Here’s How iOS 13 Will Let You Set Your Own iMessage Profile Photo and Name

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Another small but useful new feature that’s slated to arrive in iOS 13 — and it’s going to be one of many — will be the ability to create what is essentially an iMessage profile to share with other users that you chat with.

To be clear, Apple is not turning iMessage into a social media network, but what it will be doing, starting with iOS 13, is providing a sort of advanced “caller ID” whenever you initiate an iMessage conversation with someone. While Apple’s iMessage is a pretty powerful and robust messaging service that offers some pretty advanced features, for understandable reasons it currently doesn’t send any identifying information in conversations other than your phone number or email address, relying on the recipient’s iPhone to look up your information from their own contacts app to more accurately identify who is messaging them.

With iOS 13, however, you’ll be able to set a display name and photo/avatar to represent your identity, and it will be sent out to recipients when you initiate a new conversation. It can also be used by contacts you’re already chatting with to update the photo that they have for you, which is a particularly useful feature for those users who don’t bother to — or don’t really know how to — set photos for their contacts.

To be clear, this information won’t be stored in any kind of online directory — as we said, this isn’t a social network, and we all know by now how much emphasis Apple puts on privacy — but will be stored only on your iPhone and sent only to people you actually choose to chat with.

9to5Mac has provided a more in-depth look at the feature, which outlines how you will go about setting your profile photo and name, and what kind of options you’ll have for controlling who it gets shared with.

Setting Your Name and Photo

Users will be able to set their name and photo directly in the Messages app on iOS 13 by tapping a button in the navigation bar, which will show a familiar interface, similar to the Contacts app, allowing a first name, last name, and photo to be set, along with sharing options.

Much like in the Contacts app, you’ll be able to snap a new photo using your iPhone camera, or select an existing photo from your photo library. You can also choose to just display your initials, but you’ll be able to pick a nicer background color for them.

Alternatively, you can use an Animoji or Memoji as your avatar, using either the predefined Animoji or a Memoji you’ve previously created, or creating a new one on the fly. You’ll also be able to pick a colourful background to show your image against.

How Your Info Will Be Shared

After setting your photo, you’ll see an option to allow you to control whether it’s shared at all. It’s unclear what purpose there is to setting this information if you’re not going to share it, but the switch does allow for you to temporarily turn it off if you want to without having to erase it entirely. 9to5Mac’s description also suggests that there may be a way to share your information manually when the Share Name and Photo switch is disabled, but this isn’t entirely clear.

What we do know is that when it’s switched on, you’ll be offered three privacy levels to control who your photo and name will be shared with. Anyone will allow anybody and everybody you communicate with (but only those you communicate with) to see your info, however this will still only happens the next time you actually send them a message — iOS 13 won’t send out its own background updates, but instead just packages your name and avatar in a sort of message header.

As an alternative, you can choose Always Ask if you want to be prompted each time you send a message, or Contacts Only if you only want to share your information with those already in your contacts. It also seems very likely that this will only work for those that you’re sending actual iMessages to (e.g. blue bubbles rather than green bubbles), so the privacy settings will be irrelevant for things like automated text messages, and besides, regardless of the setting, your information is only sent when you specifically send an outbound message to somebody, not merely when receiving messages from others.

It also looks like iOS 13 will keep track of who you’ve already sent this information to, so it won’t send it out with every single new iMessage — only those who haven’t received it since the last time you changed it. Whenever you update your info, however, those who you send it to will get prompted by their own Messages app (provide they’re also running iOS 13 or macOS Catalina), asking them if they want to update their address book with your new name and image or keep what they already have on file.

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