Whatever Happened to SMS Relay for Android?

Posted on February 23, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Mobile, Android, Windows Phones, Windows 10 with 44 Comments

Whatever Happened to SMS Relay for Android?

Microsoft has been promising to integrate Windows 10 PCs with our Android smartphones since early 2016. We’re still waiting.

Microsoft planned to deliver a Windows 10 feature called “Messaging Everywhere” in the Anniversary Update, which shipped in mid-2016. This technology was announced at Build 2016 in late March that year and appeared to settle the debate about which mobile platform Windows PC users should choose. That is, Microsoft would be able to integrate with Android, because it’s open, but not the iPhone, which is not.

As originally envisioned, Messaging Everywhere encompassed a variety of pieces, including Action Center in the Cloud, which would ensure that dismissing a notification on one device would dismiss it on all of your devices, and Android notification mirroring, so that your Android handset’s notifications would appear, and work, in Windows 10.

This was very exciting. But one month before the Anniversary Update shipped, Microsoft dropped a bombshell: It would not deliver Messaging Everywhere with this update. Indeed, it would not deliver Messaging Everywhere at all. Instead, this functionality would be added to Skype instead of Windows 10.

Microsoft dropped a similar bombshell for the Creators Update when it announced in January that the promised My People feature would not be delivered in that update. But there’s a big difference between My People and Messaging Everywhere. We know that My People is coming, and how it will work. But Messaging Everywhere has fallen into a black hole.

I will say this: Delivering this functionality via Skype—rather than Windows 10—does make some sense. Skype, after all, is Microsoft’s messaging solution, and if the firm wants to make messaging available everywhere, as the name suggests, Skype is the better home for that.

Back in 2016, it seemed like we were always on the cusp of getting this feature. In September, Microsoft added a feature called SMS Relay to the Skype Preview app on Windows 10 Mobile, of all places, noting that this was the new name for Messaging Everywhere.

“SMS Relay allows users to send and receive SMS and MMS messages directly from a Windows 10 PC when Skype on your Windows 10 Mobile is set as the default messaging app,” the firm explained at the time. “No need to reach for your phone, you can view new messages as they arrive and respond to messages from your computer. Send and receive texts, group messages, and photos all in one app with a single view of your SMS and Skype conversations.”

Implementing Messaging Everywhere—sorry, SMS Relay—first in Windows 10 Mobile seems to make sense, since Microsoft owns both that platform and Windows 10 for PCs, and can presumably create a more seamless and integrated experience across the two. But the problem, of course, is that no one uses Windows 10 Mobile. And when I looked at this solution in September, it wasn’t even particularly seamless and integrated.

Back then, a few features worked, including the ability to send and receive SMS/MMS messages from a Windows 10 PC. But more was promised, including improved messaging functionality, easier calling capabilities, and more.

In November, Microsoft made SMS Relay in Skype Preview generally available, but it didn’t add any new features. At the time, the company noted the following:

“We are also working on bringing SMS relay to Android in the future.”

So far, that future has not arrived. And that quote is the latest formal statement that Microsoft has made on this topic. Yes, I just asked.

So, to recap, Messaging Everywhere/SMS Relay didn’t make the Anniversary Update, and it’s not going to make the Creators Update either, except in Preview form for the 7 people actually using Windows 10 Mobile for whatever reason. It’s still planned for Android at some point in the future, and there are no plans to bring it to the iPhone, at least not public plans.

We are, in other words, exactly where we were a year ago. Waiting. For functionality that we may never get. And that Apple has offered on its Mac, iPhone, and other iOS devices for years.

Not good.


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Comments (44)

44 responses to “Whatever Happened to SMS Relay for Android?”

  1. webdev511

    Well it WAS working and then it just kind of disappeared which was a bummer. I don't miss it mostly because I didn't have very much time with it. It would be nice to have it back again...someday.

  2. unfalln

    For the record, Windows 10 Mobile's SMS Relay has steadily improved in reliability over the last couple of months and I now use it regularly at work, allowing me to put my phone on silent (reminding me of the point that Windows 10 volume control is fiddly and annoying). This is a self-centred view, I know, but it's nice to hear of functionality that actually works for me that is not available on Android.

