Apple could save Messages on Mac with new iPad app port

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Messages-iPad
Messages is so much better on iPad.
Photo: Apple

Apple looks to be gearing up to port iPad’s built-in Messages app over to Mac. The move could immediately fix Messages’ biggest problems on Mac, including its glaring lack of features.

The desktop version of the app still does not support iMessage apps, Apple Pay, message effects and other key features. Evidence of the move has been uncovered in leaked iOS 14 code, indicating it could be executed this fall when Apple drops its next major macOS update.

Messages on iOS has been a major focus for Apple for many years. It’s now one of the things that ties people to iPhone and makes it more difficult to switch to Android. On Mac, however, it feels like an app that has long been forgotten.

It’s not just that Messages on Mac looks and feels outdated; it’s that it is outdated. It supports hardly any of the features that makes Messages great, and it seems Apple has had no interest in fixing that in recent macOS updates.

Things could change this year, however. A leaked build of iOS 14 suggests iPad’s built-in Messages app — with all the brilliant features we’ve become accustomed to — will finally make the leap to macOS.

Messages due an overhaul on Mac

“We have found evidence of a Catalyst version of the Messages app in an early build of iOS 14,” reports 9to5Mac. “In other words, this means Apple will bring the same Messages app from iOS and iPadOS to the Mac.”

This is huge. It means Apple could fix all of Messages’ shortcomings on Mac overnight. In addition to iMessage apps, Apple Pay and message effects, we could see support for stickers, GIFs and more.

Messages on the desktop also might become much easier to use. Right now, it’s not obvious how to insert a photo or perform a “Tapback” — one of the few features Messages on Mac does actually support. But it should be.

Catalyst ports march on

It is believed Apple will use Catalyst, its platform for porting iPad apps to Mac, to make all this happen. (Messages would not be the first Catalyst app. Apple already ported the Stocks, Voice Memos, Home and News from iOS to Mac.)

Apple also used Catalyst to replace iTunes, with the Music, TV and Podcasts apps now used in place of a bloated, all-in-one media hub.

It should be noted that iOS 14 leaks aren’t confirmation of Apple’s plans. Things could change before Apple previews the next major updates to iPhone, iPad and Mac at its online Worldwide Developers Conference next month. But it’s certainly a promising sign.