Emerging Technology

Google confirms major SMS text message changes are coming in Android 4.4 KitKat

Andrew Sadauskas /

Google has posted an update to its official developers blog, effectively confirming rumours about a big change in how its forthcoming Android 4.4 KitKat operating system handles SMS text messages.

As SmartCompany first reported last week, there has been mounting speculation Google is looking to integrate SMS and MMS messaging – including video messages – into Google Hangouts.

Currently, Google provides a separate messaging app as the default for text messages on Android.

In a statement to developers, Google announced that it is adding the ability for users to select a “default” app to handle text messages.

“Some of you [app developers] have built SMS apps using hidden APIs—a practice we discourage because hidden APIs may be changed or removed and new devices are not tested against them for compatibility.

“So, to provide you with a fully supported set of APIs for building SMS apps and to make the user experience for messaging more predictable, Android 4.4 (KitKat) makes the existing APIs public and adds the concept of a default SMS app, which the user can select in system settings.”

Google goes on to warn developers that there will be restrictions on the ability to of an app to send SMS text messages, unless it is selected as the default app.

“When your app is not currently selected as the default SMS app, it’s important that you disable the ability to send new messages from your app because, without the ability to write to the SMS Provider, any messages you send won’t be visible in the user’s default SMS app.”

The changes will also require an update to any backup apps that handle text messages.

“Because the ability to write to the SMS Provider is restricted to the app the user selects as the default SMS app, any existing app designed purely to backup and restore SMS messages will currently be unable to restore SMS messages on Android 4.4. An app that backs up and restores SMS messages must also be set as the default SMS app so that it can write messages in the SMS Provider.”

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Andrew Sadauskas

Andrew Sadauskas is a former journalist at SmartCompany and a former editor of TechCompany.

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