Reading text messages on your Android phone is not always practical, especially if you drive. Rather than risk trouble with the law, you can use the built-in features of Android that read texts aloud.
These features can also benefit the visually impaired or those who wish to reduce the time spent in front of their screen. There are also third-party applications that read your texts.
Let's take a look at all the options and how you can get started.
How to install Google Assistant on your phone
Google Assistant is integrated with most modern Android smartphones and you can configure it to read your text messages aloud.
If you do not have Google Assistant on your phone, you can install it. The application is linked to your Google Account. After installing it, you can use it for everything from researching the latest weather forecasts to controlling smart devices, including reading and answering messages.
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After installing Google Assistant, you can activate it in several ways. You can simply say "OK, Google" or "Hey, Google" to start. You can also tap the Google app (if it's preinstalled on your device) or the Google Assistant, and then tap the microphone icon.
On some devices, you can also hold the Home button for a few seconds to access the wizard.
You may need to train or to recycle the voice model if the Google Assistant does not hear your commands.
Set up Google Assistant to read text notifications
Once Google Assistant is ready to receive instructions, say "Read my text messages."
The first time you do this, the application may ask you to grant permissions to your notifications. press "OK" to accept.
In the "Access to Notifications" menu that appears, tap the button next to "Google."
Tap "Allow" in the window that appears to grant access to Google.
Return to Google Assistant or say "OK / Hey, Google" again, then repeat the "Read my text messages" statement.
The Google Assistant starts at the beginning and reads aloud the notifications of your text message as well as those concerning messages from other sources, such as WhatsApp.
It tells you the sender, reads the message, then asks you if you want to answer.
If you do, say "Yes," then dictate your answer. The Google Assistant automatically sends your answer after you have transcribed it.
Ask Google Assistant to read previous text messages
Unfortunately, Google Assistant can not read the SMS already received. This was the case in the past, but it seems that this feature has been removed or simply no longer works.
On Google consumer forums, a significant number of people reported that this feature was no longer working or was causing the Google Assistant app to crash. Our tests confirmed the problem on a Samsung Galaxy S9 running Android 9 Pie, as well as on an old Android 7 Nougat device.
Do not hesitate to try your device, though. To try to enable this feature, say "OK / Hey, Google," then "Read my latest posts."
If the wizard says "There are no new messages" or if Google Assistant hangs, this feature does not work on your device. If this is the case, you will need to use another application.
When this feature is operational, Google Assistant will read the old SMS one by one.
How to activate speech synthesis
Google Assistant is useful, but Android has other built-in features that you can use to read your texts aloud. One of these features is voice synthesis. However, this feature requires you to use your hands, which makes it a bad option for situations such as driving.
But the visually impaired could find the speech synthesis useful. For this to work effectively, you need to use an additional module in Android accessibility suite called "Select to speak."
Once you have downloaded and installed Android Accessibility Suite from the Google Play store, go to the "Settings" area of your device. You can find it in the application tray, or you can scroll through notifications and select the gear icon.
From there, the process may vary depending on the device you are using and the version of Android it uses. We performed the following steps on a Samsung device running Android 9 Pie.
In the "Settings" area, tap "Accessibility".
Tap "Installed Services." The "Choose to speak" menu may be in the list of options for some parameter menus. If it does, press it and go to the next step.
Here you see a list of available Android accessibility options. Press "Select to speak".
Turn on "Select to Speak" to turn it on, then press "OK" to confirm.
After activation, a person icon appears in the lower menu bar.
Press to display the "Choose to Speak" playback options. Tap the text on your screen that you want the speech-synthesis transcriber to read to you. The text you select turns blue and is read aloud to you.
This will not seem as refined as the Google Assistant, but it is a good alternative if you want your texts to be read aloud, especially if you have poor eyesight.
It also works in other applications, such as your email client, web browser, or email applications, such as WhatsApp.
Some third-party apps in the Google Play Store offer similar features. ReadItToMe, for example, read incoming message notifications, including those from your default SMS application and other email applications.
Another option is Out loud. In this application, you can configure separate profiles to automatically enable or disable the feature in certain situations, such as when connecting to a Bluetooth speaker or inserting a headset.
However, at the present time, no third-party application reads the previous messages without relying on the Google Assistant method (which is a buggy). If this is a problem, you can use the "Choose to Speak" option described above.