SMS changesText messaging apps stand to get a whole lot better — and, yes, likely will include Google's own Hangouts app

The Android Developers blog wants the people developing third-party SMS apps to get ready for some big changes to come with KitKat.

The short version is that you can now "officially" make an application the default for sending and receiving SMS and MMS messages, as opposed to the old way of using hidden (not public) APIs and intents. That sort of coding works, but it's subject to change at any time and break all the apps that use it. The new method allows the system to receive and send messages, then use system defaults to decide where to display it. Developers should be sure to give the blog post a read, as the concept and new requirements are laid out nicely.

Now, what does that mean for us? Everyone wants the Hangouts app to send and receive SMS messages. The first step needed for that to happen is to make receiving a message (and sending one) a system function that can be handled by any default application. That's what Google is doing here. With this new method and API set in place, your Android phone doesn't need to ship with a "dedicated" SMS app, and you're free to download one that does things the way you like — or use the bundled Hangouts app.

Of course, there are other reasons they may be doing this. Getting rid of a dedicated Google Voice application (that is in sore need of a revamp) is one of them. Or maybe they all really like using Handcent. We should know more very soon.

Source: Android Developers Blog

 

Reader comments

Changes for SMS apps coming in KitKat - could this mean they are coming to Hangouts?

105 Comments

That's great, the OS should have handled this like how Google is laying this out since the beginning but great to see them doing this. This makes SMS management a lot easier and customizable while maintaining compatibility with other SMS apps including the stock AOSP one.

Not only that this will make some rouge app which sends message without users consent useless. although the app can prompt for making it default, at least we will know if something bad is going on.

It doesn't prevent other apps from sending or receiving texts. It just makes it so only one app can write to the provider, which is where all the other apps read messages from.

Most likely, it won't really stop scam apps from using premium SMS features.

It does however make switching SMS apps official finally and makes things a bit more structured when it comes to having multiple SMS apps on the same device.

Agreed, this is long overdue, but what i wonder is if only android 4.4 will be able to take advantage of this or will it be rolled out to existing devices (say at 4.0 and up) through googly play services?

Seeing as how Google is working hard to decrease the level of fragmentation (because I suppose you can't really eliminate it) I'd assume it'll be the latter, at least hopefully.

This is also why I think Google is leaving things as 4.4 for Kitkat. By now, just about every major android phone released in the last 2yrs should be on 4.0 and higher. Think Google wanted OEMs to catch up while they work on the overall framework of Android so that all phones running 4.0 and higher can at least have more or less the same feature set. If rumors of that "Google Experience" launcher from Google that they'll release to the Play Store are true, this becomes even more essential.

4.4 aims to put Android on equal footing across all devices. Hoping they execute this properly.

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You know what else has three letters? Box. It's confirmed that kit Kat will indeed come loaded on a phone which will then be packaged in a box.

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Kit
Kat
Bar
Box
SMS
MMS
4.4
HL3

All three characters.

#Mindblown
#KitKatIsComing
#ShutupAndTakeMyMoney
#HashtagsAreUselessHere

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I assume this means no more 9016 and other random messages when running a custom SMS app that is set to"default" on Sprint :)

Errr, so why in the example screen shot do Google show the old android messaging app and some 3rd party one? This implies to me sms will still be in messaging and not in hangouts on Kit Kat.

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Where will G Voice voice mail go? I mean, how will you be able to retrieve it? Will it basically be like an voice MMS?

If Hangouts does replace Voice, we can expect a major overhaul of it to support Voice's functions, including and especially the ability to choose to send out via it. So I don't see why they can't add voicemail functionality to it.

That or make accessing the voicemail through the dialer, the way you can as an option now, the default.

I'd love that. It'd be nice to add your G Voice number to Hangouts and "intercept" all SMS and voice mail. So tired of using different apps for essentially the same thing... and G Voice is really outdated now. I also hate how it starts a new conversation every time you message someone.

I still find G Voice really useful, and I use it every day, but holy crap, is the interface ever awful and kludgy at this point.

