Android KitKat 4.4: New default texting option revealed

Android KitKat 4.4: New default texting option revealed

Summary: Google tells developers to update their apps as details of the KitKat's SMS options are revealed.

TOPICS: Smartphones, Android

The next version of Android, KitKat 4.4, will allow users to set a third-party app as their default texting option straight from the OS, Google has revealed.

KitKat screenshots: A first look at Android 4.4? (gallery)

KitKat screenshots: A first look at Android 4.4? (gallery)

KitKat screenshots: A first look at Android 4.4? (gallery)

The chocolate bar-themed KitKat 4.4 (formerly Key Lime Pie)  is expected to arrive later this year and possibly as soon as later this month. Information about it is gradually trickling out, with likely features including better support for wireless printing from Android devices and possibly native NFC payment options, rather than only third-party enabled capabilities. 

Google said in a post on its Android Developer blog that, while many developers have built apps to improve on the texting experience on Android, some of these have been created using hidden APIs, which Google doesn't like because they can be changed or removed without warning, and can't be tested for compatibility with new devices.

In order to make the user experience for messaging "more predictable", Android 4.4 KitKat is making the existing SMS APIs public and adds the concept of a default SMS app, "which the user can select in system settings".

As a result, developers using hidden APIs will have to make some change for their app to continue to work when Android 4.4 is released, Google said.

"As such, it's important that you update your messaging app as soon as possible to be available as a default SMS app, because although your existing app won't crash on an Android 4.4 device, it will silently fail when attempting to write to the SMS Provider," it said.

"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."

Further reading

Topics: Smartphones, Android

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  • Huh?

    I could always set my default text message app... The 3rd party apps just didn't work so well.
    • Yeah, I thought you could already choose....

      Anyway, any update on a release date yet, 15th having been and gone.....
      • Kitkat launch date?

        Nothing so far - the Google post says "when Android 4.4 is released later this year"
    • Reread the article. It explains that you could but those apps use

      unsupported apis and google wants them upgraded to use the suppoeted apis. But the whole thing is a load of crap anyway. Txt messaging shouldn't be using sms anymore anyway. Sending a txt to someone who can only receive them over sms, and those numbers are dwindling fast, is a backend server issue. Txt messaging client apps should be sending txt using standard internet protocols. We don't need carriers in the way. Just use Skype.
      Johnny Vegas
      • Not as easy as it sounds.

        The big disadvantage Skype (or any similar service) has over standard SMS is that it is not used universally. You can send an SMS to pretty much any mobile phone (with the exception of only the few more ancient models that still work). I don't see Skype replacing this functionality because you have to have the app to use it. For this reason, you can only send messages to another person through Skype if you know they have Skype, and this requires you to keep track of what services your friends use. On top of this, because there are many services, some may use Skype, some may use Hangouts, some may use Yahoo Messenger, etc. and as these don't communicate with each other, none of them is really universal.

        Skype does have the ability to send SMS to those who don't use Skype, but it is a pay service, and honestly, who pays for texting anymore?
        • More problems

          There are even more problems. If someone who was on say Skype then changes their phone, suddenly no-one who normally send to them via Skype can contact them.
          This is a BIG problem currently with the Apple iMessage service (which transparently and automatically gets turned on for iPhone users). If an iPhone user switches to an Android phone suddenly all those other people with iPhones can no longer contact them because Apple still thinks that messages from other iPhones should be delivered by iMessage rather than by traditional SMS.
          All this occurs without the user intentionally signing up for anything - a real problem. The usual symptom is "On my new android SMS receiving doesn't work". Yes it does, Apple is just not delivering SMS's to your phone.
          • That's another good point.

            These are all very valid reasons that the best and most universal way to send a text message on a phone is through SMS. Apps and services that offer the same functionality via data, such as Google Voice, are nice workarounds, but at the moment Google Voice is an standalone app, and once set up, does not integrate well with Android. I'm really hoping this is addressed in 4.4.
        • Google missed not including Smashtalk as an available API

          Google is making a lot of noise about SMS but failed to move the technology forward. Had Google licensed Smashtalk, they could have been the first company to deliver an industry standard method for providing group chat over SMS that does not involve change to any existing SMS infrastructure within the carrier space. Smashtalk is fully backward compatible with the existing SMS spec. All Google did was shut the door on a number of 3rd party vendors. That's not progress in anyone's book.
      • It doesn't even say that

        It says Google will make the previously hidden APIs public. The issue that requires an update is to make sure the app supports being the default and the app should recognize that it can't send SMS without being the default.
    • Locking down SMS

      I think the point is they're locking down SMS - nothing but the designated-default app will be allowed to SMS. As a security measure.
  • Native NFC? Uh, what was Google Wallet?

    I had Google Wallet on my GS3.
    Google Wallet is considered a "Third party" payment option for NFC?
    I suspect the NFC payment changes are something different...
  • Android grab bag of catch ups

    Android is difficult to get used to. For anyone but the extreme tech geek, BlackBerry is still the best messaging platform out there. BBM >SMS