Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Wish List: Expanded Tapbacks

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

When Apple decided in 2016 to substantially revamp messages, it added a ton of features, including iMessage apps, screen effects, and stickers. For me, a lot of those features were a novelty that I tried a few times and discarded (or use every once in a while), but one feature has, to my surprise, persisted in its usefulness: tapbacks.

Maybe it’s because I spend so much time in Slack, where reaction emoji are a way of life, but it’s clear that habit has jumped to Messages. Being able to give a thumbs up or a laugh or a heart to a message sometimes obviates the need to actually type out a response that can just as easily be said with an icon. For all that they stand out, they’re also surprisingly subtle.

But the simplicity of tapbacks is also a source of frustration. I find myself wishing that, as in Slack, I could bestow a larger variety of reactions than the half dozen that Apple makes available. Sure, there’s a broad elegance to the options, designed to cover the most common reactions to a message, but sometimes you just want to get a little more specific.

It would be great if Apple would allow the adding of any emoji as a tapback. Perhaps simply with the inclusion of an “Other…” option once you bring up the tapback popover, which would in turn summon the emoji picker.

If you haven’t tried out tapbacks, I highly recommend giving them a try–they can seem a bit cheesy at first, but they’re actually a really handy tool. And, unlike iMessage apps, if you don’t want to use them, they don’t eat up valuable onscreen real estate. They’re also one of the few Messages features that’s supported equally well on iOS and the Mac, which is almost enough to recommend them in my book.

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at or reach him by email at His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is out now.]

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