I agree. Google should update Hangouts so you can receive any SMS or MMS sent to either your cell number or Voice number. A good idea would be to allow your Voice number to become the "contact number," so to speak, for your Google account, kind of like the way your Gmail address is basically your contact email for your Google account. Then update or rewrite Hangouts to become the calling and messaging (video, picture and text) default app. When you sign into Hangouts, you have the option of associating it with your Voice number and your phone's SMS/MMS functions as well as Hangout messages and video chat functions. That would make the whole MMS/SMS/chat/Voice mess a smoother and simpler process. One app for all!

Will you need to have 4.4 to have SMS/MMS functionality in Hangouts?..... If that's the case, then I'll probably neever see it on my work-issued RAZR MAXX HD...

MMS/SMS functionality would be assigned to the default app of your choice, whether it be your carrirer's/manufacturer's built in app or an app you download from Google play. Google isn't forcing phones to send MMS/SMS to Hangouts, they are just simply adding in official APIs to Android to allow any app to be the default text and picture messaging app. The Hangouts thing was merely an idea the blog writer put forth as a practical way to use this new functionality that would answer a long-standing issue many Android users have had regarding the non-integration of MMS/SMS and Hangouts (chat/video calling) and also possibly the outdated Google Voice app and service.

There's also a nice security addition - only the default sms app can send an SMS now so a dodgy app can't send premium rate SMS behind your back, even if you're not paying attention and grant it permission to do so.

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I find this line troubling: "This means that if you are using the hidden SMS APIs on previous platform versions, you need to make some adjustments so your app continues to work when Android 4.4 is released later this year."

Later this year?

24 hours from now could be "later this year". They haven't committed to an official announcement so it's nothing to read into.

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I must have missed it. All I saw was a bunch of people claiming that Hangouts would be like iMessage, which is the exact opposite of this.

Sometimes, you gotta know when to not say anything and wait :)

Yes!!! Love the guy. I wonder how much better he'll be (Can be?), when he's done with college and can devote all (or most) of his time to technology in general. :-)

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Tomorrow can't come fast enough. Oct 15 it's going to awesome with kit kat n nexus 4s. Yeah google.

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Don't hold your breath... It might not come, I was expecting press invites and they never came.

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Maybe they will prerecord a YouTube video for the announcement. They could post it on Google.com and would generate buzz from the surprise.

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Question for anybody that knows and can answer: I don't use Hangouts. Is my SMS app going to he swallowed up by hangouts or will I still have the option of what we have now for SMS (I.e. stock SMS icon/app)? Thanks in advance

No one really does (or could) know *for sure* other then Android devs working at Google. Only time will tell. Even if Hangouts does become the default (and only) messaging app as it would seem could be the case from the few leaks we've seen, you should have no issue loading in the standard messaging app .apk or a third party app if the new Hangouts app isn't to your liking.

It's possible Hangouts would replace the regular Messaging app (green icon) in Android, but you would still be able to set any third party messaging app as the default. It's not really going to be that different than it is now, just Hangouts will be there and Messaging will not be, and when you download Handcent or whatever third party messaging app you choose, you'll get a popup asking if you want to use that or Hangouts as the default messaging app for SMS/MMS.

This may be a stupid question... But outside of a nexus device... Will this make a major difference, won't OEMs just have their own text app still? Maybe I'm not getting the whole picture

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Yeah, there's no reason to assume that OEMs/carriers won't include their own messaging apps, but you will now have the official system-level ability to change which app handles SMS by default. So presumably, if you were to want to set Hangouts as your default SMS app and forego the default one that came with your device, you'd be able to.

I don't really get it. (flu) how is is this going to be different than BBM or the or the other messenging systems?

My thoughts exactly. I loved bbm when I was a bb user. I integrated my texting into and found it easier to have things unified and together. I just prefered bbm over the stock sms. I'm going to try bbm on my htc one to see if it ported well. If it does, I'll be a happy camper.

The choice is always good. Not everyone is going to like this feature, but there are plenty of us that will. It'll be nice to see how google approaches this.

Facebook Message app integrates with sms if you want it too. I don't want facebook or any Google service tied into my sms. However, choice is always good.

Sent from my Motorola side view pager 4-5683-968

No no but you MUST want it to, because apparently "Everyone wants the Hangouts app to send and receive SMS messages...". Everyone? Really? Since when?

I for one find unified messaging a PITA, unless it's done EXTREMELY well, which it hasn't been yet. In fact of everyone in my Android-using circle the ones who want it make up the severe minority, and generally haven't actually used it before. It works great in theory, not so much in practice.

