Google details new SMS changes coming to Android 4.4 KitKat, wants developers to prepare their apps


Sliding Messaging screenshot

SMS apps on Android are a dime a dozen. Hop into the Google Play Store and you’re sure to find them as prevalent as launcher/clock/or other replacement apps. Currently, the way Android handles them is a bit… wonky. Developers have to use unofficial work arounds and hidden APIs to keep their apps running. More than often, this is why many SMS apps don’t always behave as desired (random error messages, SMS messages not being delivered, etc).

Android 4.4 KitKat Default SMS

Google knows this and it’s why the Android development team is alerting all Android developers of incoming changes to be introduced in Android 4.4 KitKat. Detailed on the official Android Developers blog, Google will now provide developers with official APIs for their SMS apps, giving their apps more stability, and better reviews on the Play Store.

Like when choosing the default browser app, users will now be able to choose the default SMS app. That means Sliding Messaging, Now SMS, and GO SMS Pro should provide you with the stable 3rd party messaging you expect. What’s also neat is that when/if Google finally integrates SMS into Hangouts, users will still be able to use their favorite SMS apps, should they prefer to keep their instant messages separate from text messages. Options are nice.

[Android Developers]

Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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  1. Google should now provide me with an official release date for the Nexus 5! I’ve been saving up Google! Put a lot of beer money aside for this!

    That and my girlfriend’s birthday is coming up (24th) so if I buy myself a phone after that date and only get her a $50 Target gift card.. I’ll be in trouble! …. Unless it’s $50 for Starbucks?! hmmm….

    1. Women. They just understand tech.

      I’m sure she’d be thrilled if you bought her a $400 Coach bag or Jimmy Choos :P

      1. $400 purse and a *$400 phone?! Yous high!!

      2. If you’re spending $400 on a Coach bag, you’re DIW.

        … and no, I don’t buy that bootleg foolishness, either.

    2. shoot if I buy one for me, I can’t get away without buying one for her.

      1. Ya pretty much! Considering she uses an iPhone…


  2. Really wish Google would release their messaging app as a separate app in the play store. Google should compete with Apple’s iMessage. SMS between android phones should use data so when picture messaging there’s a lack of compression that exists with a regular carrier’s sms.

    1. It’s my understanding that is exactly what they are doing. Hangout is going to integrate SMS, which is available as a stand alone app on the app store. I’m pretty they understand this and will try and get people to use hangout chat more than SMS

    2. I’m pretty sure that’s what Hangouts is gonna be. Something similar to how iMessage works. It’s basically that now except you can’t mix in your SMS. Once they do that it’s perfect and that’s what they’ll be doing in KitKat.

  3. Does this mean that I will be able to use the stock messaging application on a Sense based ROM? Please say yes!! I LOVE the stock messaging app.

    Mainly because it shows the pictures while talking to people. =.3

  4. This is the best news I’ve heard all month! <3

    I'm currently working on a new SMS app and I find it extremely painful to rely on undocumented APIs for almost everything. To be honest, I was a bit scared when I heard about Google integrating SMS into hangouts because that would probably mean the workarounds I have set up might cease to exist. Chris, you just liberated me from my fear.

    Thank you Google! :D

  5. Great news and hopefully this portends the Super SMS program – Hangouts!

  6. So like Facebook messenger?

  7. I thought this is already how it works?

  8. If they do this, will messages still appear if you switch to a new sms app? In other words, if I go download Go Messenger right now, all of my messages still show up. I would hate to have messages only come into the default app. Default changes with my mood and I’m on Android so I have the ability to do that.

  9. It would be better if they would release a beta version or two, so devs could actually test their stuff, and we don’t have something like 4.3 rolling out with most of the video apps broken.

  10. This pretty much confirms that SMS will be done in Hangouts on the Nexus phones.

  11. This is great news, looking forward to having texts integrated into Hangouts. I don’t really like the stock text app on my Note 2. I’ve tried others like Disa but it never seemed ‘right’.

  12. If Google doesn’t make the stock messaging app available in the Play Store hopefully it can just be side loaded. I’m not a social media person, no Facebook, G+, or otherwise. I do use Twitter but it’s mostly just reading. I have zero interest in using Hangouts as intended, just want to text. I know I’m likely in the minority, and I understand why Google is merging it. i just hope there’s an option to continue using the stock messenger. I’ve yet to use a 3rd party app that wasn’t terrible.

  13. Hoping Google overhauls messaging in Android 4.4. Their texting system is archaic garbage compared to Apple’s iMessage.

  14. I think it’s funny how everyone is so excited about the integration of SMS with Hangouts. It’s nice, but wouldn’t make a big difference. On my phone it’s either Whatsapp or Hangouts or maybe even Facebook Messenger. SMS comes very much last. I seriously don’t know anyone who still doesn’t use Whatsapp. Or is SMS texting still a thing in the USA? If only Google could buy Whatsapp… ;-)

    1. These security issues made a lot of people I know drop Whatsapp:

      Everyone I knew who used it were trying to use it to keep stuff private, but after so many people started using it, it kinda defeated its purpose.

  15. Doesn’t look like there will be an announcement today, shame

  16. That “default SMS” screen would be good for setting defaults when there is multiple applications installed such as launchers, browsers and keyboards!

    1. This has existed for a long time though.

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