Google Android 'Messages for web'
(Credit: Image: Google)

Google has unveiled big updates to its Messages app for Android users, bringing the app to the web and making tweaks to streamline conversation on smartphones.

The highlight of the announcement is Messages for web, Google's online Android messenger. Users will now be able to connect their Android phone's messenger app to a web-based platform and send texts from a computer. Sanaz Ahari, Product Management Director for Google, said it was one of the top-requested features.

"With Android Messages, we're creating a messaging experience that's available on multiple devices, lets you share whatever you want to share, and makes it easy to take action on your messages with Google AI," she wrote.

This brings Android Messages closer to parity with Apple's iMessage, which launched on Mac in 2012 to allow iPhone users to answer text messages while working from their desktop or laptop computer. It also brings Android Messages into parity with China's most popular texting app, WeChat (Android | iOS), which offers both desktop and web apps in addition to its mobile apps.

SEE: Android Messages app (Review)

Android Messages also got a mobile update too, and customers will now be able to use Smart Reply, Google's effort to predict your next sentence. Smart Reply gives you two options for potential messages to send in response to basic questions, and will send immediately when tapped on. For example, if someone sends you a text saying "Where are you?" Smart Reply will supply you with two options saying, "Coming soon!" or "I'm on my way." Google Gmail and the Apple Watch, for example, offer similar features.

The service will only be available in English to start, but Google said they plan to roll out other languages in the coming months.

Android users will also notice that when you send links in the messaging app, you will now see a preview of the webpage and a short headline.

Google also added a small tab to the messaging app to allow for quick access to your favorite and most expressive GIFs or stickers.

Another update will let users copy one-time passwords directly from text messages into apps. Generally, banking apps or things like Uber or Lyft may send you an initial text message with a code in it ahead of signing up. Android will now allow you to copy the number directly from the small preview you get at the top of your screen and put it into the app.

Most of these features will be available by the end of the week. Google has been working on improving the messaging app in a number of different ways, joining with manufacturers across the world to provide what they call RCS, or Rich Communication Services.

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"We've been partnering with the mobile industry to improve the messaging experience on Android with RCS, bringing more enhanced features to the standard messaging experience on mobile devices. As of today, we are working with 43 carriers and device manufacturers to bring better native messaging to every Android user," Amir Sarhangi, Google's Head of RCS, said in February.

"Today companies across food, travel, retail and delivery services in the US and Mexico are starting to have better conversations with their customers using RCS as part of our Early Access Program."

Takeaways

  1. Google's Android Messages will now allow you to send text messages from your computer with a new web-based app.
  2. Android Messages on smartphones has launched several new AI-powered features that will make texting quicker with suggested replies.

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Jonathan Greig is a freelance journalist based in New York City. He recently returned to the United States after reporting from South Africa, Jordan, and Cambodia since 2013.