The iMessage changes in iOS 17 are a step backwards

Apple has changed a bunch of apps in new versions of its most popular operating systems, which can be seen in the developer betas for iOS 17 and watchOS 10. These changes range from minor tweaks to entire app redesigns, and some of these look great additions to Apple’s best operating systems. But not all of these refinements were for the better.

In the first developer beta of iOS 17, Apple changed the way you send attachments and other media via iMessage, but that’s a step backwards. While Apple still has plenty of time to reverse course and go back to the old way of adding attachments to iMessage, as it stands now, the changes are one of the worst parts of the upcoming iOS 17 update.


How adding attachments to Messages has changed in iOS 17

The new menu for adding attachments in Messages.

Photo: Brady Snyder

iMessage is a feature that makes iPhones some of the best smartphones in 2023, and attachments—or anything that isn’t strictly text or a link—are a huge part of the service’s appeal. This includes photos and videos, audio messages, location and more, along with a variety of apps and games like GamePigeon. Due to the number of attachments that can be sent via iMessage (just think of how often you send photos and videos in the Messages app), any change to this process can have a huge effect on day-to-day use.

Previously, attachments were added to iMessage via a row of apps that lived right above the keyboard. If you had text suggestions enabled on your keyboard, this line appeared right above your suggestions. Commonly used native attachments, such as a shortcut to the camera and photos, were found towards the left and could be opened with a single tap. Others, such as third-party apps, can be found by scrolling down the line. This worked well enough, but it added an extra row to the keyboard in Messages, limiting the amount of screen real estate that could be used for conversations.

However, in iOS 17, the entire line has been replaced by a plus symbol that is right next to the text field in Messages. Tapping this button opens a menu showing all the Apple attachments you can send via iMessage. There’s also a More button at the bottom that opens another menu, this time containing all the third-party attachments you can send via iMessage. Without ever using iOS 17, you may already be seeing the problem with this redesign. Sending every single attachment in iOS 17 takes longer than in iOS 16.

Each attachment takes multiple taps to send in iOS 17

Messages from third-party apps

Photo: Brady Snyder

It would be one thing if Apple made it more difficult to access third-party applications in iMessage. After all, I’m not sure there are a ton of people using them. I regularly send music lyrics through the Genius app on iMessage and occasionally play iMessage games with my family on GamePigeon. If this were the only change to the Messages app, it would be a minor annoyance that I’d quickly get over.

Instead, doing Nothing typing will also require more taps than in iOS 16. Simply opening the camera or selecting a photo from your camera roll now requires two taps instead of one. Sending your location or a voice memo takes three taps instead of two. And if you want to send an attachment from a third-party app on iOS 17, it will take at least four taps. Just look at the difference between opening the camera in the Messages app on iOS 16 and iOS 17 below.

Screenshot of iOS 16 on left, iOS 17 on right.

Reaching your third-party apps in iMessage is an even worse effort, as shown below.

Screenshot of iOS 16 on left, iOS 17 on right.

What Apple needs to do to fix iMessage before the launch of iOS 17

Taking a photo in iMessage in iOS 17.

Photo: Brady Snyder

To be clear, Apple still has plenty of time to tweak this UI before iOS 17 properly rolls out this fall. The company regularly uses developer betas to test features, some of which never make it to a public release. Therefore, this is not the time to start fearing the release of iOS 17. But, if you are using iOS 17 now, you can make suggestions to Apple through the Feedback app. Appears only when running a public or developer beta version of a software release.

If Apple decides to stick with this user interface, it can make some changes to improve it. First, there must be a camera shortcut right in the main keyboard view. People take quick photos in Messages all the time, and even making the process take an extra second could make all the difference in capturing that moment or missing it. Apple lets you move apps between pages and puts all apps on one page. The only one that can’t be moved is the App Store, which is stuck on the second page. However, an even better solution would be to add a smooth scroll view and remove the second menu by default, like the old app row.

The iMessage changes in iOS 17 were one of the first things I noticed after the update, and they’ve had a significant effect on how I use my iPhone 14. I send fewer attachments, and certainly fewer third-party attachments. This could be by design or just an unintended consequence of Apple trying new things. Either way, it’s clear that the changes to iMessage in iOS 17 as they currently stand are a step backwards.

#iMessage #iOS #step

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