Backing up SMS on Android 4.4 KitKat

Hangouts & SMS

It’s no big deal, I guess. Even if my go-to solution for backing up text messages isn’t fully compatible with Android 4.4 KitKat, a similar app reviewed by AllanVS back in September continues to work great. It’s just a shame that Google didn’t build SMS archiving into the latest version of Hangouts, where IM archiving already exists.

To highlight this missed opportunity I’ll give you a closer look at these two SMS utilities — and as an added bonus will show you how Google has left itself potentially vulnerable to a third-party messaging platform.

SMS Backup & Restore

I won’t regurgitate Allan’s review but I’ll quickly remind you that this app saves texts on your phone into an XML file that can be transferred to your computer, to be archived or restored to your phone at a later date.

Of particular interest to me is that an XSL style sheet is also saved — which means that you can open and view a human-readable version of that XML file in a web browser. You can also export a text-only version of your texts via a third-party Java app for desktop computers.

According to the Play Store listing, SMS Backup & Restore was updated to be KitKat-compatible on November 4th of this year.

SMS Backup+

This is the app I currently use on my Nexus 4. I prefer it over Allan’s app because (1) it’s open-source and (2) it’s easier to use. Where SMS Backup & Restore requires manual backups — or at least the manual scheduling of backups —  SMS Backup+ works in the background for you. Once hooked up to a Gmail account a copy of your incoming and outgoing text are automatically sent there, appearing as threaded conversations labeled ‘SMS’.

Along with your texts this app is also able to archive MMS, call logs and even WhatsApp messages, all in the same way.

Backing up to Gmail works as per usual on the KitKat-powered Nexus 5, but the consensus on Google+ seems to be that the restore functionality is broken.

Some Advice for WhatsApp

So you know that you don’t have to use Hangouts for text messaging in KitKat, right? One of the more lauded features of Android 4.4 is the ability to make any third-party app your default for SMS.

If I could grab the ear of someone at the world’s most popular mobile messaging service and offer some free advice, it would be this:

Add proper SMS support and you will own messaging on Android. That is, if you didn’t already…

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