Control your phone from Google Talk with Tasker, AutoRemote, and Zapier

Zapier is an service that ties together services on a “if this, then that”-basis, allowing you to bridge various online services together in new and powerful ways. It sounds great, but the problem is that the service is priced so beyond common sense that I dreaded getting involved with it in the first place. If you go over the very limited use you get on the free account, there’s no pricing option before $15/month. I would think twice about paying $15/year for what Zapier offers, which is why the service is very far from being on my good side. Unfortunately I can’t afford to ignore all the consumer-unfriendly companies out there (I wouldn’t have anything left to talk about), so here we go…

Like I said, Zapier works by tying services together. One of the supported services is our long-time favorite Tasker plugin, AutoRemote, which allows you to send message between devices. This essentially means that you can send messages to or from AutoRemote and Zapier, which in turn means that AutoRemote has a gateway to everything that Zapier supports.

Zapier is very business-oriented, with a list of supported services that reflects that. This might explain why its pricing scheme is so beyond reason when compared to other consumer-level cloud services, but it still has a wide range of more common services that it supports, like YouTube, Gmail, Google Calendar, and a ton of other things. Each supported service can have one or more triggers and actions, meaning you can tie together services like “New video on YouTube” and “Send Gmail message.”

As you can imagine, there are lots of ways this can be used with AutoRemote. You can have an incoming message trigger something, or you can have another service trigger an AutoRemote message. I have two instances of the former, mentioned in my post about sending push notifications to iOS from Android.

The final of my three active “zaps” goes the other way, and ties Google Talk messages to AutoRemote messages. The way this works is that you add your Google Talk account to Zapier using the instructions provided. You then get a Zapier bot as a contact in Google Talk, and anything you tell this bot can be used in Zapier. After setting up AutoRemote in Zapier (following the provided instructions), you can then create a pair where any messages sent to the Zapier bot are forwarded to AutoRemote as a message. You can filter these messages, or you can just forward the entire message.

Forwarding the entire message has one major advantage: all your existing AutoRemote commands will work. You can find a guide to using AutoRemote here, and using it with Zapier is just like using it with another Android device. For instance, I have multiple AutoRemote commands I use regularly from other devices, including “copy=:=X” (copies X to my phone’s clipboard) and “todo Y=:=X” (adds X to todo list Y on my phone). With a bridge set up between Google Talk and AutoRemote, I simply type the commands into the chat window for the bot on my computer, and off we go. I tend to use it mostly for the to-do list feature, adding things to my to-do lists from my computer. I’ve been able to do that from Chrome before, but this is easier.

The downside of this is, like I said, Zapier’s stupid pricing schemes. With a free account, you get 5 “zaps” (service pairs) and 100 performed tasks every month. The latter number can be increased by spamming people in the name of Zapier (details on Zapier’s site), and since you use up one of those 100 tasks every time you send a message this way, you’re going to need it. There’s so much potential here with AutoRemote support in Zapier, but unfortunately the pricing puts a massive stopper for how many people will ever pay for it at all.

Even the $15/month level only gives you 20 “zaps,” which isn’t much if you have multiple versions of the same pair, just with different filters. If you need more than you get, you’re suddenly at a level where you pay almost as much for a service to move a few bytes of data from point A to point B as you do for combined subscriptions to Netflix and Spotify, which serve you gigabytes of licensed data each month. Sorry for the ranting, but I can’t get over how overpriced Zapier really is.

Anyway, there is at least a bit of functionality to extract from Zapier before it becomes an overly expensive ordeal, and it’s something that’s worth looking into. I only really cover Google Talk integration here, but like I said, there’s a lot of possible combinations here.

Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets and tends to stick with his choice of device for a long time as a result of that. After a five year break from writing, he's back to share this view with the world once again.