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Tip: Changing the Default SMS App in Kit Kat [Beginners Guide]

Shortly before Google released Android 4.4 “Kit Kat” into the wild, they announced that a change was coming to how the OS tolerated SMS apps. In the past, you could have any number of apps on your phone set to receive SMS messages. From the stock messaging app to third party beauties like Sliding Messaging, the whole SMS world was wide open and a free-for-all of sorts. So with Kit Kat, Google has tried to tighten that all up by limiting the OS to allowing one app to essentially send and receive SMS and MMS messages.

As is the case any time a change like this happens, we want to make sure you know how to handle it going forward. Google has actually built in a system setting for Android 4.4 that allows you to toggle between SMS apps that are installed on your phone, you just need to know where to find it. Let’s open the beginners’ guide and take a look! 


1.  From your home screen, open Settings and head into “More…” under Wireless & Networks.
2.  If running Android 4.4, you should see an option for “Default SMS app.”
3.  Tap on that.
4.  A window should appear with all apps that could be a potential SMS app.
5.  Tap the one you want to use.

And that’s that. It’s a simple change, but should you stumble upon a new app and decide that something like Hangouts isn’t exactly your cup of tea, this is where you would go to change the default setting.

  • porky

    can’t select Google voice as default app and titanium backup shows up as an option?

  • LIJU

    The option you mentioned is not present in nexus 7 3G lte model..’default SMS app’ option is just not present. I have updated to KitKat recently and SMS functionality is completely gone!!!

  • B. John Beaumont

    I can’t set my default SMS to AT&T Messages. I would REALLY like to as it will sync all my old text messages, phone calls, and voice mails even after I flash my rom. Why is this important? Have you ever called someone a week ago, around a certain time but you couldn’t remember their name or phone number. Or you remember their name but can’t remember what you talked about the last time you Texted eachother. I want this App to be my default. What must I do???? HELP!!!

  • Michaela Staton

    I don’t have this option in my list. Only Aeroplane Mode, NFC, Android Beam, VPN, Mobile Networks and Mobile Plan.

  • Dean Batson

    How can I select Google Voice as my default app?

  • Jay Smith

    Hangouts it’s 100% crap.. Why should Google online app have access to all my sms and data? And also.. Confuses whether online or actually texting.. And you can never see if anyone is online

  • Aime Eerin

    It’s a simple change, but should you stumble upon.

  • p0k3y

    Hangouts doesn’t handle Google Voice – yes, strange even reading that sentence. I have multiple GV accounts. Anyone know of a good app that can handle SMS on multiple GV accounts? Talkatone looks like a candidate, except seems steep with its $1.99/mo price tag.

  • Andy Stetson

    Here’s hoping MightyText adds native texting to the app, so that it can be a full on SMS/MMS replacement.

  • Trenton Wilson

    I use hangouts on two separate phones with two accounts logged in on both phones and I can get messagesand pics from both accounts on both phones …. It is awesome to be able to have all of my messaging needs in one place and having the added convenience of never missing a text no matter which phone I have in my hand.

  • bonix

    Had to switch to hangouts since this screwed up my method for sending/receiving mms on Sliding Messenger (sending through stock app). Hangouts is alright, just needs a dark theme and to not lower my music volume when I receive a text. Seems to only do it when I am actually in the app too which is quite stupid.

  • BlynkOfAnEye

    Kind of in love with Textra right now. So freaking light and fast. (I swear I’m not a shill!)

  • Liderc

    This is actually a good tip since hangouts is TERRIBLE right now. I mean, I’ve never seen such a terrible SMS app in my life. How can google think this is how messaging should be?

    Let’s just hope they fix this Nexus 5 camera software, because DAMN.

    Also, if anyone wants to go back to pretty much ICS messaging, download an app called 8sms (Stock Messaging, KitKat). It changes everything back to normal essentially and it’s free.

    • Jay Smith

      The down vote was probably Google.

