Wouldn’t it be nice to text directly from your Chromebook so you don’t have to stop what you’re doing to grab your phone just to reply?
That means no more pausing that Twitch stream just to tell your friend you’re down for Taco Tuesday.
Or having to Maraudon pull early on World of Warcraft because your SO is asking if we need more milk.
Or stopping your homework assignment to reply to tomorrow’s dinner date.
In this tutorial, we’ll talk about how to set up your Chromebook to send/receive SMS messages from your phone so you can make it a reality.
Let’s roll and fire up those fingers for some quickdraw texting!
Can I text someone from my Chromebook?
You sure can! You just need to have the right gear to set it up. It all comes down to these three components:
- A Chromebook (updated to the latest version of Chrome OS, preferably)
- Android phone
- Software (Messenger, Google Hangouts, etc.) or the built-in SMS Messages
If you have an iPhone or you don’t want to use a specific texting app, that’s fine.
We’ll go over some workarounds so you can get texting by the end of this tutorial.
Is it free? Will I get charged for fees for data?
Sending SMS will cost you whatever your data plan is that you’re currently using.
- If you’re on an unlimited plan, then you can text as much as you want from your Chromebook and it’ll use up those unlimited messages.
- If you’re on a limited plan, then each SMS you send counts.
- Otherwise, if you’re using some third-party service, then it just uses data from your WiFi connection or LTE plan, depending on which one your phone is hooked up to.
TL;DR: Carrier fees apply. You’re just using the same app on your Chromebook rather than your phone. It uses the same data as whatever data plan you’re currently using.
It’s “free” to text by sending/receiving messages as in your Chromebook won’t “charge” you additional fees on top of your current subscription plan.
How to text on a Chromebook
This part of the guide goes over the various ways you can set up your Chromebook for sending and receiving text messages.
It should be relatively simple if you have everything you need and won’t cost you a penny. If you get stuck, post a comment and let me know so I can help you out.
The magic is done through the “Messages” app, which is the built-in native SMS service on Chrome OS. It uses your phone’s Messages app and basically emulates onto your Chromebook.
It’s that simple. There’s no installation, downloads, or additional apps you need to get if you’re on at least Chrome 71 or higher. If not, update your Chromebook.
For this to work, you’ll need a WiFi connection on your Chromebook.
For your phone, you can use either WiFi or data. You should connect it to WiFi if possible so you don’t get charged for data use unless you’re rolling with an unlimited plan.
Setting up your phone and computer
Here’s how to set it up:
- First, you’ll need to link your Chromebook and your phone by clicking on your account picture (bottom right), then go to Settings > Connected devices > Android phone.
- Click “Set up” and go through the prompts to link it up. You’ll get a confirmation on your phone when it’s properly set up.
- Your Chromebook has various functions once you connect a phone. You can toggle these under the “Enabled” section in Settings. The cool thing is that you can turn each feature on or off individually.
- To disconnect your phone, click on “Forget phone” and confirm it. You’ll have to go through all the steps again if you want to connect it again later in the future. There’s no quick way to temporarily disconnect it at the time of this writing, such as using a USB or Bluetooth connection.
- On your Chromebook, start up the Messages app. If you don’t see it, you need to update either the app or your Chromebook.
- Tick the box for “Remember this computer” if you want it to sign in automatically and retrieve your newest texts. Note that this does pose risk if you get your Chromebook compromised or someone else uses it. They can see your conversations, contacts, phone numbers, etc.
- You’ll see a QR code show up on your display. Keep it here.
- This QR code is unique to your Chromebook and will connect the two devices over WiFi. If you sign in to a different Chromebook, it’ll have a different QR code.
- Once you’ve connected your phone, launch the Messages app on it.
- Go to More > Messages for the web.
- Use the QR code scanner and scan the QR code on your Chromebook’s screen.
- Your phone and Chromebook will connect to each other and link up. You’ll see all your conversations show up on your display and you can start chatting.
