Google is opening up the boundaries between Chromebooks and Android devices by launching the ‘SMS Connect’ service on Android 8.1 Oreo. The new service, which is currently available as a part of Android 8.1 Developer Preview for Google Pixel and Nexus devices, allows you to respond to your Android device messages directly from your Chrome OS machine.
Android 8.1 Oreo has a hidden service called “SMSConnectPrebuilt” that doesn’t work as a standalone app but takes you to a setup screen for the SMS Connect service. The screen explicitly confirms that the service is designed to provide you with the text messages your smartphone receives directly to your Chromebook. Once the setup process is concluded, you have the option to read or respond to your messages either on your Android 8.1 running smartphone or your Chromebook.
Something similar is also seen in Apple’s ecosystem, where Continuity can be used to sync messages, files, cellular connectivity, and even phone calls between compatible macOS and iOS devices. The iPhone maker also has features like Handoff and Universal Clipboard to bound its users to the proprietary ecosystem in a much stronger way than Google.
Notably, you need to turn on Enable Multidevice features on your Chromebook by typing “chrome://flags” in the address bar and then reboot the system to enable the two-way connectivity.
As pointed out by Ars Technica, the SMS Connect service appears to be exclusive to Pixel devices. This means that your Nexus devices or any other hardware that would receive an update to Android 8.1 will not be able to receive messages on Chromebooks.
Furthermore, the screenshots provided by Ars Technica reveal that you need to allow access to phone calls, messages, and contacts. These permissions could be leveraged to add a feature to attend and make phone calls on Chrome OS over time.
The latest development emerges months after Google was rumoured to be merging Android and Chrome OS with its all-new Andromeda platform. The operating system didn’t receive an official picture. However, a service like SMS Connect somewhere fulfils its aim — bringing Android closer to Chrome OS and make the latter more useful for Android users.