Update: It looks like SMS Organizer is still in early access, with signups closed for the time being. You'll have to wait just a little bit longer before you can download the app in the U.S.
Original story follows:
Microsoft significantly raised the quality of its apps on Android over the course of the last two years, leading to great Android apps that include the likes of Next Lock Screen and Microsoft Launcher.
The latest is SMS Organizer, a text messaging service from Microsoft Garage, an initiative within the company that lets employees work on projects they're passionate about. The app leverages machine learning to automatically sort messages based on context, and comes with an array of customization options that makes it a worthy alternative to your current messaging app. SMS Organizer debuted last year, but was exclusive to the Indian market. After amassing a million downloads, the app is now making its way to the U.S., UK, and Australia.
Before we get into the specifics, a quick look at how the app came to be. SMS Organizer was developed by Microsoft Garage working out of Hyderabad, India, and is tailored to address problems unique to the Indian market. With the government mandating two-factor authentication on all online transactions, customers are often inundated with one-time passwords (OTP) for everything from logging in to a mobile wallet to making payments with a credit card.
SMS Organizer is designed to cut through the clutter and provide a messaging experience that surfaces useful information at the top. Therefore, the app's main interface is split into four sections: texts, reminders, finance, and offers messages. The reminders feature is one that is particularly useful to me: it parses the information in the texts and creates cards with actionable data. For flights, SMS Organizer will surface the date and time as well as the booking reservation number, and for things like credit card bills, it will show the due date and the total amount due. This feature isn't new — Xiaomi has been doing the same in its stock MIUI messaging app for a few years now, but with SMS Organizer you can use it on any device.
The SMS tab is broken down into four categories — personal, transactional, promotional, and starred — and SMS Organizer automatically sorts incoming messages into the appropriate section. The personal tab is what shows up when you open the app, but you can change it to the transactional tab from the settings.
Notifications for promotional texts are disabled by default, and as someone who receives a lot of spam, this is one of the best features in SMS Organizer. If for some reason you want to enable notifications from the promotional tab, you can do so from the settings. The app also comes with swipe gestures, à la Outlook. The default action for the swipe left gesture is to mark a message as read, and swiping right opens the Move To dialog box. Of course, you can configure the actions for either gesture from the settings. And oh, there's a dark theme as well.
You can also set up a message signature, and SMS Organizer comes with rules to automatically delete messages. For messages in the promotional tab and blocked messages, you can choose from either one week, month, or year, and the app will automatically delete messages based on your choice. For OTPs, there's an added option that lets you automatically delete messages older than three days.
There are so many features in SMS Organizer that make it a robust messaging service, but the one that made me switch to the app is its backup option. You'll be able to automatically back up messages to Google Drive — options range from manual, daily, weekly, and monthly — and restore them when moving to a new device. The option is disabled by default, so you don't necessarily have to link your Drive account to SMS Organizer if you're not going to use the restore feature.
I talked to Microsoft's Senior Program Manager Nikhil Verma, who led the team that created SMS Organizer. He explained how the app came to be, from an initial prototype in a hackathon to a full-fledged messaging client:
As SMS Organizer relies on machine learning to sort messages, there are privacy implications. Verma confirmed that the service uses on-device text classification, with the data never making its way to a Microsoft server:
The ability to seamlessly back up and restore messages from Drive combined with the robust feature-set — including a reminders feature and intelligent sorting of texts — makes SMS Organizer the best messaging app I've used in a long time. The interface itself is clean and devoid of any clutter, the app has a ton of customizability, and you can fine-tune the settings to tailor a messaging experience that's one of the best available on Android.
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Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia for Android Central, Windows Central's sister site. When not reviewing phones, he's testing PC hardware, including video cards, motherboards, gaming accessories, and keyboards.