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How to use emoji and Tapbacks in Messages on iPhone and iPad


If you like sending emoji in your texts and iMessages, Apple makes doing that incredibly easy. Between Tapbacks for reacting directly to a message and using machine learning to know which emoji to recommend, Apple understands that these little pictograms are some of the best iPhone communication tools.

If that doesn’t sound important to you, then you haven’t seen the kind of cheers emoji get on stage or the amount of interest they generate on social platforms. They’re a big, smiley, thumbs-up kind of deal!

If you’re looking to spice up your messages to your friends and family, you can litter them with emoji all you want! Here’s how you do it!

How do you get emoji recommendations in Messages?

Apple’s predictive QuickType keyboard can suggest emoji as well as, you know, regular words. The predictive keyboard has to be turned on in Settings and can’t be hidden, so check out our QuickType keyboard guide first if you need helping getting it set up.

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  1. Start typing in the Messages text field.
  2. Tap any emoji predictions that show up in the prediction bar. If multiple predictions show up, tap the one you prefer.
  3. Tap the Send button. (Looks like an upward arrow.)

    Getting emoji recommendations in Messages showing how to type in the message field, then tap a predicted emoji, then tap Send

    Source: iMore

Emoji predictions will show up whenever you type something that has a corresponding emoji. For example, “I’m happy” will predict “[smiley face].” “My car” will suggest the “[car]” emoji.

pro-type: If you don’t want the emoji to take the place of the word but rather appear beside it, put a space between the word before you tap your desired emoji.

How do you replace words with emoji in Messages?

This “emojification” process works similarly to emoji recommendations and will work in both iMessages and standard SMS texts.

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  1. Type an iMessage in the text field.
  2. Tap the Emoji button on the keyboard.
  3. Tap on a word that’s highlighted orange to replace it with its corresponding emoji.

    How to emojify a message, showing how to type an iMessage, tap on the emoji button on the keyboard, and tap an orange word

    Source: iMore

  4. Keep tapping words highlighted until you’ve “emojified” everything you want.
  5. Tap the Send button (Looks like an upward arrow).

    How to emojify a message, showing how to continue tapping orange words until you've emojified everything you wanted to, then tap Send

    Source: iMore

With emojification, you can convert as many — or as few — words to emoji as you like.

How do you react with a Tapback in an iMessage?

Emoji aren’t just for replying; they’re also for reacting. Apple calls them Tapbacks. They’re similar to Slack or Facebook emoji reactions and drop right onto any iMessage bubble sent your way.

  1. Touch and hold (long press), or double-tap on an iMessage sent your way.
  2. Tap the Tapback you want to send: Heart, thumbs up, thumbs down, Ha ha, !!, or ?.

    How to use Tapbacks in Messages, showing how to open messages, tap and hold on a message sent to you, then tap on the Tapback you want to send

    Source: iMore

There’s no need to hit send; the Tapback reaction goes immediately.

What do the different Tapback reactions mean?

Theoretically, these Tapback reactions can mean whatever you want them to. Context is king, and a thumbs up Tapback to your Mom might mean something different than one to your best friend. Here’s a basic guide to all the Tapback reactions that are available and what they could mean.

  • Heart: Like, love, or fave
  • Thumbs up: Happy, approve, or agree
  • Thumbs down: Sad, disapprove, or disagree
  • Haha: Laugh, either happily or sarcastically.
  • !!: Exclaim emphatically.
  • ?: Question.

How do you change the Tapback reaction on an iMessage?

If you reply with the wrong Tapback or later decide you want a different Tapback, you can easily make the change.

  1. Touch and hold (long press) or double-tap on an iMessage with the Tapback you want to change.
  2. Tap the Tapback you want to change to: Heart, thumbs up, thumbs down, Ha ha, !!, or ?.

    How to change Tapbacks in Messages showing how to tap and hold on a message to which you've attached a Tapback, then tap the new Tapback you want to use

    Source: iMore

The new Tapback will take the place of the old one.

How do you delete a Tapback reaction on an iMessage?

If you accidentally send a Tapback or have simply reconsidered sending one, you can also remove it.

  1. Tap a Tapback that you wish to remove.
  2. Tap the Tapback you want to remove (i.e., if you want to remove Heart, tap Heart.)

    Deleting Tapbacks showing how to tap on a Tapback you want to remove, then tap it again in the Tapback popup menu.

    Source: iMore

The Tapback will disappear for you and the recipient.

Emote away

Using emoji has never been easier, and Tapbacks just somehow made things even simpler. Now you can spam these happy and cheerful pictograms all you want. Here’s to having vibrant and fun conversations in just a few taps.

Updated November 2021: Updated for iOS 15.

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