I don't use google+ or facebook, why should I want SMS integrated into social networking that I (and many others) don't use or give a flying rat's ass about.

At least Apple gives you the option to disable iMessaging.

I have not read one comment nor the article. All I want is group messenger to work right. iPhone right

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Try Textra. That 3rd party sms app is fantastic. Turn on the MMS group messaging in the options of that app. Group messages work great even with all iMessage users. The app is well designed too imo.

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+1. Agreed. Textra is a very well done 3rd party app. The only thing missing is lock screen popups like GoSMS and Handscent have. The app is very lightweight, unlike the other two apps mentioned in my comment. It is coming soon according to the developers.

If they do integrate Hangouts and SMS, I don't think they should leave it as "Hangouts". I think they should rename it simply "Messages", or "Google Messages" because average consumers won't know what Hangouts is and will be looking for the SMS app.

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Good point

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I wouldn't really want my stock messaging to be included into some social network type thing. google is pushing so hard for everyone to join google+ that I really hesitate to want to use something like hangout where I have to log into google in order to use it. I use handcent now anyway but I just don't like the idea of combining something like messaging which is based solely on your phone number into an app that is based on a google account.

Awwwww

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The problem with facebook Messenger is that it doesn't support MMS. That makes the experience quite awful... So if Google can get both MMS and SMS and hang out, then I'll have a winner.

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I remember when I had WebOS it had one messaging app for Talk, SMS and MMS, and multiple numbers. Basicly one contact one thread. I miss that and have not found an app that can help. I am hoping this is the direction Android is heading.

The whole point of this article is that they are adding system level choice of default SMS client. This will make handcent and others work better and be easier to set up.

If they want to change/update messages, I hope they include the ability to either reply or reply all to group messages.

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Perhaps there is more to this "Default SMS App" Dialogue window.

Perhaps it be OS wide with also choices for Default Keyboard, Dialer (there is VOIP as well), Calendar, Default "UI Skin" and so on

kind of like "build your own phone"
I like your thinking...
But I wonder if Samsung and HTC will allow this on there software? If it was true... I dont think they would allow this. Because they want you to use ALL there dumb defaults.

Any idea if this will allow something similar to iMessage, where I can send and receive SMS/MMS from multiple devices? I'm looking for a messaging app that will allow me to do so from my Omate Truesmart in the coming months.

I'd like to always receive and send from my primary number.

Meh...I'll continue to use GoSMS.

But regarding Hungouts (cuz Google hung us out to dry...)

Booooooo. I can't stand Hangouts. The Big G took a Great big step backwards when they took away the status indicator that shows if someone is signed on or not.

I carry two Jellybean devices (phone + HiSense Sero 7 Pro tablet) and use a laptop, and rely heavily on IM throughout my work (and personal) day.

I will stick with GTalk until they pry it out of my cold, dead hands.

Silly question but does Hangouts require G+?

The reason I ask is because my employer does not allow any of its employees to have Social Media.

Thus making Hangouts the main messaging app would cause issues for people like myself.

Dan

kind of.... it needs your gmail account along with your friends gmail account. It can either get it from there G+ account, or you can manually put it in.

As soon as it supports SMS and MMS. The gmail account isnt required unless you wish to send "free" messages through the internet. (gmail)

I have a GMAIL account, I just do not have G+ (Google's Social Media).

So according to your post, I could use hangouts without G+.

Is that correct?
Dan

"Everyone wants the Hangouts app to send and receive SMS messages"?

Not THIS everyone! Hangouts is TERRIBLE for SMS messages. I'm running an old version of the Messaging app and uninstalled Hangouts. Hangouts was nothing but trouble for messaging. I was having conversations with no one, accidentally deleting message threads by swiping the wrong way, and not getting notifications when I got a message.

I really don't get it. What does Hangouts do that the Messaging app didn't do? Maybe group message or something I don't use like Google+? I really don't understand why Google forced us into such a terrible app when the Messaging app worked so well before. I'm at a total loss as to what advantage Hangouts has, and really take exception that "Everyone wants the Hangouts app to send and receive SMS messages". The author is clueless as to what *I* want, which is just a messaging app.