SMS management in Windows and the cloud: make it happen, Microsoft
Back in the Windows Mobile 6.x days, there was an app and service called MyPhone that Microsoft made so that you could back up content to the Windows Mobile MyPhone cloud website. It saved all of your text messages to the cloud and you could log into the MyPhone website and see them all there. This was great if you wanted to archive, record, or print some communications to show to the lawyers for example.
Even before that, there was a 3rd party program for the Windows desktop called Jeyo Mobile Companion which would connect to your Windows Mobile device via the USB cable and load all the text messaging folders and conversations. You could even use this to send and reply to text messages while your phone was connected. It was so awesome! Using a full-sized keyboard to quickly compose and send text messages was a joy, especially at a time when smartphones had cumbersome touch-screen keyboards. What’s that? They still have cumbersome touch-screen keyboards? Oh.
When Windows 8 came out and there was a dedicated “Messaging” app that consolidated instant messaging from Windows Live Messenger and Facebook, I kind of expected that it would eventually link to Windows Phone and get the SMS conversations in there as well. It made perfect sense to add that. Unfortunately, the whole Messaging app was actually removed from Windows 8 instead.
Recently, Apple announced a new feature in Mac OS X and iOS 8 called Continuity where you could access, read, and reply to your phone’s SMS messages from any other Apple device connected to that Apple ID. That includes desktop Mac OS PCs with real full-sized keyboards connected as well as your iPad which you probably only use when your iPhone is charging. It’s a great idea! Being able to send and receive regular SMS/MMS messages from any of your authorized electronic devices makes things so much easier since you don’t have get up and find your phone with its tiny little screen and try to form words with its silly little non-tactile tiny keyboard.
Even today, with Windows Phone 8.x, all of your text messages are backed up to your Microsoft account and they sync to your other Windows Phones that are also associated with your account. Even if you have different phone numbers, all of the text messages you received on any phone with that same Microsoft ID are synchronized with all of the others. There used to be a “Messaging History” folder in your Outlook.com account where you could see all of your SMS, Facebook chat, and Live Messenger conversations. That was removed for some unknown reason (even though it was awesome). Today, you can still sort of access those conversations in Outlook.com with a little trick.
After logging into Outlook.com, go to Settings > Manage Categories. Turn on the Contacts category “display” and “filter” check boxes. That will add a contacts item to your sidebar on the left and when you select that, you can see your SMS messaging history again kind of. Unfortunately the full conversation including your sent messages are not visible in this method, but at least we know they’re still being saved to the cloud.
So what’s the big deal with making those conversations available in the cloud and subsequently from a Windows 8 app that I can install on my desktops and tablets? Add an “Outbox” folder that syncs back to the phone which then sends the SMS message and we’re done. The app would only have to interact with the Microsoft Account’s messaging storage database in the same way as Windows Phone currently does. Obviously if I have multiple phones and phone numbers I would need to select the one that I want to use to send the message, but that should be a matter of a simple pop-up menu.
Make it happen, Microsoft. This should be a no-brainer.