Google prepares to turn Android Messages into a true iMessage competitor

Android Messages
Android Messages (Image credit: Android Central)

In the great debate of Android vs. iOS, one thing that iPhone users often tout is that they can't imagine switching to a Galaxy Note 8 or Pixel 2 because Android doesn't have iMessage. While Apple will likely never add an iMessage app to the Play Store, it looks like Google may be taking matters into its own hands.

The folks at Android Police recently conducted a teardown of v2.9 for Android Messages, and while doing so, discovered a heap of new features that are in the pipeline for the app. Most notably, it would appear that Android Messages will soon get its own desktop client so you can send and receive messages from your computer.

According to strings of code referencing this feature, users will go to a specified address on their computer, scan a QR code with their phone's camera from the Android Messages app, and automatically be logged into their account to handle any texts they get. This will all be done through a web-browser rather than a standalone desktop app, and you can be logged into multiple computers (such as a home desktop and laptop) at once.

Android Message's web client will look a lot like Allo's.

Android Message's web client will look a lot like Allo's.

This sounds awfully similar to what Google introduced last August with Allo's web-based client, and while that may alienate dedicate Allo users, this is a huge upgrade for out-of-the-box texting on Android.

Google's finally giving Android Messages the features it deserves.

In addition to this, other bits of code show that certain "chat features are powered by Google." These features entail the ability to send texts over Wi-Fi, see when people are typing, send "high-quality" photos, and more.

A lot of these are things Google's been pushing with RCS messaging, but seeing as how carriers are dragging their feet in its adoption process, Google might have found a way to take matters into its own hands. One line of code says that users can "Upgrade Now" to get access to these features, so Google may have found a way to provide RCS benefits without waiting for carriers to adopt the new standard.

Lastly, Android Messages might start allowing you to make payments for items from businesses. This is referred to with things like "Buy with Google", "Payments Summary", "Order summary", and "CHECKOUT." Unfortunately, there's no mention as to what you'll be able to buy, what merchants will be supported, etc.

There's no ETA as to when these features will drop, but I'd imagine we see them rolled out by Google I/O this May at the latest. Of all the new goodies mentioned here, what are you most excited for?

