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Tiny Tip – How to Text to Android Phones from Your Mac

Green bubble fail in Messages
Two responses from Mac to Android — One succeeds, one fails

We all know the struggle of the blue-bubble people vs. the green-bubble people in Messages. You love your Android friends, and they may even be family. There’s all the stress of how threads get splintered and people get left out because of the blue/green issue. I know someone who went away to college as a die-hard Android fan but actually switched to iPhone because he kept getting left out of activities. That just isn’t right.

I wish I could tell you a tech trick that would solve all of this, but I don’t have one. I do have a tech trick that might help with one very minor problem when talking to our Android brethren over Messages.

If you’re of a certain generation (significantly younger than me), you may find it easy to type long messages on your phone. But I like to type on my Mac’s full keyboard whenever humanly possible. I was delighted when Messages came to the Mac because I could text all of my friends and family just as if they were on AOL back in the day.

Contrary to Apple’s claim, you can’t always text in messages with green-bubble Android friends from your Mac. I haven’t found the exact pattern to when it does and doesn’t work, but it’s always frustrating when it fails. I know you can’t initiate a new conversation from your Mac to Android. But sometimes you can reply to an existing message thread and sometimes you can’t!

I have a long thread going with my lovely housekeeper Rocio. In preparation for writing up this tip, I replied on that existing thread using my Mac. I told her that I was testing something and asked her to respond if she received the message. She replied that she received it. Ok, great! But when I wrote back “thanks” to that very same thread from my Mac, it got a red exclamation point next to it and said Not Delivered. I said I haven’t found the pattern, and this example suggests to me that there is no pattern at all!

I can’t fix the intermittency of this not working. But I do have a workaround that will let you use your Mac keyboard and still send Messages to Android friends. It’s a workaround as I said, so it’s only useful for long conversations where you need to write a lot. The trick is to use Apple’s built-in tool called Handoff. Handoff is part of what Apple calls Continuity. Continuity was introduced in iOS 8 and OSX Yosemite.

As Apple explains it on their support page, with Handoff, you can start work on one device and then switch to another nearby device and pick up where you left off. I haven’t found it to be quite as seamless as described but it is a way to solve our green-bubble problem.

Here’s the trick. Type out your long, and yet poignantly brilliant thoughts to your dear green-bubble friend on your Mac. You can type in any macOS app, such as Text Edit, in a scratch email, or even in Messages, but don’t hit send. When you’re done with your witty missive, select the text, and copy.

Now go over to Messages on your iPhone and tap and hold in the same message field on that device. Paste will be an option because the copy buffer from your Mac has jumped over to your iPhone with Handoff. Paste away and hit send.

Like I said, if you just need to write, “thanks”, it’s probably not worth the trouble but even typing a couple of sentences for me is absolute tedium on the iPhone keyboard. I have to admit that the main time I use it is when I’m surprised by the failed message error when Messages decides it doesn’t want to play nice between blue/green friends, and I don’t feel like typing my message again. I simply copy the failed message from the Mac and hit paste on my iPhone.

If you want to learn more about Handoff and the other cool things available with Continuity between your devices, I put a link in the show notes to the Apple support article explaining Continuity and their article showing the system requirements for Continuity.

I hope in some small way this Tiny Tip will bring us closer to learning to live together in peace and harmony, accepting our green and blue bubble friends as equals.

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