The Current State Of Texting On Android
For at least 4 years, you have been able to send SMS texts from any computer’s web browser on Android. It has been a great luxury to send/receive texts on any computer without worrying about pulling out your phone during a meeting or while working on a project. It was a feature I touted to my Apple fans as one of the many reasons I preferred the flexibility of Android.
In October of 2014, Apple announced they would natively support texting on OS X. While this is a great feature, it does require that you have a Mac and an iPhone which doesn’t suit everyone. And to no surprise, Google has dragged their feet in implementing a similar feature in Android. Thus, we are left with relying on third parties to send texts. I have to trust a third party if I want to send texts from my computer. I wish I could get all my family and friends moved over to a chat app like Hangouts or the internationally famous Whatsapp. Sadly, I think I’ll be stuck using the limiting SMS/MMS texting for a while.
So over the past month, I have tested a variety of the desktop texting apps to find which one works the best option until Google decides to save me.
Let me outline some requirements I had before installing anything on phone:
- It must be free (optional in-app purchases are okay).
- I do not want to install anything on my computer. I flip between computers so I’m looking for a web-based interface only. It’s okay if the app has an optional installation for PC/Mac.
- It cannot require too many permissions. The app will of course need to read/write SMS, but it should not require location unless there’s an additional feature that makes sense.
- It must have received an update sometime within the past year.
- It must fully sync texts, meaning it will show all existing SMS conversations from your phone (sorry, Pushbullet *see edit below).
Before I begin, there are a few things these apps simply are not allowed to accomplish due to limitations in either Jellybean or Lollipop.
- Messages cannot be marked as read on your phone. If you look at the message on your computer, it will not be marked as read on your phone.*
- You cannot delete messages from your computer.*
- MMS can only be sent one-way. Pictures/group messages can be sent to the recipients but they will not sync with your phone.*
*There is a workaround for these limitations. See the “Yappy” section below.
For testing sake, I am using an AT&T Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. Textra is my default texting app my phone. Your personal results may vary as a result. Let’s begin.
Mightytext is probably one of the most popular apps for texting from the computer. They even have a Chrome extension that builds itself into Gmail making it incredibly convenient for those Gmail users out there.
I am most familiar with MightyText and have been using it for the last year. Recently, I have encountered enough issues to prompt me to find a replacement (and write this article). The first issue I consistently experienced was MightyText not syncing my contacts correctly. It would list phone numbers instead of the contact’s name. MightyText would also often fail to sync my contact pictures. I don’t know about you, I don’t have 99% of my friends’ phone numbers memorized.
The second issue I faced with MightyText is the way it handles group messaging. As mentioned before, there is a limitation in newer Android devices that will not allow you sync MMS (picture and group messages) via a web browser. This means I could send group messages through MightyText but those group messages would not automatically sync with my phone. Any responses from friends would sync to the web interface however your replies would be invisible on your phone. A little frustrating but not the fault of MightyText. What I do fault MightyText for is the inconsistency in handling group messages in general. When a group replies would come in, oftentimes it would completely mix up who actually sent the message or I would get multiple duplicates of the same message. I would rather they not have group message capability at all than for it to work unpredictably and unreliably.
Finally, sometimes messages wouldn’t actually go through. Refreshing the browser usually was enough to get it go through. However, I needed something more reliable.
I really want to like MightyText. It’s Gmail integration made it extremely easy for me to send/receive texts. In it’s current state, I can’t recommend it so we must continue on our search.
*To be fair the founder of TechDissected, Cliff Wade, uses MightyText on his 2014 Moto X and has not experienced the same issues.
Oh AirDroid. If you haven’t used it, it’s seriously one of the coolest things Android still allows. AirDroid basically mirrors every capability of your phone onto your desktop. Sending texts is only the tip of the iceberg. Manage files, send links, remotely take pictures, access your gallery, find your lost phone are just some of the capabilities of this application. With that, a lot of permissions are understandably required. I’m really looking forward to M’s release and being able to deny access when needed.