Android Messages picks up Allo's Smart Replies feature

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

  • Okay Google, make one and make it great...Hangouts, Hangouts business, Allo, and Messenger. I do not care which one they go with just make it great and have one.
  • Don't forget Google Voice!... even if Google has.
  • Yes!! Needs to be able to send using GV number not just carrier number. Please/Thanks
  • Everything needs to be cross platform in order to work or if it is android only, it has to be on every single android phone. Due to fragmentation, this will never happen.
  • Android Messages is already on every Android phone that's been sold in the last several years, since it's one of the apps that's required to be included with all Android phones that have access to Google Play Services. This is the SMS app that most Android users are already using. Assuming that this doesn't require your phone to be on Oreo, or for users to download a new app, this could be great.
  • There are millions of Android phones sold in China without Google services.
  • sucks to be them
  • most mobile users in China use Wechat whether they have Google Play or not.
  • Android Messages is not on my Samsung S8+. I can download it though.
  • Samsung Galaxy S8 already have RCS service enabled
  • No it doesn't! I just want to be able to text from my damn desktop! Leave the cross platform to Whatsapp.
  • Get pulse sms
  • If this works well, it'd be enough to finally get me to start using my actual phone number and not Google Voice.
  • "one thing that iPhone users often tout is that they can't imagine switching to a Galaxy Note 8 or Pixel 2 because Android doesn't have iMessage" i don't get it, why people (or sheeple) keep touting imessage? what am i missing?
    i used iphone.. mom using.. kids using.. guess what, none of us ever touched imessage, unless we need to sms, and nobody (at least in my family) care whether it's green or blue in that rare occasion that it's used. we're all on whatsapp/whatever else that is cross-platform. by the same token i won't be using android message either (unless need to sms) if it's "fully-featured" to android devices only. we'll still be with whatsapp because nobody wants to track which friend is on which ecosystem.
  • God bless u for this comment... I only use WhatsApp on my iPhone. imessenger is useless to me. My Nokia 6 is even more useful for my daily needs than iPhone 6s
  • I believe that puts you in the "Does not apply" category. I have like 3 friends (Maybe) who use whatsapp. I'm not going back and forth between apps trying to match up with what everyone prefers. Everyone has SMS. Majority of my family has iphones so iMessage makes sense for me. The desktop app also helps.
  • Texting sms is free who the **** cares about WhatsApp or any other messenger service sms works on every phone in American unless you live in another country sms is just find you don't need an iPhone to do that.
  • "Just fine" is not the point here.
  • Texting for local messages, whatsap when overseas, in group or want to share bigger files....
  • Hmmm ... but sometimes you are out of cellular range and being able to SMS over wifi is really useful
  • For one on one, sms is fine. But if you're like me and have a lot of group chats, sms is horrible. Also sending videos and pictures is pretty bad on sms
  • I agree with you, we've been using whatsapp for years now, its cross platform, supports video and voice, you can send attachments, gifs, chats are backed up locally and to the cloud, its free, and virtually everyone in the world uses it... except the US.
    See the US for some strange reason still uses SMS (they still also use checks and magnetic stripes, but that's a different story) and most americans don't care for Whatsapp, Allo, Viber, Telegram, etc. The main reason they use iMessage is because it comes presintalled on iphones and serves as the default sms client, so basically anyone using an iphone is a potential iMessage user. Since iMessage is an enhanced SMS client and they've been using it for a while now they find no reason to suddenly abandon it over another app that basically does the same thing (even though its not cross platform). Its one of those weird "american things".
  • Until the recent proliferation of unlimited data plans, most US carriers provided unlimited talk and text and a finite amount of data. As a result, Americans typically texted because they could do so unconstrained and left their mobile data for other things (e.g., music).
  • The draw to imessage is the simplicity. One app that can connect to any OS. The advantages come when connecting to other ios users. High quality video and picture transfers without carrier limitations, interactions within the app such as mini games (love getting a group chat going to play Uno), and read receipts. All of this is done natively without needing to install a 3rd party app (whatsapp), signup, and hope you can convince your contacts to do the same. I own an Iphone X and Note 8. I use both daily via T-Mobile Digits with data. The one thing keeping me from using the Note 8 exclusively is messaging. Needing to download 1, 2 or even 3 different messaging apps to communicate with my contacts and not be limited to carrier file limitations is beyond annoying. Just trying to get my family to download allo, or any other messaging app on their iOS device, is like pulling teeth. They dont want to track mulitple messaging apps. Google had a chance to resolve this but instead split up all their messaging apps and created a mess of services. They need to comine video and chat into one app and perfect it. Duo and allo need to become what hangouts was.
  • Exactly, I love my pixel 2xl but Google blew it. They had a chance to develop a competitive platform and fragmented the experience. Some of the dumbest, smart people I've ever seen.
