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Microsoft's SMS Organizer is the perfect messaging app, and it's now available in the U.S. [Update]

Update: It looks like SMS Organizer is still in early access, with signups closed for the time being. You'll have to wait just a little bit longer before you can download the app in the U.S.

Original story follows:

Microsoft significantly raised the quality of its apps on Android over the course of the last two years, leading to great Android apps that include the likes of Next Lock Screen (opens in new tab) and Microsoft Launcher.

The latest is SMS Organizer (opens in new tab), a text messaging service from Microsoft Garage, an initiative within the company that lets employees work on projects they're passionate about. The app leverages machine learning to automatically sort messages based on context, and comes with an array of customization options that makes it a worthy alternative to your current messaging app. SMS Organizer debuted last year, but was exclusive to the Indian market. After amassing a million downloads, the app is now making its way to the U.S., UK, and Australia.

Before we get into the specifics, a quick look at how the app came to be. SMS Organizer was developed by Microsoft Garage working out of Hyderabad, India, and is tailored to address problems unique to the Indian market. With the government mandating two-factor authentication on all online transactions, customers are often inundated with one-time passwords (OTP) for everything from logging in to a mobile wallet to making payments with a credit card.

Microsoft SMS Organizer

SMS Organizer is designed to cut through the clutter and provide a messaging experience that surfaces useful information at the top. Therefore, the app's main interface is split into four sections: texts, reminders, finance, and offers messages. The reminders feature is one that is particularly useful to me: it parses the information in the texts and creates cards with actionable data. For flights, SMS Organizer will surface the date and time as well as the booking reservation number, and for things like credit card bills, it will show the due date and the total amount due. This feature isn't new — Xiaomi has been doing the same in its stock MIUI messaging app for a few years now, but with SMS Organizer you can use it on any device.

The SMS tab is broken down into four categories — personal, transactional, promotional, and starred — and SMS Organizer automatically sorts incoming messages into the appropriate section. The personal tab is what shows up when you open the app, but you can change it to the transactional tab from the settings.

Microsoft SMS Organizer

Notifications for promotional texts are disabled by default, and as someone who receives a lot of spam, this is one of the best features in SMS Organizer. If for some reason you want to enable notifications from the promotional tab, you can do so from the settings. The app also comes with swipe gestures, à la Outlook. The default action for the swipe left gesture is to mark a message as read, and swiping right opens the Move To dialog box. Of course, you can configure the actions for either gesture from the settings. And oh, there's a dark theme as well.

You can also set up a message signature, and SMS Organizer comes with rules to automatically delete messages. For messages in the promotional tab and blocked messages, you can choose from either one week, month, or year, and the app will automatically delete messages based on your choice. For OTPs, there's an added option that lets you automatically delete messages older than three days.

With reminders, automatic backups, and a dark theme, you don't need another messaging app.

There are so many features in SMS Organizer that make it a robust messaging service, but the one that made me switch to the app is its backup option. You'll be able to automatically back up messages to Google Drive — options range from manual, daily, weekly, and monthly — and restore them when moving to a new device. The option is disabled by default, so you don't necessarily have to link your Drive account to SMS Organizer if you're not going to use the restore feature.

I talked to Microsoft's Senior Program Manager Nikhil Verma, who led the team that created SMS Organizer. He explained how the app came to be, from an initial prototype in a hackathon to a full-fledged messaging client:

While smartphone penetration has been growing by leaps and bounds in India, the number of users who use feature phones is still staggeringly large. This makes SMS the most inclusive medium of delivering information in India today.Most business and government transactions today trigger an SMS text message for confirmation of service. In addition to these transactions, businesses have been using SMS for sending a promotional text messages to consumers in India. Simply put, the deluge of text messages that an average consumer receives on a daily basis creates a very messy SMS inbox.After talking to several users it appeared that SMS handling was largely broken across most bundled SMS apps and that none of them were meeting the needs of these Indian consumers. We created a prototype in an internal Hackathon and the response was phenomenal. We were trying to solve an everyday problem mobile users faced in India and the excitement over our prototype energized us to deliver this to the market.

As SMS Organizer relies on machine learning to sort messages, there are privacy implications. Verma confirmed that the service uses on-device text classification, with the data never making its way to a Microsoft server:

SMS Organizer uses machine learning models to classify SMS messages into personal, promotional and transactional categories. Within the transactional category, the model identifies a class of messages that are actionable through reminders and parses them for important details that are required for triggering and displaying reminders.We took user privacy very seriously from the beginning and designed the app around the fundamental premise that SMS is a very private entity for a user. The user should have the absolute control around how they manage and backup their SMS. Hence, all the data classification is done on the device and none of the SMS content is ever uploaded to the cloud.

The ability to seamlessly back up and restore messages from Drive combined with the robust feature-set — including a reminders feature and intelligent sorting of texts — makes SMS Organizer the best messaging app I've used in a long time. The interface itself is clean and devoid of any clutter, the app has a ton of customizability, and you can fine-tune the settings to tailor a messaging experience that's one of the best available on Android.

SMS Organizer

SMS Organizer

SMS Organizer has a ton of useful features, including the ability to automatically back up messages to Google Drive. Combine that with its AI smarts that sorts incoming messages into various categories, and you get one of the best messaging services on Android today.

Harish Jonnalagadda
Harish Jonnalagadda

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.