    All other notifications that I have to dismiss separately on each of my devices (phone, work, home and SP2) are immensely annoying, but I'll take whatever wins I can get.

  3. wolters

    And until then, I continue to use Pushbullet...

    And this, once again, is Déjà vu all over again for a Microsoft fan. Things we get excited about and then have it taken away or it never comes to fruition.

    • IanYates82

      In reply to wolters:

      Yep, Pushbullet works pretty well for me. Has Chrome integration, SMS "heads" that can appear on my desktop and good control over which notifications come through to my PC.

  4. Atoqir

    This sounds the same as bringing placeholders back.


  5. Bart

    Will Skype Lite be the answer to the Android problem? I think so

  6. dstrauss

    Well, Samsung claims it will roll out Samsung Flow in April so that all Windows 10 machines can do this with Samsung phones - I realize its not exactly the same, but "close enough" always wins out over "whatever happened to" every time.

    • jboman32768

      In reply to dstrauss:

      Samsung already has the SideSync app available that does all this and more. I have no need for this to be in W10 now.

      • nbplopes

        In reply to jboman32768:

        Sidesync works by mirroring the phone screen, at least to take and make calls from the PC. I think for SMS you don't need to mirror the screen and some other stuff.

        Its not a very practical and efficient solution. I disabled it after awhile.

        On the other hand with OSX and iOS the thing is totally fluid so much so that you can forget about the phone while on the laptop up to 10 meters (a little more in my case).

  7. brettscoast

    That's extremely disappointing to say the least. Microsoft's continual flip flopping and continued miscommunication on this is not good. This is a feature we should have had by now and to simply drop it into skype doesn't cut it.

  8. jamiet

    I was literally thinking about this feature yesterday, wondering why I can't enable it on my phone. What's bugging me is that I'm sure this feature, or something similar, was present in Windows 10 only a few months ago. Because I do remember, once upon a time, a Cortana prompt that said I can connect my Android phone to Windows 10 by scanning the QR code Cortana displayed on screen. I couldn't do it at the time because I still had my Lumia 640XL. Scanning the QR code just took me to the Windows Store IIRC

    That prompt doesn't exist anymore, far as I can tell. Maybe it wasn't the same thing as messaging everywhere

  9. falito

    jajaja regresa a lumia 950-... we are waiting for you in the dead platform

  10. Dick O'Rosary

    "when I looked at this solution in September"

    lol. How many months has it been?

    I'll tell you that aside from the poor dual sim support(sms relay will receive sms from both sims, but messages will only send from sim slot 1), this feature has been great.

    You know what they say Paul, it takes just one app to convince one to switch or stay with a platform. I'm sure you have your HP elite in a drawer somewhere ;-)

  11. jboman32768

    When I switched from Lumia 950XL to Samsung S7 recently, I was pleasantly surprised to find this funtionality already baked in, and I have been taking phone calls and replying to SMS's from my PC forba while now. Curiously ignored by Paul, Samsung phones appear to be be the best companion smartphone for Windows users.

  12. James Wilson

    My 950XL, as well as SMS notifications, also send WhatsApp notifications to my Windows 10 desktop as well as missed call notifications. It's very useful.


    First, I got a MacBook Pro for mobile computing using Boot Camp/Windows. Then I got an iPhone and slowly moved to macOS for everything, ultimately removing Windows. Now all personal files are on my Apple devices. I still have a desktop PC for software development and gaming - but it's not a "Personal Computer" - It's a "Work/Gaming" station. I even found a use for the iPad in my life...I bought one for my Mom so that I didn't have to support her on Windows anymore. Life is good!

  14. knopfler96

    I use SMS relay every day and it works pretty good ? (not perfect). Great feature!

  15. burog25c

    Well... I just wanted Messaging Everywhere. But some people thought it would be better tied to Skype... and no.. not really. The Skype platform sucks in any iteration I've tried. I'd just like the original ME.