  • "nobody wants to track which friend is on which ecosystem" That's why it is important for whatever messenger you use to fall back to SMS if the other person isn't using the same app.
  • Falling back to sms isn't perfect, especially when you're the only Android user on an other iPhone group text for example.
  • It's better than nothing. There's likely never going to be a perfect cross-platform cross-service solution. SMS (or ideally RCS) is as close as we're likely to get to fully featured cross-platform messaging.
  • You my friend are in the vocal minority. Everyone I know who has an iPhone loves iMessage and they hate having to "deal" with Android phones that don't. It messes up group messages so much. Sure I could tell them, just install WhatsApp it's better! Issue here is they will use what their phone came with and have no issues. I'm the outlier there so o have to figure it out lol.
  • Your "friends" sound horrible.
  • Haha love that comment. My friends are also horrible. Dang iPhone users.
  • More like dang us, annoying Android users
  • Huh, interesting assumption based off a single anecdote that you likely aren't understanding. Nice try tho.
  • I think you and I have the same friends
  • Exactly, everyone i know uses WhatsApp and dont need to care if someone is using iPhone or Android.
  • You and your family are not normal consumers then. Anyone who can't admit that iMessage is packed with features and better than Android equivalents are just as blind as the people that they call "sheep".
  • So it's this just a stop gap until RCS is the norm?
  • Yes, but how long will that be? Remember, you aren't just talking about U.S. carriers; you've got to get carriers all over the world to adopt it for it to be really widespread. And, even here, good luck getting all the U.S. carriers on board. You're looking at a process that will most certainly take years.
  • You're an idiot. The Android Police article they quite specifically says it will bypass carriers and use Google's own server exactly like imessage.
  • ALCingularUser was referring to RCS adoption, not this new service. Please, condescend more, though.
  • Great, now just roll Hangouts, Allo, and Google Voice into it.
  • Except your phone has to be on to send and receive messages online.
  • did you try to know this? lets not assume too much here.
    its apk teardown and guesses based on strings, but your guess is without any reference to the apk stings
  • From what they're saying, it's going to be exactly like the Allo web client. And if it is, that's exactly how it's going to work. You will need ur phone close by and on
  • 'Bout time Google. Texting is prolly the most common use on a phone for a typical user. I hate to say it but Apple got this right a long time ago. This is the only thing I've missed on my path to the dark side.
  • This is good and I may be able to get off of Pushbullet (which I do like but their support is non existent even if you pay for it.) That said, they need to bring Messages, Allo and Duo together if they really want to make an impact.
  • This. Not sure why this was not the way to go in the first place. I currently use Hangouts for just about all my messaging needs. Even got people who were sending me SMS message to my mobile number to switch to my Google Voice number (so I can get and send SMS through Hangouts). Unfortunately, I still need to use Textra for some people. Would be nice to have one messaging app to rule them all.
  • Why are people so hung up on iMessage? It sucks. It's no different than texting and with so many people on iOS and Android iMessage just doesn't work. If I want an iMessage clone I will just buy an iPhone.
  • Yay! This will be great, when and/or if it comes to fruition. The android equivalent to iMessage. Ease of communication across multiple devices and being able to send pictures and videos that don’t look like poop 💩, thanks to massive compression, awesome. Bring it on, the sooner the better. 👏
  • It does do the same thing but Imessage for some people are liked I think because of the End to End encryption which Android Messages doesn't have and also the photos or at least videos look really bad on Android Messages. If those 2 things are covered. I won't use any other apps unless I"m talking to someone in another country in which most of them are probably on FB.
  • The better video quality may be a point in iMessage's favor, but I doubt encryption is. If someone wants strong encryption, they're most likely going to be using Signal, not iMessage.
  • iMessage is so much more than just blue message bubbles. The ability to send high resolution images, share music files, send money via imessage, read recipts, typing indicators, and so much more. I am an Android/Google guy but their solutions for messaging have been a half baked mess. They should have consolidated all the features they are currently putting into Android Messages, Allo, Google Voice, and Hangouts into one app. Google could have done that but instead they released all those apps half baked and missing key features. Most none techie people aren't going to download third party apps that essentially do the same thing that their native phone apps already do as in the case for imessage and iphone users. I understand the idea of giving the users choice and freedom; however, when you give millions of users to much choice what you end up with is an uneven janky mess. Pour all the features of the aforementioned apps into one app, keep it updated, and make it the default on Android phones right out of the box.
  • I'd love to use android messaging. But the compression that happens if I send photos is just embarrassing. Doesn't happen on other sms apps though.
  • plz god. dont let them make this only work over wifi.
  • I bet this doesn't roll out till around I/O
  • If it doesn't work with Google Voice then it doesn't work for me.
  • What remaining exclusive features would keep you with GV once this rolls out?
  • I could care less about most of the iMessage features. As for Android Message improvement from the current version, all I want is being able to send high quality pictures without compression.
  • You want to send uncompressed bitmaps? GIF was invented 30 years ago to save bandwidth, other formats do compression too. You want to use BMP, eh? Perhaps you meant resolution reduction.
  • Pulse SMS does this now. I switched from Textra and haven't looked back.
  • If they do this and make duo apart of the calling app, Android will be perfect for the most part when it comes to comparing things to the iPhone
  • Can I just get the option to PIN conversation to the top, already!
  • Textra my friend.
  • I'm a total Android guy, but I do give iMessage props for what it does: 1. Preinstalled on all iphones, ipads, macbooks, imacs
    2. Works over data or just wifi
    3. Seamlessly works with sms - denotes sms well with green color
    4. Images can be sent w/o much compression
    5. You know when another imessage person is typing (like slack)
    6. Easy to use I gotta give it to them - in this case, imessage beats every other messaging platform, mainly b/c it's there to begin with, and not opt in.
  • They could make one massive improvement and release it for Google Play!
  • if apple did make it for android, they would only support ONE OS. not a dozen all the way back to 2.1 so no more than 3% of the android population would be able to use it at a time. Not worth the effort.
  • 3%? I wonder what numbers you looked at to come up with 3%. None that I can find. If it was Oreo only, that's about 1.1%. Expanding to Nougat brings it above 15%.
  • I always wanted Allo to take over Android Messages as the default SMS app and have Google get rid of Android Messages for good. I would have been satisfied with that.
  • Allo is excellent. Not sure why people wont use it
  • Me too! I love Allo, the look and feel and everything.i wish they would add sms fallback to it and make it there main all instead of this one. But sadly, I feel that even the very few who use i Allo will delete it when Android messages gets this update
  • I just use Signal as my default text and messenger app. Cross platform, secure, sufficient features, video and call capability plus desktop application. Why use anything else? Did I mention secure? No Metadata and contacts in the cloud business for me
  • Sigh. They really just don't get it. Sms on our laptops isn't what we want. We want one app. One app that does SMS and IM in the same app that can work across chrome OS, Windows, Mac and have multiple sign on with sync'd chats.
  • Just use Whatsapp. Easy.
  • Anyone in the comments saying iMessage sucks is blind. It's the best messaging app out there, the only downside is it's locked to Apple devices only. If it's one thing Apple had gotten right it's messaging.
  • iMessage is encrypted from end to end. Doesn't compress Pictures or Video. Can send up to 5GB attachments from iPhone to iPhone via iCloud thru iMessage.
    Read receipts. Rich text. Still backs up to sms. Notes SMS with green text. supports all kinds of features, gifs, photo, video, standard emoticons, (not idiot blobs), animoji (iPhone x), Works on ALL apple devices, can answer texts via Mac, iPad, iPod, iPhone. Can drag and drop photos, clips, screenshots and more directly into the iMessage client on Mac. Send direct links to music via apple music.
    Can screen shot, edit, write on, crop, send it, then iMessage asks if you want to actually save it to photos or delete it.
    iMessage blows away anything and everything on android side. it does even more. but you get the idea.
  • Isn't this similar to what Microsoft was doing with Skype on Windows 10 Mobile?
  • Lol, android messages has never been preinstalled on any recent Samsung phone. The Samsung messages app is preinstalled because as others have mentioned, Google Play services aren't available in all countries. I gave Android Messages a try, but prefer Samsung Messages app because: much cleaner look, Google voice assistant and contacts list drop down list both on top of chat window, and edit , group chat one click away. I'll give android messages a try again once it is updated. For now, Samsung messages app is a far, far superior product...
  • Please just add SMS support to Allo so I can actually use it. Or add Allo features to Messages. And Duo. And Hangouts. And Voice. Too many damn messaging apps.
  • I like how folks blame Android, but last I checked, imessage is a Apple product. Maybe put the blame on Apple instead of Android. Apple chooses to keep it exclusive Apple. They likes to have things proprietary to their liking so why blame Android? Like some mention other small works just fine, iMessage is not that serious.
  • In addition to all the good comments already here, let me just add that if it doesn't have a DARK THEME, I will never use it. And since it's Google, I'm sure it will be blinding white.
  • Being able to send wifi messages and SMS messages from the same app is what's most important to me. Higher quality pics and movies would be a bonus. Could care less about read receipts and typing. Some people disable that anyway. Pulse gives me multi device support, and it works well. The problem I have with Google messages is that it's so far behind Textra, pulse, and others in terms of look and feel customizations. It lacks a lot of basic features.
  • Gotta say that I don't care for iMessage and since swishing back to Android once and for all, I don't miss iMessage at all, WhatsApp is the defecto messaging app in the UK and pretty much all of Europe.
  • If this happens then I'll go back to using the app but for now I'll stick with Textra.
  • Please include there private box like in "go sms". To protect private messages.