27 Comments
  • Listed as Early Access Closed.
  • I was able to load it today, give it a shot...
  • Is there a way to get notified when it's available?
  • Here's another advantage Android has over iOS. Google doesn't force you to use Google Messages, but on iOS, Apple forces use to iMessage and you cannot change the default app on iOS.
  • While Apple's Messages app could use some more features (perhaps scheduling messages), I would argue that it's the most stable and useable texting app out there. It offers a unique solution to sending high quality images to other iMessage users while also maintaining user privacy. On top of that, you can send and sync messages across all your Apple devices. Very useful, almost to the point that there's no reason to change it. If Apple released their Messages app on Android, I'd download it in a heartbeat. In the long run, that "advantage" Android has over iOS isn't really much of an advantage when none of the texting app options on Android are remotely close to Apple's standard of messaging.
  • Google has the best messaging app for Android in my opinion and while messaging is one of the few advantages Apple has over Android, it's only a minor one, because Android is still leagues ahead of iOS.
  • Well, yes and no. While you noted some advantages of iMessage, there you can't even do simple things like change the styles, colors, text size, etc of your text conversations. You can't change how texts pop up (other than the standard 3 iOS options), emoji styles, what the notification icon looks like, decide on repeating notifications, and tons more that I didn't list. And this is just on the one I use (Textra). Other apps offer different choices still, none of which iMessage can. So yes, iMessage is pretty damn good, but it might be a jump to say that "none of the texting app options on Android are remotely close to Apple's standard of messaging." . If that standard is limited choices, very limited customization, and forced usage of the app itself, then yes. It stands alone there :-)
  • Customization can be fun but isn't really a necessary feature. And you can choose to have your message alerts repeat. The biggest thing iMessage has over its competitors is that so many people in the U.S. use it. iMessage to iMessage is loads better than regular SMS. And since it's the default messaging app on an iPhone, a lot of people use it by default instead of going to another messaging app. Messaging is about the best communication experience and iMessage provides one of the most solid experiences out there while being "baked" into the phone. As much as I'd like to break away from it, it's one of the primary reasons I'm stuck on iOS even though I prefer Android in general.
  • I get enough spam thrown at me from multiple sources. I don't need it coming at me through "offers" in text messages. No thanks.
  • This doesn't make you get offers - it tries to sort any offers/span you already get into its own tab so you can ignore it if you want. Like GMail's "Promotional" grouping.
  • No ability to chat online like Android Messages?
  • The Your Phone app on Windows 10 lets you send messages from your computer and transfer files. I believe it's preinstalled now.
  • "Microsoft's SMS Organizer is the perfect messaging app" and I cannot download it because it is "unreleased." That takes the excitement out of this "Install It Now" article. :|
  • I was using Samsung's SMS app until I ran into an issue with a large group chat. Samsung's app blames the service provider for why I can't text to a group larger than 10 people. I switched to the Android app, and the issue was nonexistent. I'm concerned about similar things happening with Microsoft's app. I'm also concerned that this is a Garage app. From Windows Mobile, many Garage apps were intriguing, but they didn't see a lot of post launch support. Until Microsoft releases a phone with a full suite of apps and a launcher, I'm going to stick with One UI and Android stock apps.
  • Being pedantic, but that's Samsung stock apps. Their phones still come with 2 apps for almost everything.
  • So it would be a great app if it worked with MMS and allowed for attachments other than sending contacts. Already has scheduling built in which is great, but I can't imagine using daily at this point.
  • Does it really not support MMS? so no group chats?
  • No, it does not support MMS/group chats right now, that is the main reason I switched back to Samsung Messages. It is a pretty neat app and I like the concept, but it's a no go if it cannot support group chats. Hopefully they are able to implement that, if so I'd jump back on it right away.
  • I'm not the biggest Microsoft fan and only use Windows and Outlook and won't use many more of Microsoft's services than I have to already, I'm more of a Google person because Google's services are superior to those of Microsoft in my opinion.
  • Thanks for sharing. Helpful.
  • It's not perfect. I was excited for this, but had to uninstall because... * No MMS messages, meaning that you can't send or recieved pictures, or be in group chats.
    * No responding to texts on the computer. I'm surprised that they haven't linked this to "Your Phone".
  • Very nice MS! The review is dead on it would have been amazing if SMS was setup this way early on. Kinda of reminds me of using Outlooks "rules" to organize email. I think I'm sticking to Signal for it's encryption and security.
  • I downloaded for the APK, the app looks amazing.....slight flaw as they still have it Beta, you can't attach pictures only a link
  • If you get charged for delivery reports by your carrier then be aware that this app has it on by default and i couldn't find where to turn it off. You'd get the delivered tick when u send a text which is nice but using RCS does this for free plus it shows when read. Also.. at least for now, there's no way to share pics. It's back to WhatsApp or Messenger for me.. then android messages with RCS when a lot more people are on board.
  • The article probably needs updated. It looks totally different from what this article describes (both in text as well as in screenshots, at least on my phone).
  • Same. I have multiple MMS conversations going on that don't show up along with the worry that I won't get group chats outright. I don't get them often but the few times I do it's important I see them. Hopefully in the future.
  • Insane. While the app does a nice job with SMS, not handling MMS, is a no-go for me. Worst, if you make this app default.. at least on my Note 10 Plus, you MMS gets ghosted! So, perfect for who? Basically, i turn off notifications, so it can collect and backup, useful maybe, perfect...? No.