• Facebook Messenger and TenCent’s WeChat popular on iPhone
  • Announcement comes as part of Apple’s developer conference

Apple Inc. is taking aim at popular messages systems from Facebook Inc. and TenCent Holding Ltd., adding new fun features and the ability for developers to put their applications inside its iPhone-only iMessage app.

Apple will let developers build their applications into iMessage so users can do more tasks inside the app, like make payments or order take-out food. It also added bigger emojis, quick-reply options like a thumbs-up and special animations like pulsing lights or floating balloons, all consumer-friendly features similar to those available on SnapChat or Facebook Messenger.

Apple’s changes show the company is following Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of messaging applications as the tools people will use to do everything from chatting with customer service representatives and getting sports updates to booking taxis or paying restaurant bills. This model has been popular for years in China, where TenCent’s WeChat app is used by millions of consumers for banking, buying and keeping tabs on celebrity updates. Facebook’s WhatsApp has about 1 billion users and Messenger has about 900 million. Both consistently rank among the top downloads on Apple’s App Store.

Apple announced the messaging changes Monday at its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. Still, the company didn’t go so far as to open iMessage for download on non-Apple devices, confining the application to iPhones.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE