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The new and hidden texting features you should be using

Texting takes up hours of any mobile user’s day. Google and iOS have some features you may not be using that could make texting a lot easier

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A screenshot shows the pin feature for messaging on a smart phone.

Screenshot, Amy Iverson

The average adult spends a total of 23 hours a week texting, according to Simple Texting, a mass text messaging software company. So we need certain functions on messaging apps to help our quick-moving thumbs. 

Scheduling messages

Google’s most recent update — Android phones running version 7 or newer — includes scheduling text messages to send at a later date and time.

Think of all the moments you’ve needed to send a text to someone, but it’s too late at night or too early in the morning. Sometimes you’re texting someone in a different time zone and it never seems to be the right time for both of you to communicate. We try to remember to send the text later at a decent time, but if you’re like me, the text is often forgotten.

Now you can create your message as usual, but then schedule it. Instead of tapping the send button, hold it down. A menu pops up so you can choose when you’d like to send it. There are predesigned options like “later today,” “later tonight” or “tomorrow,” but you can also choose a custom date and time as well. Hit send and see a confirmation of what you’ve scheduled. You can always tap the clock icon to edit the message, cancel it or send it right away.

Sadly, iPhone users do not yet have the ability to schedule texts for a later time, but props to iOS for offering a solution to a different complaint my friend has expressed over and over.

Auto replies

I recently discovered a solution for my friend, although the functionality is just a bit hidden. This comes in handy if you’re someone who usually texts back fairly quickly and people may wonder whether there’s a problem if you’re tied up and can’t respond right away.

There are no settings in the Messages app to enable this feature, instead you’ll need to use the “Do Not Disturb” setting. I have “Do Not Disturb” set to automatically silence calls and notifications at night while I’m sleeping, except those from contacts I’ve designated as my “favorites.” “Do Not Disturb” could also be useful during a meeting, while exercising or when at a restaurant or movie.

My phone has often asked me if I’d like to turn on my “Do Not Disturb” setting when I have an event on my calendar. When it is turned on, you have the option of formulating an auto-reply text to respond to anyone who texts you. Mine tells my “favorites” I’m either sleeping, busy and that I’ll text them back later. Go to “Do Not Disturb” in settings and decide who will receive the auto-reply text when it’s turned on. You can choose from “no one,” “recents,” “favorites” or “all contacts.”

The ‘Pin’ feature

With most of us receiving dozens of texts every single day, sometimes it can be difficult to remember to respond. Those texts that require more research can get buried and you never end up replying at all. Use the “Pin” feature to make sure that doesn’t happen. You can “Pin” important conversations so they stay at the top of your text feed inside a circle. Swipe right or long-press on any text to pin up to nine conversations. You’ll see previews of any unread message in that text thread in a little conversation bubble on top of the contact’s photo.

You can pin individual conversations or group chats, plus a handy new feature in iOS 14 allows you to create a custom photo for those group chats, too.

Notifications in group chats

Speaking of group chats, how many of you mute them when they seem to get out of hand? It’s a great feature to help minimize notifications, but it can cause problems if someone asks you a question in that thread and you never respond. Here’s a way to get someone’s attention in a group chat, even when they have it muted. You can direct message someone in a group chat by using the @ sign followed by their contact name, or by typing the person’s name and then tapping on it and then their contact name when it pops up. This notifies the person you’ve mentioned, even if they have muted the conversation. It’s sneaky and it works.

We already spend a lot time texting during the day. Use these messaging tips to make the effort more efficient and less annoying.