speed, and precipitation levels.

Meteored is free.

For surveys: Polls

You’ll often have to make decisions in one-on-one or group chats—where to meet up, what night to hold an event, which activities to do, and so on—and Polls lets you canvas everyone in a conversation for their opinion. The iMessage app couldn’t be any simpler to use either: Enter the title of the poll and as many options as you need, then share it.

Polls is free.

For movies: IMDb

The IMDB extension for iMessage conversations within Messages on iOS.
For when you want to quickly look up Don’t Look Up. David Nield

If you’re regularly organizing movie nights or are at all interested in films, make sure the Internet Movie Database app for iMessage is at your disposal. The functionality is straightforward: You can search for any movie or performer listing in the database, then share it with your contacts in iMessage (with a comment, if needed).

IMDb is free.

For languages: iTranslate

Whether you’re learning a language with other people or need to chat with someone whose native tongue differs from your own, iTranslate can help. It can translate lines of text and even audio snippets directly inside iMessage, and the mini-app is connected to a full iOS app that includes widgets, flashcards, and support for over 100 languages.

iTranslate is free, with a Pro upgrade for $6 a month.

For maps: Google Maps

Google Maps needs no introduction, and if you’ve already installed the app on your iPhone you’ll find it inside the mini-app gallery in iMessage as well. Its main purpose inside iMessage is to share your location with the person you’re chatting with—either temporarily or on an ongoing basis—so they know exactly where you are.

Google Maps is free.