This is a look at some of the most popular and unique offerings available in the iMessage App Store. It’s not a ranking of apps based on popularity, because if we did a list from 1 to 10, it would only be stickers and games like rock paper scissors, and that’s not very interesting.
Instead, we chose these apps across categories to demonstrate a broader, more interesting range of apps and app extensions.
Keep in mind that nothing in the iMessage App Store has been available for even three months yet.
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In short order, Fam appears to have become the biggest success story in the iMessage App Store so far.
Fam was released earlier this month and claims to have already racked up more than a million downloads. It’s now at #2 in the Top Free app category of the iMessage App Store behind GamePigeon, a collection of about a dozen games you can play with friends.
As this Fortune profile explains, Fam was made by Smack, a Boston-based company with six employees. After receiving $2 million in seed funding and launching a video chat app by another name, Fam was an experiment, a weekend project at a time Smack was nearly out of money.
A Fam app is under development now to keep group video chat calls from ending when you leave iMessage.
A week or two after the launch of Fam came Looksy, another iMessage app that streams live video.
2. Tinder Stacks
Tinder Stacks is like making a visual poll so your friends or family can pick their favorite picture.
Like Tinder, you just swipe right to approve, left to reject. This is not connected to the Tinder app for dating, though it is a smart way to make sure you don’t look like an axe murderer in your Tinder profile pics.
You don’t have to limit your visual polling to dating profile pics. You can use it to select your outfit for a job interview, choose between birthday cake ideas you hunted down on Pinterest, or (this is harsh, but) your next date.
This is sort of like the Motion Stills app from Google that makes a GIF from every photo you take, except Momento groups together photos taken in a burst or in succession to create a GIF.
While Motion Stills requires the use of Live photos, the Momento iMessage app goes back through your old shots to make new GIFs. For that alone it’s worth giving Momento a shot, just to see what it turns up.
The initial version of Momento only detected photos, but now Momento has both an app and an iMessage app. The iOS app can make GIFs from live photos and videos too and add effects like filters and stickers.
4. GIPHY Cam
You can use GIPHY Cam to put on a turkey hat, pop digital champagne bottles, dance with tacos, or toss in some crying Michael Jordan. You’ve really got a lot of options to make different GIFs.
Like JibJab, GIPHY Cam is an iMessage app extension, so if you’re familiar with that app, you won’t discover anything new here — it just brings the JibJab-like app inside iMessage. And like JibJab, fooling around with this app can be a lot of fun.
Wordie lets you create puzzles out of photos or GIFs. You can then share your puzzles with friends or add them to the larger Walkie online community. Creator The Fast Mind added the ability to make your own puzzles in November.
For iMessage, multiplayer games like Words with Friends are among the most popular apps, not just in games but in the entire iMessage App Store. Wordie is currently #17 in the iMessage App Store top free category (although it’s more like top 5 if you place stickers in a separate category).
6. Cobi Hoops
Take a glance at the most popular games in the iMessage App Store and you’ll find some pretty basic stuff: not just chess and checkers, but also rock paper scissors and Battleship.
In that vein, Cobi Hoops lets each person shoot basketball free throws for 30 seconds in a tit-for-tat competition. It doesn’t bring a lot of complexity to the table, but it’s fun and you can get into it.
From the ecommerce startup acquired by Walmart for $3 billion earlier this year, this app extension lets you share a shopping cart with family or friends and invite them to add their own items so you can shop together. As easy as that sounds, it’s a group shopping experience that’s heads and shoulders above most of its competition, both in the iMessage App Store and other bot ecosystems.
8. Ali Express
There are iMessage apps and app extensions for big-ticket items like cars and homes from Edmunds and Zillow, but day-to-day purchases are a different breed.
From Alibaba Group, Ali Express brings you shopping deals that change every three hours. It really makes you wonder why Amazon isn’t offering the same in an iMessage app.
9. Voo Plan
Most people are creatures of habit who really only go to a half dozen places on a regular basis. That’s exactly how I live my life. Voo Plan and its app let you organize events with a group of people who know what they like.
Other location-based apps that want to track your every move may be overthinking it, cofounder Chris Turlica told VentureBeat. Voo Plan keeps track of you and your friends’ favorite places, then helps you pick similar places to go nearby that match everyone’s taste. The app incorporates location data from Google and your calendar.
Once you choose a time, date, and location, you can share the Voo Plan itinerary in iMessage.
The I’m In app is another popular event-planning choice from the iMessage App Store worth trying.
ETA is a quick, easy way to share your location and expected time of arrival. You get to choose whether to share your walking, bike, car, or public transit. This feels a hell of a lot like the sort of thing you get and wonder why you ever lived without it.
If you live in a congested city like San Francisco where any form of transportation can hit traffic, this is a handy, practical use case.
Honorable mention worth trying
This spot is shared by Airbnb, Seatgeek, OpenTable, and DoorDash, apps that can help you plan your next trip, your next night out, or make dinner plans.
Each app extension brings some of the app’s functionality into iMessage. All offer a relatively seamless experience and are worth trying.