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'Pew pew' on iPhone: the best secret iMessage effects and how to use them

Pew pew like a pro, and many more

iPhone XR
Apple's iPhone XR
(Image: © Shutterstock)

Secret messages in iMessage on iPhone are a great little hidden feature. Remember the first time you messaged ‘Congratulations’ and your screen exploded in confetti? 

That still works – and more have been added to the lineup of texts that will produce some exciting visual effects within iMessager. Pew pew even sends your friends a laser effect, which many love to spam at their iMessage contacts.

Just remember that you’ll only get to send the effects over iMessage, which means Android users are out of luck. 

But if you are using an iPhone, iPad, or Mac computer, you can send these fun messages to anyone within Apple’s ecosystem and your recipient will see the effects. Just remember to send the exact term and nothing else: the effect won’t go off if there’s more to the message.

They’re free, fun, and very situational – but everyone can use a text message little laser light show in their lives right now.

So what are the secret iMessage effects? 


The original secret iMessage is a classic. Text ‘congratulations’ and the recipient will get an effect that showers confetti from above. It’s a lovely effect for promotions, graduations, or sarcastic responses.

Pew pew:

All due respect to the other messages, but this is the king: type ‘pew pew’ to a friend/acquaintance/frenemy and the screen will put on its own laser lightshow, emanating from the ‘pew pew’ itself. 

The colors are randomized, but you’ll feel like you're in a nightclub as you give the recipient a party in their texts.

Happy birthday:

Want to wish a friend a happy birthday? Just put that phrase in an iMessage to them and their screen will be covered in balloons for a few short seconds. Sadly, there's no cake involved in this celebration.

Happy New Year:

You might have stumbled on this one already: wish someone a ‘happy new year’ and the background will explode in a firework display. This exchange kicks in some haptic vibration in tune with the firework explosions, which is a nice touch – and a herald of sweet effects to come. 

Happy Chinese New Year:

Wishing someone a ‘happy Chinese new year’ will light the message up red and send sparklers in the background, which vibrates with some sensitivity. Lovely!

David Lumb

David J Lumb is Mobile Editor, US for TechRadar, covering phones, tablets, and wearables. He still thinks the iPhone 4 is the best-looking smartphone ever made.