Apple tests iMessage mentions, retractions and more for iOS 14

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iOS 10 Messages
iMessage could get even better later this year.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple is reportedly testing a number of new iMessage features that could debut with iOS 14 later this year. They include the ability to retract messages after they’re sent, and to tag other people in group chats. We could also get the option to mark messages as unread.

iMessage has become one of iPhone’s biggest selling points. Its blue bubbles separate Apple fans from the Android crowd, while its features make it harder for iPhone users to jump ship. Apple has made huge improvements to the service over the years — and it isn’t done perfecting iMessage just yet.

iMessage is still lacking some useful features you’ll find on other messaging platforms like WhatsApp. However, changes that could debut this fall with iOS 14 will help bridge that gap.

Apple plans new iMessage features for iOS 14

Apple is said to be testing the ability to tag other users in iMessage group chats, MacRumors reports. The mentions system is reportedly similar to Slack’s in that it uses the @ symbol, followed by a person’s name, to get their attention. It would be useful in busy conversations when messages might otherwise be missed.

The mentions system could also help users keep notifications under control. For instance, it could allow users to hide alerts for a busy conversation, but still receive notifications when their name is mentioned.

Apple is also expected to give us the ability to retract iMessages after they’re sent. This has become a common feature elsewhere, and it can help save users from embarrassment when they send a delicate text to the wrong person. It’s thought recipients will be told when a message has been retracted, but they won’t see the message itself.

Other features could include typing indicators in group chats — like those you see in one-to-one conversations — and the ability to mark the last message in a conversation as unread. Apple may also add status updates.

Nothing confirmed yet

None of this has been confirmed yet, of course. MacRumors notes that “while these features could potentially arrive as early as iOS 14, they could be held back until a later software update or perhaps never released.” We shouldn’t get too excited about the changes just yet, then.

They are improvements that make sense — especially if Apple wants to ensure that iMessage remains the go-to messaging platform for iPhone users. But they’re also features that could probably be cast aside so that Apple can ensure other, more important improvements for iOS 14 are ready for a fall release.

One change that does look likely for iMessage on macOS is a new Catalyst version of the Messages app, ported over from iOS. Developer Steve Troughton-Smith found evidence of this in Catalina code last year. The transition would make it easier for Apple to bring Messages for Mac in line with its mobile counterpart, and to update both simultaneously.