10 tricks for more efficient Android messaging

No matter what type of Android phone you carry or how you usually use it, one thing is an almost universal constant:

You are going to spend a lot of time sending and reading messages.

The messages could be from clients, co-workers, or your cousin Crissy from Cleveland (damn, Crissy!). But no matter who sends them or what they’re about, they all show up on your phone and clutter up your tired brain space.

My fellow Android admirer, I’m here to tell you there’s a better way.

google’s Android Messages App has gotten surprisingly good over the years. That’s not a big secret. However, if you rely solely on what you see on the surface in Android Messages, you’re missing out on some of the most powerful and underrated efficiency-enhancing options.

Today we explore the most effective superpowers of the Android Messages app. They may not be able to reduce the number of messages you send and receive on your phone (DAMN IT, CRISSY!), but they will help you spend less time with them. And they may also be able to help you have a more enjoyable experience.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

(By the way, if you’re using a phone that doesn’t have the Android Messages app preinstalled or set as default, you can download it from play store and give it a spin. Especially if you’re coming from the world of Samsung’s wildly unnecessary homemade Messages alternative, you might be pleasantly surprised by what you find.)

Android Messages tricks for reading and receiving messages

1. Custom notifications for important people

We’ll start with what may be my favorite little-known trick for Google’s Android Messages app: with a few quick tweaks, you can turn the faces of all your contacts into a custom notification icon. That icon will then appear at the top of your phone when that person messages you for extra easy visibility and access.

To see?


The only downside is that your phone must be running Android 11 operating system 2020 or higher for the feature to be available. (And honestly, if your phone isn’t running Android 11 right now, you’ve got bigger fish to fry.)

Here’s how to make it happen:

The next time you receive a message from someone, hold your finger on the notification. A screen similar to this will appear: JR Tap the ‘Priority’ line, then tap ‘Apply’ to save the changes.

And that’s it: The next time that person messages you, you’ll see their profile picture instead of the default Messages icon in your status bar, and the notification will appear in a special section above all other alerts.

2. Easier to read text

Save this next Android messaging feature under “accidental discoveries”: The next time you find yourself peering at something in a message thread on your phone, try an old-fashioned zoom gesture on the screen — placing your finger and thumb together, then spreading them slowly apart.

You’d never know, but the Messages app supports that default gesture to zoom in on a conversation. The reverse also applies: when you’re ready to zoom out again and make everything smaller, just bring your two fingers closer together.

And if those actions don’t work for you, tap the three-dot icon in the top-right corner of the main Messages screen and select “Settings.” Next, make sure the toggle next to “Pinch to zoom conversation text” is in the on position.

Who knows?!

3. Smarter Inline Media

Know a great way to waste time? I’ll tell you: going from one app to another to glance at something someone sent you (like that blasted Bangles video Crissy always shoots your way).

Well, get this: Google’s Android Messages app lets you preview and even watch entire YouTube videos without ever leaving your current conversation — and it can also give you helpful previews of web links within the app.

The key is to make sure its options are enabled:

Tap that three-dot icon in the top-right corner of the main Messages screen. Select ‘Settings’ and then tap ‘Automatic previews’. Make sure the switch next to “Show all samples” is turned on and active.

The next time someone sends you a video link, you’ll see the video play without sound as soon as it appears:


And if you really want to watch it, you can tap on the video — not the text link but the actual box where the video is playing — to turn on the sound and start playing the whole thing right away.

With web pages, Messages shows you just enough of a preview to let you make an informed decision about whether to tap the link or not.


Almost painfully sensible, wouldn’t you say?

4. Fewer Annoying iPhone Interactions

An unpleasant side effect of Apple’s “nobody exists outside of iOS” mentality is the way those silly responses to iPhone messages appear on Android.

You know what I’m talking about, right? Those pointless messages you get from iGoobers saying things like “I loved ‘Please stop texting, Crissy'”?

Since a relatively recent update, Google’s Android Messages app can intercept those absurd platform-specific responses and convert them into standard responses instead of plain text breaks. All you need to do is enable the option:

Go back to the Messages app settings. Tap “Advanced.” Look for the line labeled “Show iPhone comments as emoji” and make sure the switch next to it is in the on position.