    As for SMS relay on Android? I'm not feeling your pain. Even though ME got plowed deep into Skype--shudder!--at least it does mostly work, if not as well as before the plowing. What it doesn't apply to Android? YAY! Shrug... :-P

  16. Elindalyne

    I think the Skype brand is both loved and hated nearly as much as the Windows brand at this point. I have the option of using the SMS Relay as I carry both a L950XL and a Nexus 5x and I've been actively avoiding it simply because of the headaches associated with Skype. From random PC wide volume changes to downright DDOS attacks (which I know has been solved) a lot of people has just stopped using it.

    If you're not using it for business, there are better options out there in Discord and Slack.

    I get it, they want Skype to be an iMessage competitor, but they can't do that if the underlying software sucks. You've had almost 5 1/2 years to get this right and only now are you making strides to fix things.

  17. bpaul14

    Pushbullet handles this task very well. I can get all my Nexus 5x notifications on my desktop. I can send and reply to texts. It's not perfect, but it is effective.

  18. dcdevito

    It's a moot point anyway since there are 45,000 messaging apps on Android

  19. coeus89

    I have used a service called MySMS for about a year with good results. They have a good UWP app on the desktop and they (admittedly basic) messaging app replaces the default app on android. it is also free to use (there is a paid premium that you dont need).

  20. Jules Wombat

    Little point, Skype is hated by a large proportion of business users, and there are plenty of better Android messaging bridges. So dropping this proposed feature is of little consequence.

  21. Brian Hodges

    This is why I quit Windows Phone for Android. Got tired of always being told to wait for features that are standard elsewhere.

    • jlv632

      In reply to Brian Hodges:

      you know if you had your Windows phone... you could be using Messaging Everywhere right now? #justsayin

    • thurrotcommentator

      In reply to Brian Hodges:

      haha umm what? This article is saying the feature is available on windows 10 mobile and *not* Android? Or did I miss the sarcasm? Its been working really well for me for the last few months on windows 10 mobile, so easy to reply to an sms text in an actionable notification popping up on my desktop when I already have my hands on the keyboard - its pretty neat! :)

  22. Chris_Kez

    My knee-jerk fan-boy reaction is "buy Pushbullet".

    EDIT: Yeah, I don't think I can be bothered to think this one through.

  23. James Doherty

    I have been getting sms' from my Pixel on PC through Cortana. It's a bit inconsistent and it doesn't show the contacts name only the phone number but you can reply from the action center when a message is received.

  24. Waethorn

    I would bet some of this has to do with cell carriers, who all seem to hate Microsoft, and want to charge consumers for every little service addition.

    • evox81

      In reply to Waethorn:

      That doesn't make sense.

      First, SMS relay doesn't modify how SMS works from the phone/carrier perspective. The SMS messages are sent and received from the phone as always. The relay takes place over a data connection.

      Second, there are apps on Android that already do this. If carriers had a problem with it, they could have shut down a startup much easier than fighting Microsoft.

      • Waethorn

        In reply to evox81:

        If that were true, why do only certain carriers support Visual Voicemail, and then charge for it? Lots of companies do voicemail-to-email, and using voice recognition is just another step.

        Carriers pushed Android and iPhones over Microsoft phones for years. They don't like Microsoft. They don't like that Microsoft wanted to dictate software terms to them, and they still insist on controlling the software update processes.

  25. F4IL

    Yes, but... how can Brad know about the broken doorknob?

  26. Vuppe

    I'd like to go back to Skype as my SMS client so I can get toasts on Windows 10. Hangouts is...ok...but it's not as good. Thanks for bringing this back into the conversation, Paul.

  27. lordbaal1

    So they push it back because maybe they working out the kinks and bugs.

    You complain.

    They bring it out, and it has bugs.

    You complain.

    Paul will never be happy. He will still complain for no reason.

    • Bart

      In reply to lordbaal1:

      Microsoft promises, doesn't deliver. End of.

    • Chris

      As Bart said, Microsoft promises something, then either under delivers, or goes completely quiet hoping that no-one will notice the missing promise. We need Paul to complain, otherwise Microsoft won't listen (not that they listen to everything he says, but he seems to have a better chance at getting through their thick skulls).

      Like it or not, we need Paul to complain... and hope that Microsoft will actually listen...

  28. sgtaylor5

    I went for mysms premium, so I could have SMS access everywhere and have automatic backup. Win 10 laptop, Samsung S6, and tablet. Higher rated than VZW Messages+.