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Take Your Texts Beyond Emojis With These Tricks

4 ways to make smartphone messaging more playful on your iPhone or Android device

spinner image photograph of a man and his digital cartoon from apple called a memoji
Getty Images, Apple

🎉 You’ve got the emoji thing down 😀. You’re adding ❤️s and 💯s and 👍s to your texts. You’re on 🔥.

Remember emoticons, a mashup of emotion and icon? ;-) That’s where emojis came from. Emojis, a Japanese joining of e for electronics, borrowed from English, and moji for character or letter, gave us colorful little electronic pictures of those emotions. 😉 But now you’re ready to take your thumbs to the next level. If you have a newer smartphone, get ready for more fun with art and animation.

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If you use an iPhone

1. Make a Memoji. This is an animated caricature — a combination of me and emoji — of you.

Launch your messages app, then while in a conversation, tap on the sticker icon. It looks like a face with heart eyes.

Tap on the “+” button and move through the screens to choose the features — hair style and color, facial hair — closest to yours. Tap Done to save your Memoji. Then, when composing a message, tap on the sticker icon to select variations of the Memoji you saved.

2. Add an audio clip. Your spouse might appreciate hearing “I love you” rather than reading it.

To record your voice, hold down the round sound wave icon to the right of the text field. It appears only if you’re texting someone who is also on an iPhone. When the icon turns red, start speaking.

When you’re done recording, take your finger off the icon. Next, press the Play icon to listen to your message. When you’re ready to send, tap on the up arrow. If you’re not happy with the message, tap the X to delete.

3. Send a GIF. These little animations are a fun way to express a feeling.

If a friend texts you with some good news, you might respond with a GIF of Snoop Dogg doing a little dance. To find a GIF, tap on the red Search icon. It looks like a magnifying glass but is available only if you’re texting another iPhone.

Next, either scroll through the images or type what you’re looking for in the Find Images field. For example, a keyword might be “Love,” “Birthday” or “I’m Sorry.” Choose a GIF and send.

4. Experiment with effects. If you know you’re sending to a fellow iPhone user and you’re used to tapping the green circle with an up arrow to send your text message, hold the button a little longer.

The Bubble effect allows you to send your words with one of four delivery flourishes. The Screen effect gives you eight options such as falling confetti, rising balloons or exploding fireworks to fill the message background. But your Android user friends will be bored: They see only a label describing the special effect in parentheses after your message.

spinner image a Bitmoji icon on a phone screen

If you have an Android smartphone

1. Make a Bitmoji. This is a cartoon-like image similar to a Memoji. You’ll need to install the free Bitmoji app, also available for iPhones. Android phones vary, so follow the app’s instructions.

2. Speak your message. Or sing a song. Or whistle a happy tune. Similar to an iPhone, Android devices can record your voice in their Google Messages app.

Open the app, choose your recipient and tap the icon made up of six uneven vertical lines, representing sound waves, in the lower right corner of your screen. You should see a pop-up box that says, “Touch and hold to record audio message.” Lift your finger when you’ve finished recording.

The icon transforms into a button that looks like a paper airplane. Press it to send your voice message or tap the red X to delete if you have second thoughts.

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3. Add animations. It is also possible to send and receive text with animations, but it’s not nearly as straightforward as on an Apple device. Depending on which brand and model of phone you have and which version of the Android operating system your device is running, you will need to download and install extra free apps. Look for Bitmoji, Giphy, Mojitok or Tenor in the Google Play or Samsung Galaxy stores.

4. Pick a sticker. Your phone likely has an array of stickers already installed.

Tap the square smiley face icon inside the box where you’re typing to see what animated GIFs are available. Notice the labels above the drawings. If you tap on each one, you can see options for each emotion. If you don’t like the selections, tap the “+” icon to see more, or get more stickers in the Google Play or Samsung Galaxy stores.

Before you head to one of the app stores, swipe right once as you’re looking at what’s available on your Samsung Android phone. You’ll see a screen that will allow you to create an emoji of yourself that’s also a bit like an iPhone Memoji.

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