All that’s left is to breathe a deep sigh of relief.

Android Messages tricks for interacting with messages

5. Fast appointment scheduling

Are you planning a meeting or event with a fellow Gay sapien in Messages? Make a mental note of this:

Whenever someone sends you a message with a specific date and time, the Messages app will underline that text, like this:


You’d be forgiven for not realizing it, but you can tap that underlined text to reveal a shortcut for opening that same day and time in your calendar app. It’s a great way to quickly and easily get a glimpse of your availability for the time you’re discussing.

And then if you want to make a calendar appointment, look for the “Make Appointment” command that should appear right below that same message. That will start a new calendar event for you on the spot, with the day and time already filled in.


Not fond of simple step savers?

6. Sanity-saving snooze

We could write a whole book about all the ways snoozing can make your life easier on Android (and I even did as part of a recent guide in my private resource community!) – but for our purposes here today, the particular snooze system we need to examine is the one built into the Google-made Android Messages interface.

Let me tell you: if you haven’t gotten into the habit of using it yet, you’re really missing out. It’s an incredibly effective way to make sure you remember to deal with a message at a specific future date and time.

And you have two different ways to take advantage of it:

To remember a specific individual message in an Android Messages conversation, hold your finger on that message and look for the bell-shaped icon in the bar at the top of the screen. If you’d rather have your reminder appear for an entire thread with someone rather than a specific individual message, hold your finger on the thread in the main Messages screen, then look for the same bell-shaped icon in the top bar there.

However you go, you can set your reminder for any future date and time you want:


And no matter how mushy that noggin of yours is, you’ll be reminded to revisit that post at just the right time.

7. Seamless Message Scheduling

If you’re ready to flesh out a response to a post now, but don’t want to receive your reply for a while, skip the snoozing and just plan your post for the future.

The Android Messages app’s scheduling system is spectacularly useful. You can rely on it to set up reminders to send to customers, business messages to send the next morning, or context-free middle finger emojis to send to your cousin in Cleveland.

To take advantage of the productivity-boosting powers, just type your message normally — but instead of tapping the triangular send icon to the right of the compose window, hold your finger on the same button when you’re done.

No reasonably sane person would realize it, but that will open a hidden menu to select exactly when to send your message.


And the person on the other end won’t even know you wrote the thing ahead of time.

Android Messages tricks for finding messages

8. Important Contact Priority

Have you ever wished you could keep your most important posts at the top of the list so you can access them easily?

Pouf: wish granted. Hold your finger on the conversation in question on the main screen of the Messages app, then tap the pushpin-shaped icon in the top bar of the app.

You can pin up to three conversations that way, and they’ll always appear above all other threads in that main inbox view.

9. Save important message

If you come across a post that you know you’ll want to refer to again, save yourself the trouble of digging it up again later and star it on the spot for easy reference in the future.

It couldn’t be much simpler: While viewing an individual message thread, hold your finger on the specific message you want to save, then tap the star-shaped icon that appears in the bar at the top of the screen.

Then, to find the message again, tap the three-dot icon in the top-right corner of the main Messages screen and select “Starred” from the menu that appears. That will show you every post you’ve starred for exceptionally easy resurfacing.

10. Advanced Message Search

Starring is sublime, but sometimes you have to dig up an old message you didn’t get out of the way to save it.

The Android Messages app makes that even easier than you might think. Tap the search bar at the top of the app’s main screen — and don’t just mind searching your entire history message for a specific string of text:

You can tap the picture of one of your contacts and then type some text to limit your search to just messages from that one person. You can scroll horizontally through the boxes below the word “Categories” to look specifically at images, videos, locations, or links that people have sent you. And you can combine any of these variables for an even more powerful finding — for example, looking for links you sent to a particular customer, or locations sent to you by a colleague from out of town. JR

Make sure you don’t tell Crissy it’s possible. As far as she’s concerned, all those Bangles videos never got to you, and you can’t track them down now.

And don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.

Get even more advanced knowledge about shortcuts with my free Android shortcut Supercourse. You’ll learn tons of time-saving tricks for your phone!

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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