Android SMS for iChat review: Unlock Messages on your Mac with your Android phone

The cross-platform app isn't without its flaws, but until Apple releases Messages in Google Play it'll do the trick.

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Credit: Greenbot
At a Glance
  • Android SMS for iChat

    Greenbot Rating

While Android users who have switched from iPhone already lament the loss of the superb Messages app, they’re also giving up another neat feature: the ability to send and receive texts from their Mac. As a recent full-time switcher to Android, keeping track of conversations on my Macbook is one of the main things I’ve missed, and I’ve learned to keep my phone within arm’s reach whenever I’m at my desk.

Android SMS for iChat offers something of a solution. While it’s not quite as polished as Apple’s native syncing with the macOS app (which is actually called Messages rather than iChat now), the service actually does manage to spoof Apple’s system into syncing the messages received on your Android phone. And while there are some bugs and wrinkles that keep it from being a true replica of the iCloud-iPhone experience, it should provide enough home cooking to keep switchers happy.

Cross-platform chats

The setup is a little more complicated than Apple’s method, but the app’s tutorial does a good job walking you through it. First you need to download the Android version from Google Play, since that’s where most of the heavy lifting takes place. From there you’ll create an account, and head back to the Messages app on your Mac. Click Add Account, then Other, and add a Jabber account with your newly created username and password. After a few more clicks the two apps will be linked.

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The setup process for SMS for iChat is a little confuding, but the tutorial will walk you through it.

While you might need to refer to the SMS for iChat app to tweak the occasional setting, you’ll actually still be using the main messaging apps on your phone and Mac as usual. Once it finishes setting up, it should bring over any threads you’ve saved, though several of the conversations in Messenger on my Pixel were left behind.

Otherwise it mostly behaves like the normal Messages app does, but there a few inconsistencies. For one, anything originating from your Android phone won’t be separated into gray and green bubbles. Rather, both sides of the conversation will all be stacked on top of each other with sent messages marked with a “- (Sent by you via Android)” signature. It’s not too hard to decipher the flow of the conversation, but if you’re looking to keep a pristine log of your conversations on your Mac, SMS for iChat might not suit your needs.

Familiar faces

SMS for iChat did a nice job with keeping up with new messages coming in, and I haven’t missed a single one since I started using it (despite some back-and-forths being inexplicably split into new conversation threads). Notifications work nicely too, though an odd quirk displays banners for both incoming and outgoing messages.

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It’s not perfect, but you’ll be able to pick up your Android conversations on your Mac.

But despite those hiccups, SMS for iChat dutifully synced anything sent to my Android phone, and I was able to respond to incoming messages on my Mac like I did before. Well, almost like before—the service doesn’t support delivery of MMS messages just yet, though the company says it is working on a version that will add the functionality. However, incoming pics can be viewed via a link to a secure site.

Speaking of, if you’re concerned about the privacy of such an unofficial solution, developer MDRS assures users that it uses secure connections and 128-bit encryption when transferring messages. Texts are delivered via Google’s Cloud Messaging service and purged after three days.

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You’ll need to pony up some cash if you want to send more than five messages a day.

Should you download it?

The service is free to download and use, but if you want to manage more than five messages per day you’ll need to pony up some dough. There are three options for subscribers, each of which offer unlimited messages. You can opt to pay $10 a month, $60 a year, or $130 for a lifetime subscription. That might be too rich for some people, especially for an app that might not ever work perfectly due to Apple’s efforts to stymie outsiders, but even with the inconsistencies I thoroughly enjoyed using my Mac again to send text messages.

While it won’t replace the smooth, consistent manner in which iCloud shares messages between the iPhone and the Mac, it does bring back much of the functionality you gave up when you switched. And when you’re navigating a strange new land, a little familiarity goes a long way. 

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At a Glance
  • Greenbot Rating

    Sync MacOS and Android and send text messages from your Mac.

    Pros

    • Let you use the apps you're familiar with
    • Syns messages from your Android phone to your Mac

    Cons

    • Can't text photos from your Mac
    • Some quirks with how messages are synced
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