As far as day-to-day texting goes, it worked… okay. There seemed to sometimes be a fairly long delay in actually sending messages. AirDroid fails entirely at sending MMS so it won’t even attempt group messaging or pictures whereas others will at least send the message/picture. I also still have issues with the design. It looks extremely childish, reminiscent to iOS pre-Ives.
AirDroid also needs to persistently run in order to operate. Every morning you will need to connect to AirDroid and disconnect if you no longer plan to use it. There will also be a persistent notification in your tray which is a bit annoying if you’re only looking to text.
If you already use AirDroid consistently for other tasks then it is probably the best option for you. For me, it did not offer any advantages over MightyText and simply does too much. Airdroid does everything pretty well but nothing great. AirDroid is a perfect example of feature creep.
This is one of those apps I was a little nervous installing. There weren’t any permissions that seemed unreasonable. There’s just something about MySMS that doesn’t seem right. I feel like I need a shower after using it. Maybe it’s the terribly formatted description in the PlayStore or the 5 different apps in Google Play. Maybe it’s the automated Welcome email with only “Subject” in the subject line or complete lack of a decent design of the web interface. There’s something amiss about MySMS.
MySMS lacks all polish. For example, all your new messages appear the top of the screen instead of at the bottom. This would make perfect sense if it weren’t for every single other texting application doing it the other way with new texts always appearing at the bottom of the screen. The only thing MySMS has going for it is its ability to search texts without an additional purchase.
The app seemed to work well enough however there weren’t any outstanding features that would make me want to use this app every day. I would rather fight with MightyText than have to use MySMS.
Finally, the leading contender… Yappy.
Install the app on your phone. They send a confirmation text. Go to the web interface. You’re off to the races. It’s completely web-based like most of the apps meaning it will work from any computer or tablet without installing anything on the computer itself.
Yappy does have in-app purchases but none of them are necessary for a fully functioning app. The Pro version will allow you to store all of your texts in an archive – the free version stores texts for 14 days. It will also allow you to search your texts and access analytics in case you want to details on your texting addiction.
Overall, I really liked this app. It synced all my contacts and their pictures without any issues. The web-interface design is clean and intuitive. It’s very similar to MightyText in almost every way except for the lack of Gmail integration. However, for me, it has worked much more reliably.
Yappy also has an almost-ace up its sleeve. They have a partnership with a texting app called EvolveSMS. If you use Yappy through your desktop browser in combination with EvolveSMS on your phone it will allow you to do everything: delete texts, send pictures, and send group message WITH syncing of your messages. With Yappy and EvolveSMS you finally have full-featured texting abilities from your computer.
Unfortunately, the EvolveSMS app on it’s own it’s good but far from great. The swiping left to access your list of messages is downright annoying and nearly unusable on my Galaxy S6. However, if you want full-fledged texting from your computer this may be your only hope until Google decides to match the level of integration of Apple’s OSX.
Summing Up Texting On Android
This may seem all a bit like a mess. It is. Some apps handle some thing well and almost all have some sort of compromise. In its current state, I would recommend trying out MightyText especially if you are a consistent Gmail user. MightyText would easily take the crown if they teamed up with Textra to provide the same level of integration as Yappy and EvolveSMS. See how well MightyText works for you. You may not have any of the issues I experienced. If you find it as frustrating as I did, switch over to Yappy and maybe go so far as to also install EvolveSMS for the complete texting-from-a-computer experience.
I really hope that Google gets their head on straight and matches the level of integration of messaging on OS X. I know this is a tall order and might not even possible considering the number of different devices, carriers, Android versions etc. And considering the mess of Hangouts and Google Voice maybe we are better off relying on a third party solution.
EDIT: Pushbullet has released a new version of their app that now syncs all text messages. So far, it has been working very reliably for me and is my recommended choice.