You’re all done. Congrats! You can now text on your Chromebook!
Tips: Toggle “Remember this computer” on your Chromebook so you can sign in quickly in the future. Don’t use this if other people use your account or if you want to enhance your security.
If you’re trying to connect it using a USB cable, it won’t work. It needs to be done through the app if you want to use the official app.
Here are some things to note (tips and tricks)
If you have multiple Chromebooks, you can only receive or send messages from ONE at any given time. You can link multiple Chromebooks if you want, but only one will be usable at any given time. You’ll have to connect your phone to each Chromebook by scanning the QR code each time.
When you launch the app on a connected Chromebook, all the other conversations running on any other Chromebook will be disconnected.
Your recent text convos and contacts are encrypted. They’re saved on the Chrome browser, not your Chromebook.
If you sign out Messages on your Chromebook, it may help reduce battery drain. If you’re big on battery performance, see these tips to get the most out of your battery.
Use WiFi on your phone to help reduce data charges. Check out these Chrome extensions that can help you save data.
Lock your Chromebook or sign out quickly with keyboard shortcuts when you step away to safeguard your data. See a list of all Chromebook hotkeys.
Notifications bugging you? Social butterfly? Disable them if you have work to do.
Inactivity will make your Chromebook sign you out of Messages after two weeks. So just use it once in a while if you don’t want to keep signing back in.
Signing out when you don’t use your Chromebook often or you’re going somewhere where it can get lost, stolen, or someone else may use it will help protect your SMS from being compromised. You can sign out by clicking on More > Sign out in the Messages app on your Chromebook.
Signing out of the Messages app doesn’t disconnect your phone. You can still use the other functions without disconnecting your phone. Or if you want to completely disconnect, forget the phone in chrome://settings.
What if I’m using a Chromebook from school or work?
By default, your system admin or IT team probably disabled the ability to connect your phone to it.
If you’re using a borrowed Chromebook and you don’t have a phone, the only workaround is if you can get a Google Voice number or use a Chrome extension- if they even allow that!
So you probably can’t text with it. It all depends on their settings. They can enable it if you’re able to get their permission to. Otherwise, there’s no way to bypass the restriction due to Chrome OS’s design by nature.
Your Chromebook is basically enrolled into their network as a loaner device. Enterprise, managed, etc. Whatever you want to call it.
If what you bought is used and it’s locked down, you’ll have to contact the seller and get a refund. It’s not easy to reset it.
If you’re having trouble getting it to work, here are some troubleshooting tips to fix it.
Update your phone to the latest version.
Update your Chromebook to the newest version.
Be sure you’re using the DEFAULT texting app on your phone- it’s called Messages. Not Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat, etc. I’m talking bare-bones texting directly through your carrier- not your third-party application. These apps can be installed from the Play Store, but you probably can’t text with most of them since the integration doesn’t work seamlessly.
For instance, you get the TikTok app, but you can’t send DMs to other users. You can only view content. The same goes for Instagram. But FB Messenger works when you get it from the Play Store. Note that you need to have a newer Chromebook to use the Play Store. Older ones don’t have it.
Check your Chromebook’s WiFi connection. Unstable WiFi will cause issues. Then check your phone’s connection. They both need to be connected to a stable network.
Can I text from my Chromebook If I don’t have a phone?
It depends. If you’re using an app linked to a third party (Google Hangouts, Messenger, etc.), then yes, it’s possible.
Some ways to get around using a physical phone is to use a virtual phone that gives you your own phone number.
There are some that do this but they’re paid services. However, two of the biggest ones (Google Voice and TextNow) are free. We’ll cover them in a bit.
Can I text from my Chromebook if I have an iPhone?
Sadly, you can’t. As you know, the iPhone is made by Apple and Android is Google. They’re competitors.
