Even though Android 8.0 Oreo just officially launched in August, that didn't stop Google from releasing a beta for 8.1 earlier this week. Android 8.1 is a much smaller update compared to the jump from Nougat to Oreo, but there are still a few new goodies to keep an eye out for – especially if you're rocking a first-gen Pixel.
During an investigation of the 8.1 beta, Ars Technica came across something rather interesting. An APK labeled as "SMSConnectPrebuilt" can be found within the beta, and although it isn't readily accessible to users by default, the app can be launched through the use of an activity browser.
SMS Connect doesn't look to be a proper application, but rather something that will be cooked into Android's settings or pop up when setting up your device for the first time. The splash screen shows a messaging icon with the text "Set up SMS Connect" below it in Google's new Product Sans font, and underneath that is the following message:
Read and reply to messages on your Chromebook. To set up SMS Connect, allow access to your phone calls, messages, and contacts. Your wireless carrier's standard messaging rates may apply.
When tapping the Next icon in the bottom right and granting permissions to the above items, another screen appears saying "You'll get notifications for new text messages on your Chromebook." Ars Technica also reports that you can access SMS Connect via a Chromebook by typing chrome://flags in the address bar, turning on Enable Multidevice features, and then restarting your machine.
Android and Chrome OS are finally talking to each other, and that's beyond exciting.
SMS Connect doesn't appear to be working at all right now, but even so, this is very exciting for Android and Chrome OS users. Although no one likes to admit it, Apple's been demolishing Google for years now when it comes to communication between all of your devices. MacBooks have been able to connect to iPhones to work with iMessage for years now, and while third-party solutions do exist for getting SMS messages on your computer, there's never been a proper solution from Google. That is, until now.
It's unclear at this point when Google will actually be enabling SMS Connect, but when you combine this with the Pixel 2's ability to automatically tether to the Pixelbook, it's easy to see that Google is doubling down on creating an ecosystem of devices that actually talk and work with each other.
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