Google today revealed that Android 4.4 (KitKat) will introduce the concept of a default SMS app, which the user can select in system settings. Furthermore, the new version will make existing APIs public so that developers don’t have to worry about losing them.

Google notes that many Android app developers have built SMS apps using hidden APIs. Google tries to discourage this practice since hidden APIs can change or be removed, and new devices are not tested against them for compatibility. As such, with Android 4.4, Google will try to bring all SMS apps onto the same page.

Here are some of the points you have to keep in mind if you’re a developer:

  • 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.
  • To enable your app to send and receive messages, you can display a dialog hosted by the system that allows the user to make your app the default SMS app.
  • To provide a graceful user experience, check whether your app is the default SMS app when your activity resumes and modify your UI to include a message that allows the user to change the default SMS app.
  • Because the ability to write to the SMS Provider is restricted to the app the user selects as the default SMS app, any existing app designed purely to backup and restore SMS messages will currently be unable to restore SMS messages on Android 4.4. An app that backs up and restores SMS messages must also be set as the default SMS app so that it can write messages in the SMS Provider. However, if the app does not also send and receive SMS messages, then it should not remain set as the default SMS app.

Rumor has it that KitKat will have a new Hangouts app with texting functionality. If true, we expect that this will be the app set as default, at least on the stock version of Android.

The move should also help alleviate the Android malware problem, given that on the platform steal your money via premium SMS. Other variants can be particularly nasty.

Google is asking Android developers to update their apps “as soon as possible.” The company also notes it will “soon” be providing the necessary SDK components for Android 4.4 so they can compile and test their changes on Android 4.4. We’ll let you know when that happens; we’re betting it will either be this month or next.

Top Image Credit: Google