Whatever Happened to SMS Relay for Android?

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