  • kyle

    I like this new option except for one small thing, using sliding messaging on a nexus 4 and for the life of me can’t get the mms to work. can’t send out any picture messages thru sliding so I used to just use the stock sms app, but now when I pick a photo and hit share and pick the stock app it says it can’t send anything because it’s disabled. kind of a chore switching default sms apps just to send a picture message.

    • Sean Bello

      Try inputting the MMS APN settings manually into Sliding Messaging in the Advanced tab.

  • Chris

    hangouts is nice, but it disabled visual voice mail on my Sprint phone. i keep getting text messages regarding my voice mails. its annoying

  • StuckOnVerizonForever

    Hangouts makes life so much easier

    • Cowboydroid

      A major disadvantage is that you can’t receive MMS messages while connected to WIFI. You have to reconnect to your cell network, download the MMS, then reconnect to WIFI.

      • justincabreira

        my nexus 5 has no issues with this

        • Googler901

          I’m on AT&T on a Nexus 5 and I also have to connect to my LTE for MMS because I can’t receive while connected to Wi-Fi. What an I missing?

          • Cowboydroid

            And I’m on T-mobile, unable to receive MMS unless I disconnect from Wifi.

          • Aime Eerin

            a new app and decide that something like Hangouts isn’t exactly your cup of tea.

          • Pandalero

            My Nexus 5 is on AT&T as well and I have no trouble sending or receiving MMS while on WiFi. I use Hangouts exclusively. Go into the Hangouts settings > SMS > make sure “Auto retrieve MMS is enabled”. Not sure if that’s what the issue is, but I never have to get off WiFi to send or receive MMS.

      • Pandalero

        This is not true at all.

        • Cowboydroid

          Really? Maybe it’s just my particular device?

      • Mayoo

        That was true with my Nexus One and Nexus S. Since then, no problem at all. Stop living in the past! 😉

  • bboyairwreck

    Motorola Connect allows you to text on your computer. Don’t know why Google just didnt use their same implementation for Hangouts so you can actually use the desktop hangouts for SMS. Yes I am impatient but I seriously just want a truly universal messaging app by Google’s truly

    • Sukhpal

      I have a feeling that they didn’t do this because there would be outrage about Google scanning/processing text messages in a similar manner to how they do email. This way they don’t have anything to do with your SMS messages.

    • Aime Eerin

      this is where you would go to change the default setting.

  • Buur

    Is it just me or is there no easy way to search through SMS messages using hangouts? I feel like I am missing something obvious cause I can’t imagine the feature isn’t there.

    • S2556

      Google is still trying to figure out how to implement search. They are new in this area /s

    • Tim Laporte

      If you haven’t already figured this out…
      Go to your Gmail account, where you check email. You should find a folder down the left, named ‘chats’.
      Hope this is helpful.

  • EdubE24

    Is anyone else having trouble sending and receiving messages in the hangout app. I was having people tell me they could no longer send me messages. And sometimes when I sent one it was a blank box!

    • Pedro

      Verify the number in Settings?

      • EdubE24

        I have..my G2 isn’t feeling the hangouts app I guess!

    • rhh3x

      Yep I was having this same problem and had to go back to stock messaging app. Not sure what the problem is…

  • Chris Newman

    Do Motorola Assist and Motorola Connect work with Hangouts as the default SMS app?

    • subiedude85

      It has worked for me so far

    • Manthas

      I’m hoping that with 4.4, Assist will work with any SMS app (as long as it can be set up as a default app correctly). Not being able to get Assist to read SMS messages from Handcent while driving is a little frustrating.

    • 2Berad

      Moto assist while driving no longer reads the message with hangout and moto connect looks to be broke as well for receiving messages however you can still send. This is on the Maxx 4.2.2 kitkat will fix this I would guess or hope.

      • Chris Newman

        Yep, I’m on Maxx 4.2.2. Moto Connect seems to still work for me, but Moto Assist reading texts while driving does not. Hoping for KitKat soon