If you’re using Apple’s iMessage feature, then you won’t be able to send or text through your Chromebook. There’s no way to get Chrome OS to “talk” to iMessage on your iPhone. That’s the problem.
At this time, ChromeOS will only work with Google’s Android software.
Unless Apple decides to release an API for iMessage that’s compatible with Chrome OS, there’s no way to text from your Chromebook if you have an iPhone.
This probably will never happen either because they’re extremely strict on their proprietary software to ensure security, features, etc. Plus, they’d be losing money since they can’t trap you into their ecosystem. Yeah.
The iPhone’s whole security ideal is also likely a reason to prevent it from connecting to anything else other than iTunes or OSX.
If you have an iPhone, there’s no easy way to get it connected.
There have been people who were able to get a copy of Linux running and then connect it that way, but that’s beyond what most people are willing to do.
For plain Chrome OS, there’s no way to text from your Chromebook with an iPhone. You’ll need to install other software (Linux + iTunes) to get it working.
Can you get iMessage on a Chromebook?
Sadly, iMessage is subject to Apple’s strict privacy guidelines and not nearly as lax as other messenger apps.
So it’s not possible to send or receive iMessage on Chrome OS without doing some tweaking, but this isn’t for the inexperienced. You’ll need to use a server like BlueBubbles to host it, then get Firebase to install it.
For the majority of Chromebook users, this isn’t worth the effort or time, so it’s much easier to just deal with it and use your iPhone to text.
But if you’re interested, here’s a neat video that details the process:
What about Chrome extensions that can send SMS?
There are a few extensions you can add to Chrome that let you send/receive for free.
Instead of downloading and installing a standalone app from Google Play, you can just get an add-on to your web browser and use it like that.
This is good for people that don’t have Play Store access on their Chromebook or would prefer to just get an extension on Chrome.
Here are a few that you may want to check out:
This app is one of the few SMS apps that actually worked for me.
Dozens advertise they let you send messages to any phone number in the US using any carrier, but most of them either have limits (hard limits like 3 messages a day), are filled with CAPTCHAS, or simply don’t send the messages at all.
TextNow was consistent. Some messages didn’t go through, but that was far and few in between. It provides you with your own dedicated phone number for your personal use.
TextNow supports sending messages, receiving them, calling, and doesn’t require any installation.
It works across all devices seamlessly since it’s cloud-based and you can bring your SMS anywhere you need.
If you travel a lot or have different messaging apps between different devices, this is worth trying out. For example, I have WhatsApp on my phone, but I use Messenger on my Chromebook.
I need to switch between them to text different people. TextNow is like a central hub for all your SMS in one place. It’s a virtual phone number that works just like a real one.
There are only three things that I can gripe over:
- There is some slight lag when you send messages or receive them. It’s not nearly as quick as a data plan. This ranges from a few hours to the next day.
- So if your messages are urgent, don’t expect them to run smoothly. Most will send within minutes, but some can take over 24 hours to send/receive.
- Call quality is terrible even when you have an excellent WiFi connection. It stutters, lags, and has a lot of warped, distorted sounds.
- It needs WiFi to work.
This is to be expected since it doesn’t have 4G/5G/LTE access. But it’s the same as any other app that lets you DM (Instagram, TikTok, Messenger, etc.).
Unlike your phone, which lets you send messages without WiFi you’ll need to have a connection to receive them.
So if you’re in a train, plane, or automobile without WiFi, you won’t be able to text on your Chromebook. But hey, it’s free and gives you your own phone number for whatever you want to use it for.
Mysms is similar to the built-in Messages apps on your Chromebook. It uses your phone and sends/receives messages from it, so it’ll require an active WiFi connection for them to talk to each other.
