Over a week ago, Google’s mobile messaging app, Android Messages, received an update that finally allowed users to send and receive text messages from the comfort of their desktop computers.
However, that update was not immediately available to everyone in the world, least of all, those of us in Kenya. As such, I decided to hold out on sharing the news until such a time when Google would turn on Android Messages web for us.
It just did that today.
How to get it to work
- To get started on Android Messages web, first of all make sure you have installed the app from the Play Store.
- Once installed, make Android Messages your default SMS app either by opening it (in which case it will prompt you to do so) or by going to your phone’s settings app (Settings > Apps & notifications > Default apps).
- Once that’s done, head over to a browser on your computer (I’ve tried this on Chrome, Firefox and Edge and it works) and navigate to messages.android.com.
- You will get instructions on how to go about the remainder of the process which is easy… open the Messages app installed on your phone, tap the three dots at the top to reveal more menu options then select Messages for web (refer to this article’s featured image above). Click ‘Scan QR code’ in the resulting page, scan the quick response code displayed on your desktop computer’s web browser and… That’s it!
What you need to know
- Android Messages’ web synchronization is just like the way WhatsApp web works. So, if you have used WhatsApp web then this is more or less the same thing. The web interface just mirrors the mobile app and a constant data connection is needed both on the computer and the smartphone for sending and receiving of SMSs to be possible.
- It is worth noting that a SIM is necessary for text messages to be received, sent and delivered since this is not a purely online service. The online connection is for just creating an exact mirror of the messages on the smartphone (or tablet), a bridge, if you may say so. This is a stark contrast to WhatsApp which is an online messaging service that only needs to be mirrored for web access out of security concerns and not because that’s how it works. We’re talking old school texting here. SMS. For those who’ve been using apps like Pushbullet and Join then then this is something like that.
- The Messages web interface has a dark theme. Just go to settings and explore.
- In that settings section, you will also realize that to make it easy to text from a desktop machine, keyboard shortcuts are supported.
- That settings section is also what data-conscious users will want to familiarize with so that they toggle on the ability to be notified when they are outside Wi-Fi zones and using their precious mobile data bundles to access their SMSs from a computer.
- You will need to toggle on “Remember this computer” when you’re pairing the Messages app on your smartphone with the web interface or later after you’ve synced through the settings app so that you don’t have to repeat the above process every other time. Additionally, you can just sign out/stop any active web sessions from the Messages app on your phone by going to the options menu (the three dots at the top) and clicking on Messages for web.
- I like that you can archive conversations as well as mute them.
Why it’s important
Normally, the Messages app is not something you will bother about unless you happen to be using an Android Go or an Android One smartphone. Or a smartphone running stock Android. That’s because that is the application that comes pre-installed for all SMS needs. However, as many (including myself who’s had to reconcile with my earlier misgivings about Android Messages by taking a large serving of humble pie) have been finding out, actually, everyone needs to use Messages some time because of the features that Google is increasingly adding on to the app.
After folding up the ill-fated Allo, an app I had no nice words for when I reviewed it over a year and a half ago, Google’s attention and resources have been focused on making Messages the best app it can be and that can be seen in the features the app has received via updates in May and June.
These features include the ability to copy two-factor authentication codes (like the ones you receive when activating or logging in to bank apps, the Safaricom app, WhatsApp, Twitter, Gmail etc) with a single tap either from the notification drop-down or directly from the Messages app and paste them in the right place.
One other feature that was added last month that used to be on Allo and has been on Google’s Inbox email app and, Gmail too, is Smart Replies. Yes, when you use Google’s SMS app you can actually save some time by using the suggested responses instead of spending some time composing your own. Handy.
Besides the above-highlighted features which make Android Messages a very rich SMS app that already has one leg inside the future of messaging or what SMS is naturally expected to evolve to (more on that in an upcoming episode of our podcast, 24bit), there’s also the bit where this is the easiest way for users of basic Android smartphones, like the ones running Android Go, like the Tecno Spark 2 where I tried the Messages web feature, to be able to send and receive messages from their computers.
Sure, those of us who are interested in being able to send and receive messages from our desktop PCs have been able to do so for ages using apps like Pushbullet, AirDroid (no, it’s not an AirDrop ripoff, it existed long before Apple’s solution materialized), Join and others but has it crossed your mind that Notification Access, the Android feature that such third-party apps rely on is one of those that are not available in Android Go as part of Google’s efforts to trim the fat? And it makes sense. What are the odds a buyer of a dirt cheap Android Go smartphone will want to be that complicated? An app like Messages saves the situation with an update like this one that enables web mirroring.