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June 9, 2018

Android Messages points to upcoming native texting client on Chromebooks

by John_A

Google could be following Apple’s lead with iMessage by linking Android Messages to Chrome OS. Evidence of a native texting client appears on a new commit in Chromium Gerrit although there are no specific details about how the integration will work. A separate commit describes pairing a Chromebook with an Android device that’s handled “in the browser process.” 

With Apple’s hardware, iMessage for iOS and Message for MacOS rely on Apple’s cloud to synchronize messages between the two. These clients can be associated with a phone number or an Apple ID. For instance, if the recipient has an iPhone and iPad, all messages are tied to the phone number even though they also appear on the iPad. If the recipient switches to an Android phone but still has the iPad, texting via iMessage and Message are tied to the recipient’s Apple ID address instead, and don’t show up on the Android phone. 

Meanwhile, Google is still pushing for a final messaging solution within Android. Typically, texting apps are at the discretion of the manufacturer, such as how Samsung’s lackluster in-house Messages app installed as the default SMS client on Galaxy smartphones. Android Messages isn’t exactly stellar either, but it’s the closest Google has come to an integrated iMessage alternative. Allo is feature-rich, relying on Google Assistant, but it’s not meant for SMS texting (currently on hold too). 

That said, the texting aspect of Android is still somewhat of a mess. Adding to Google’s pile is the Rich Communication Services platform, or simply Chat, that’s a new initiative aiming to replace SMS messaging. It will offer everything you use now, such as image inserts, group chats, read receipts, and so on, but promises a “richer” experience. This service will be provided by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon possibly by the end of the year, and baked into Google’s Android Messages app. 

Google is also bringing Android Messages to the web. Evidence of the browser-based version appeared in Android Messages 2.9, showing that a browser could be used to pair a PC running the online client with Android Messages installed on a phone by scanning a QR code. Linking to your Google Account is also part of the pairing process. 

With Messages for Chrome OS, Google appears to be taking a Mac approach with a dedicated texting client. But given the platform’s web-centric roots, it will probably be no different than using the browser-based version, only you won’t need a browser to use the service. You’ll likely be provided with a QR code to pair the native web app with Android Messages on your smartphone.  

When Google’s native messaging client will actually appear in Chrome OS is unknown for now, but the company is supposedly inching toward a finalized web-based version as seen in Android Messages 3.2. Digging into the code shows that you’ll have the ability to temporarily disable notifications on your phone if you’re currently using the web-based client. In addition to Chrome, the platform will support Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Opera, and Safari. 

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