Mysms has pretty much the same feature set as Messages:
- Send messages from your Chromebook using your phone number
- Receive messages from your Chromebook
- Sync your SMS conversations between your phone and Chromebook
- Sync your all log history
- Get text notifications on your Chromebook when your phone goes off
- Support for group MMS (group messaging)
- Support for pictures, files, and other media
It uses your phone for everything, so it needs to be paired with your Chromebook, turned on, and connected to WiFi. The same goes for your Chromebook.
If you don’t want to use Messages, mysms is the closest alternative that’s free to use.
You need to have the app on BOTH your Chromebook and your phone.
But once you get it set up, your contacts that you text with can’t tell the difference between you texting from your phone vs. from your Chromebook. It’s seamless really.
Now you can text from your Chromebook without having to stop what you’re doing and pick up your cell phone. You can use the nice, comfy, full-sized keyboard on your computer. Why workout your thumbs when you can work out all your fingers?
Plus, there is no need to stop what you’re doing, pick up your phone, unlock it, find the convo, type, reply, then resume your work. Just hit ALT+TAB when you see that message notification and reply!
Send & receive SMS on your computer through your Android phone. Take advantage of your full keyboard instead of typing on the phone.
Interested? Check out their extension on the Chrome Web Store.
Free texting apps
Couldn’t get basic SMS working? Try out these free alternative texting apps for Chrome OS. Some of them work directly in the browser while others can be downloaded as a standalone app.
If you have any to recommend, please leave a comment so I can check it out and then add it to this list.
Google Hangouts is the easiest way to get in touch with someone IMO. The only thing they need is a Google account. Nothing to download. Nothing to install.
If you’re on a school or work Chromebook, and you have access to a Google Account, you may be able to use this texting app because it should be “unblocked” unless they blocked Google domain.
And it works through the browser, phone, mobile app, or any modern web UI. You can send messages, audio calls, or even video calls, etc. It’s like Zoom without the signup.
Regardless, you still get notifications (both sound and visible) when you get a new message. It’s free to use and just works. Your buddy just needs a Google account (who doesn’t have one?) to use it.
Google Voice is a VoIP that gives you a new phone number plus has texting, voicemail, and phone calls for free.
It’s tied to your Google account and is probably the closest to a private phone number you can get (for free).
Since it works similar to a regular phone line, you can send messages, call, and receive voicemails just like your regular phone. It’s good for those that don’t want to give out their personal number and use a burner number.
You can read more about it here. If you get Google Voice, you won’t be using the Messages app to text your friends. Instead, it works directly through the browser interface.
Regardless, it’s a worthwhile alternative that you can check out which may suit your needs.
Can’t get texting working? Got an iPhone? You can use alternative apps that let you text for free. Of course, the catch is that you need your texting buddy to have the same app for it to work.
If you think it’s awkward to DM people using Google Hangouts and you prefer FB Messenger, you can download it to your Chromebook.
Alternatively, you can sign in to your Facebook account and then use it online. I think most people know how to do this already, so I won’t go into detail.
Alternative messaging apps
There are so many messaging apps out there that it’s nuts to pick the “best” one.
It really depends on your situations. Are you just looking for something that everyone uses? Or are you looking for one that does it all (group chats, media, calls, etc.)?
Perhaps you’re focused on privacy and like encryption. Or you’re chatting with friends overseas.
There are dozens of them on the market and they’re “free” to use. The only way is to read their descriptions and then some reviews, followed by testing it out to see if it’s for you, friend.
Here are some of the most popular ones to get you started:
- Apple Business Chat
- QQ Messenger
- Google Duo
Some other honorable mentions:
- Text Free
I didn’t test any of these to see if they’re compatible with Chrome OS. You can search for them on the Web Store or Play Store and see if they’re eligible for download on your device.
Get those texting fingers moving
You should now be able to get those fast fingers moving on your Chromebook’s keyboard to fire off those SMS without ever having to unlock your phone.
How awesome is that?
If you have any questions or something’s not working for you, post a comment and let me know.
Or if you found this guide helpful, please let me know as well =].
Please tell a friend and pay it forward!