Image: CNET

iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 has brought about some substantial changes to the Messages app, building on the redesign that Apple completed in iOS 13 with the ability to set up profiles for iMessage conversations. This new redesign brings about some great new features for group conversations, which have likely been used more frequently due to social distancing in the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. These new features, like the ability to set a group photo, threaded replies, and mentions make for a great new experience when there’s a conversation going with multiple people.

Let’s take a look at these three new group features and learn how you can utilize them in your own workflow.

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Setting group information

iOS 11 featured the ability to set a name for group messages to distinguish between the various chats that you might have going in the Messages app at any given time, but Apple upped that a notch with iOS 14. You now have the ability to set not only the group name, but also supply a photo that everyone in the group will see as the group’s profile picture in Messages.

To do this, perform the following steps:

  1. Open the Messages app.
  2. Select the group message that you’d like to customize the name and photo for.
  3. Tap on the recipient photos in the top bar, then tap Info.
  4. Select Change Name And Photo under the group name (Figure A).

Figure A

You can customize many aspects of the group now with Messages in iOS 14, including the name and the picture representation of the group.

In this area, you can tap on the camera icon to take a photo, the photo album to choose a photo already taken from your Photos app, the emoji button to set a custom emoji as the group picture, or the pencil button to make a custom text icon representation for the group. If you scroll to the bottom of this screen, you can also choose a Memoji representation instead. With this, you can now make group chats even more distinguishable.

Threaded replies

One of the biggest changes to group messaging comes in the form of threaded replies. You now have the ability to create a thread from any message in the conversation, so that all the related messages around a particular conversation are stacked together.

To create a thread, tap and hold on a message and select Reply from the context menu that appears. You will then be taken into the threaded reply view where you can create a reply message and send it just like any other iMessage (Figure B).

Figure B

The threaded reply view lets you reply to a specific message so that the context of that thought is contained in the thread. Anyone can then reply to that same thread.

Tap anywhere in the white area to leave the threaded view and go back to the main conversation. Threads will appear connected in the main conversation view and you can continue to have a conversation in the main Messages view (Figure C). If someone were to reply to the thread, then their latest message reply would appear in the main Messages view. Tapping on the reply will open the thread view again so that you can read the entire threaded conversation separately from the main conversation.

Figure C

The thread as it appears in the main conversation view of Messages.
Cory Bohon / TechRepublic

This feature will enable new chatting capabilities inside of the Messages app that will make conversations more clear when you have many people in the same group.


Another great new addition to the Messages app in iOS 14 is the ability to mention someone in a group or single-person conversation. Simply type the @ sign followed by their first name with no space. When you press space, the mention will highlight blue if they’re a part of the conversation and when you send the message, they will be alerted to the message even if they have the Hide Alerts featured turned on for that conversation. This is a great way to get someone’s attention and direct a particular message in a group conversation to a particular participant.