While many of us would love to see more integration between Android and Windows, Google seems to be focusing more on uniting the various features of Android and Chrome OS. This makes perfect sense, considering the company recently launched its brand new high-end Chromebook, known as the Pixelbook. A new feature of Android 8.1 Oreo called SMS Connect has been discovered hidden within the operating system’s developer preview.
Alongside the recent launch of the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, Google has been working on improving both the developer and consumer experience for Chrome OS users. It was recently revealed that Google is working on a Chrome OS emulator for future Android SDK releases. The platform is also getting Android-like screenshot functionality and the Instant Tethering feature is now enabled by default, leaving many to speculate that it will be launching any day now.
People like the idea of reading and sending SMS messages that they receive on their smartphone from their desktop or laptop computer. For Windows, this has forced many to look for third-party solutions, but the discovery of SMS Connect in Android 8.1 indicates it could be possible with Chrome OS in the future. Ron Amadeo from Ars Technica found an APK called “SMSConnectPrebuilt” that he was able to launch with an activity browser.
Once opened, a placeholder setup page tells you that once SMS Connect is registered to a Chrome OS device, users can read and reply to SMS messages directly from a Chromebook. There’s a Chrome OS component to this as well that can be found by turning on the “Enable Multidevice features” option via the chrome://flags page. However, the feature doesn’t work at the moment, and since the SMS Connect APK requires the “com.google.android.feature.PIXEL_EXPERIENCE” feature, it will likely be Pixel-exclusive functionality. Ron Amadeo also notes that the layout of these screens (blue buttons, circular image motif, Product Sans font) indicates they might be part of the initial setup process of Pixel smartphones in upcoming Android builds.