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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

iOS 17.2 beta sticker reactions: 👎🏻

Two stickers and an actual tapback.
This message bubble has two stickers obscuring text, and a real Tapback that doesn’t.

When Apple first announced iOS 17, one of the new features got me really excited. After years of wanting an expansion of iMessage Tapbacks, Apple was granting our wish—well, sort of.

Rather than letting users choose to tap back with any emoji, Apple was bringing a new “sticker reaction” to Messages, and since any emoji could now be a sticker, you can put two and two together and get pretty much any reaction you want to quickly tag to a blue bubble.

On Thursday Apple released the first developer beta of iOS 17.2, and after four months of anticipation we’ve finally gotten our first glimpse at Apple’s new sticker reactions.

I know this is just a developer beta, so there’s time for Apple to fix the problem… but as of right now, I am thoroughly disappointed.

There’s not even a shortcut for stickers in the Tapback menu.

This new feature has no connection at all with the fun double-tap gesture that’s synonymous with Tapbacks. I didn’t expect stickers to be a peer to Apple’s classic1 collection of six Tapback icons, but I did sort of assume that at the very least, performing the Tapback gesture would also give you the option of choosing a sticker. (And the right thing for Apple to do would be to display recently used stickers alongside the Tapback icons.)

Instead, to send a sticker response you have to tap and hold on a message and then choose Add Sticker from the resulting contextual menu, then choose a sticker or emoji. It’s an extra step that really shouldn’t be necessary and makes stickers feel like an afterthought, which they apparently are.

It gets worse. When you add a sticker reaction, it’s placed on top of the message you’re reacting to, obscuring part of the text! Why in the world would Apple choose a placement that makes it impossible to read the text being responded to? The right placement for these reactions is… wait for it… the same place that Tapbacks appear, in a little bubble snuggled up against the message that’s being reacted to.

It was always clear that Apple was just modifying its existing sticker system to create this feature, but I expected a bit more care in how reactions were deployed. If you drag out a sticker, you can at least try to drop it somewhere that doesn’t obscure the message you’re comment on. But if you just tap to insert a sticker in iOS 17.2, the emoji just pops down on top of text. That’s it.

I don’t know if there’s any chance this feature can be improved before it’s unleashed on the general public later this year. There are lots of ways it could be improved, but just offering a shortcut from the Tapback menu and choosing a more appropriate default placement would be enough to upgrade it from “what were they thinking?” status to simply “needs improvement.”

I can’t believe I spent four months anticipating this feature.

  1. That’s sarcasm, because they haven’t ever changed them. 

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