in Walkthroughs

Apple’s iOS 10 update added all kinds of new visual features to the Messages app. While most of these impact how iOS users will send messages to each other over iMessage, some changes impact how users see standard SMS messages. We’ve put together this guide to help you understand what your messages will look like to anyone using iOS 10.

First, if you send a message that is all text, without any URLs in it, then there will be no difference in how the message is displayed. But messages with links may be processed differently, but it depends on how they are written.


What the iOS 10 User Sees

First, let’s take a look at the messages people receive. They will get either a highlighted clickable URL or a preview. The difference is where the URL is placed in the message, and how the URL is written.

They will see a preview if the URL is:

  • The first text in the message or
  • The absolute last text in the message
  • And begins with http:// or https://

There can also only be one URL. If there are more, then the preview won’t appear.

If the URL is in the body of the message, or if there are any characters after the URL, then they will see the normal URL link. Examples are shown in image 1, 2 and 3 respectively.

iOS 10 and SMS: Image 1

Image 1


iOS 10 and SMS: Image 2

Image 2


iOS 10 and SMS: Image3

Image 3


Note that some have reported that a full stop (.) is allowed after the URL at the end of the message. Our testing confirms this, and we assume it is the only exception to the rule.

The preview appears as its own “bubble”, even though it is still counted in the 160 characters of the message you sent. You won’t be charged for more messages (unless you are over the character limit for one message) even if it looks like a separate message to the recipient.

The preview includes the text “Tap to Load Preview” and the domain. When the preview is clicked, it changes to show some combination of the following:

  • Web page title
  • Image
  • Favicon
  • Domain name

The domain name basically remains from where it is in the preview. The web page title will always appear as well after the preview is tapped. But whether or not an image or a favicon is shown depends on how you have your web page set up. More on that in the next section.


Controlling What the Preview Shows

Fortunately, it’s possible to control what the preview shows. It just takes some planning ahead of time.

Here’s a list of what you need to consider:

  • iOS 10 uses the Open Graph Protocol for displaying images
  • Image size determines the amount of characters available for the title
  • If no image is specified, it uses the favicon
  • If no favicon is specified, it uses the Safari favicon

By using The Open Graph Protocol, Apple lets you define an image to show by setting the og:image tag. Gifs are not supported on iOS 10 Open Graph preview images.

You can set this as a specific image, it doesn’t have to be the one on your web page (though you may want a similar for consistency of user experience). As an example here is the image that shows when the preview on image 3 above is clicked:

iOS 10 and SMS: Image 4

Image 4

The preview shows the fastsms logo image and the title of the web page linked in the message, which happens to be our home page.

If you don’t have, or don’t want to set an image using Open Graph, then by default iOS 10 will show the favicon for the web page. Adding a favicon is something that is easy to do. Ask your web designer to add them, or visit this website for instructions:

Just in case you haven’t set an image or a favicon, iOS 10 will default to showing the Safari favicon in the preview as seen in this example from a US retailer:

iOS 10 and SMS: Image 5

Image 5


Variations on Image and Titles

As mentioned above, how the title is presented depends on the image settings. If there is no image and a favicon is used, our testing shows you can get approximately 90 characters in the title (3 lines of 30 characters). But this also depends on the end device. The same message on an iPhone 6 Plus with 90 characters in the title, only showed 30 on an iPhone 6s with bold and larger text turned on. You can see this in the image 6 and 7 below.

iOS 10 and SMS: Image 6

Image 6


iOS 10 and SMS: Image 7

Image 7

It would be best to keep titles short since you never know how the end user has their device configured. Alternatively, when you set an image you have a little more control over how many characters appear (though accessibility settings like large text may still impact the presentation).

We’ve found the following image sizes and character limits recommended by other sources around the web. Our testing confirms these are probably sufficient in most cases.

Orientation Image size Character limit
Vertical 400×497 53
Vertical 400×542 72
Horizontal – high resolution 1200×628 109
Horizontal – low resolution 560×292 109


What You Need to Know About User Actions in iOS 10

Once the message is received, the user can take different actions on the message.

  • Click the “Tap to Load Preview”
  • Click the small right facing arrow next to the domain name
  • Forward the message, or forward the preview
  • Click the preview after it loads

If you’re using analytics to track clicks (via a bit shortening tool usually), clicking to load the preview will not be counted as a click. At least at the moment, this appears to be the case. You should test this with your choice of shortening tool.

However, if they click the preview after it loads it will be counted because they will be sent to the web page just like they clicked a link. This is also true if they click the arrow next to the domain in the preview, as this immediately takes them to the webpage, without loading the preview.

While the message is sent as one text, it is displayed as two (as seen in the images above). This means that if someone forwards the message, they can’t forward the link and the message text at the same time. They will have to forward twice (one time for each bubble) to send the whole message.


How to Send Messages and Avoid the iOS 10 Changes

The new changes by Apple open some opportunities for better, more effective SMS marketing to Apple device users. But if you aren’t ready to make the changes needed on your websites, then you probably want to know how to avoid any of the changes. You may also just want your messages to look consistent across all mobile devices. Either way, it’s simple to do:

Make sure your URLs are always surrounded by text of some kind. If you usually put the URL at the end of the message, add your opt-out info after the URL instead. That additional text will ensure the message appears as a link, and not use the preview feature.

Another example could be adding the expiration date to a mobile coupon (sent via a link) after the link. Any characters other than a full stop will prevent the new link preview display.

Sending more than one URL will have the same effect, even if one is at the end without additional text.

It’s also worth noting that iOS 10 is only supported on newer Apple devices. According to Cnet, only iPhone 5 and up will work with it.

If you need more information on the implications of iOS 10 on your SMS campaigns, just get in touch via phone, email or live chat 24/7.