Gears of Tech

Technology. Pure and simple.

How to Send and Save Animated Gifs on iPhone and iMessage


animated gif on iPhoneI’ve been sharing animated gifs through email as long as I can remember. Did you know you could send them to friends with an iPhone too? Here’s how.

To get started, you’ll need an iPhone running iOS 5 or later. For this example, I’ll be using an iPhone 5 with iOS 6.0.1. Apple’s iMessage will also be required.

Animated gifs can be shared by using the copy/paste technique. Simply tap and hold to copy the animated image of your choice; tap and hold again to paste the image within an iMessage text field and send it on its way.

Sending gifs with iMessageWho can you send animated gifs to?

Sadly, you can’t share that hilarious gif to your friend’s Galaxy S III (at least not through MMS). Animated gifs on can only run within iMessage. The new messaging app comes as a default on all iPhones with iOS 5.0 or later.

Since iMessage allows several people to talk within the same group thread, the animated gif will play for everyone too. Unfortunately, even adding a single number to a group text that does not support iMessage will render the gif useless. The gif will not play out for anyone.

Reaction Gif Archive

While searching for new animated gifs, I came across the Imgur reaction gif archive. It’s an awesome place for quick access to any gif at a moment’s notice. Make sure to bookmark the site and place a shortcut on your iPhone’s homepage.

The gifs are organized by all sorts of categories ranging from disgust to boobs.

How do you store animated gifs?

Unfortunately, you can’t save any gifs you encounter online to your iPhone’s photo roll. Once saved, the gif will lose the animation and will show only a static image.

Update: as our readers have pointed out, the iPhone will save gifs and will keep their respective animations intact. The bad news is that the camera roll will not play out the animation until you send the gif through email or iMessage. 

Since you can’t store view the animated images on your iPhone, the most basic way of accessing your favorite gifs is to bookmark each in Safari. You can then organize the linked bookmarks into a custom folder.

The downside to this is that these are just links. They can be taken down at a moment’s notice or replaced by something else. It’s also a pain to organize and name every bookmark.

A second way of keeping your gifs organized is to save them to a cloud service. For this example, I’ll be using Dropbox. Once you have your favorite gifs uploaded to the cloud, you can access them through the Dropbox web app.

save gifs to dropbox on iPhone

Note: Although there’s an official Dropbox app for the iPhone, stored gifs will not animate with it.

I’ve created a new folder in my Dropbox account and named it Reaction Gifs. I then placed a shortcut to this list on my iPhone’s Home Screen.

Where do I find new animated gifs?

If you’re a fan of reddit, you may have come across the sub r/reactiongifs. It’s a great place to find new gifs.

And, of course, there’s always Google. Type your search term like this: keyword animated gif.

Stay tuned for an upcoming tutorial of making your own animated gifs using Photoshop.

  • Bryson allows you to upload a GIF which it will then text to you, allowing you to save it to your camera roll without losing its animation (and when you send it out, it will animate for anyone capable of receiving MMS).

    • Edward Marquez

      Thanks for the tip. Saving an animated gif that you receive from anywhere (even pixdrop) will lose its animation after its saved on your camera roll.

      • Aaron

        This isn’t true. Stop saying that!

        • Cha-Cha

          Ha…this is funny. Who is someone like me supposed to believe? Edward or you rebels?

          • Edward Marquez

            I was mistaken. It turns out the camera roll will not show the animation but it’s still there! Once you send the gif in email or through iMessage, the gif will animate normally.

  • TK-1337

    I have been able to save gifs onto my camera roll (just save it like any picture), the thumbnail is static but when I send them within iMessage (to another iPhone user) they will animate the gif after it is sent. Give it a shot.

    • Edward Marquez

      You’re absolutely right. However, the animated gifs don’t stay animated for long. After a few days, those images saved in your camera roll will default to static pictures.

      • TK-1337

        That’s depressing, I like the idea of using Dropbox though. Well played!

      • Andy Sapp

        My phone is filled with animated gifs that I saved to my camera roll through Safari on my iPhone. None of them ever lose their animations. I can text the very first one, or the most recent, and they all work fine.

        • Kiera

          How do you do that?

        • Edward Marquez

          You’re right, I was mistaken! I have updated the article to reflect this.

  • Sentech

    on jailbroken device you can use Giffy tweak.. it lets you view animated gif images in your camera roll

  • Jamie

    What I’ve found from my friends who have gifs on their phones, if they’re sent to you via email, text, iMessage, etc. you can save them and send them off again. I have also found you can save the gifs from a website but once you send them, they are just image. So, if you find a bunch you’d want to save, email them to yourself and save them on the email app on your iPhone. The image won’t move in camera roll, though. That way you don’t have to go through the trouble of finding the exact gif and you’ll have it right on your phone.

  • annoyed

    It’s 2014 on a $1000 phone, why is this so hard?