How to try Google Reply – the new social media chatbot that pretends to be you

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Google Reply

Last week, we heard about a new app called Reply from Google that will take the hassle out of socializing by reading your social media messages and suggesting automatic replies based on your normal chatting habits.

Google released Reply for beta testing last week, and thanks to an early leak, you can take it for a spin on Android right now. The leaked APK (Android Package Kit – an app installation file)  is available to download from APKMirror.

If you haven't installed an APK before, we've put together a guide to help. We've tested this particular APK without issue, but bear in mind that sideloading apps involves disabling some security settings and proceed at your own risk.

Getting started

Once you've installed the app (just tap the downloaded file), you'll be prompted to sign in using your Google account. You'll then need to give it secure access to your notifications. This is where automatic replies will appear.

You can also give the app access to your location and calendar, which should give specific responses to questions like 'Where are you?' but in our tests this didn't seem to work. Specifying home and work addresses had no effect either.

Google Reply setup

You'll need to give Reply access to your notifications, though other access settings are optional

The app offers various other options – it can look at your working hours and send automatic replies if you're due to be out of the office, play a sound if someone tells you a particular message is urgent (or it just sounds like it is), and ask 'What's up?' if someone says 'Hello'. Unfortunately, like location-based replies, these don't seem to have been implemented yet.

Some features aren't selectable at all; generally speaking, if a box isn't already checked then tapping it will let Google know you want to try it, but that's all.

Once it's set up, you can either wait for someone to message you or try a demo; the app will send you a quick message and let you pick from three automatic replies.

Google Reply

Google Reply's suggestions aren't very context-sensitive yet – even for life-and-death matters

We tested Reply with Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Slack and WhatsApp, but it also works with Twitter direct messages and Android Messages.

Automatic reply options appear in your notifications, so you don't need to open the relevant app to send them. In our experience the replies weren't always displayed immediately; we had to wait for the initial notification to be minimized, then give it a quick tap. A minor inconvenience, and we're sure it'll be resolved soon.

The app takes a few seconds to send your reply, giving you a chance to cancel it if you've changed your mind (or realized you're about to mortally offend someone).

You'll also be prompted to tell the recipient about Reply, which might be a good idea because the suggested responses are pretty curt. Sometimes you'll only have a choice of 'Yeah', 'Okay' or 'Haha'  (Google apparently assuming that its beta-testers will have a positive, can-do attitude to life).

Reply is fun to experiment with, but it's still an early beta. Keep an eye out for future updates with more features coming soon.