Google really wants to win at messaging on Android. While Apple users have iMessage, those on Google’s OS haven’t had something as reliable or convenient to use. Allo kind of tried to be that, but no one uses Allo. Hangouts could’ve saved the day, but it’s so old at this point there’s no real purpose of salvaging it. And let’s be honest: what else is left? Google Voice? Heck no.
That’s why today’s announcement from the company is seriously interesting. As announced in an exclusive piece by Dieter Bohn at The Verge, Google wants to take another stab at fixing messaging on Android with Chat.
Before you get ahead of yourself, Chat isn’t another app you’ll have to go and download from the Play Store. Rather, it’s a consumer-friendly name for Rich Communications Services, or RCS, the standard that will replace SMS in the near future. Google wants to deliver the technology to as many as consumers as possible which is why it’s riding the new standard’s wave in hopes to resolve its communication fumbles that riddle the company’s history.
The way you get Chat is pretty simple: inside Google’s own Android Messages app, your carrier will enable RCS communications which will daisy-chain to Chat. Once enabled, users will be able to utilize features such as sharing full-resolution photos and videos, read receipts, typing indicators, and group texts. Notably, both you and your contact will need to have RCS enabled. If your recipient doesn’t have the technology turned on and you send a text over RCS, it’ll default to SMS, similar to how iMessage works on iOS.
What isn’t similar to how iMessage works is how secure Chat will be. Google won’t be encrypting messages end-to-end which, while is slightly concerning, probably isn’t something to lose sleep over. Just know that you probably don’t want to send things like passwords and credit card numbers over RCS.
It’s also worth noting Chat isn’t a Google-specific entity (don’t call it “Google Chat”). Rather, it’s something carriers have control over. Luckily, 55 different service provides, including all four major US carriers, say they’ll enable RCS on their devices. However, for now, it looks like only 11 different OEMs have opted in to have RCS enabled on their hardware, including Huawei, Samsung, LG, and HTC.
Your messages will also count toward your data plan. Without precise explanation surrounding the factor, Google told The Verge, messages sent over RCS will use your cellular data and not your phone line itself. Of course, the amount of data used will likely be extremely minimal (maybe a few bytes per message at best), but it’s worth noting especially for those who may not have expensive data plans.
To lead this new effort, Google has elected Anil Sabharwal who, ironically, saw huge potential in Allo. He, therefore, brought over some of the features the messaging app is known for to Chat and stated the company is pausing development of Allo. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean Allo is dead, but at least for now, don’t expect many new features hitting the app in the near future.
As for when Chat will be enabled on end users’ devices, the question remains up in the air. Sabharwal speculates later this year, some users will have the experience on their smartphone, while around the middle of 2019 is when even more people will get the technology. Still, it really depends on who your carrier is and what type of device you have (only those with phones running Google- or Microsoft-built OSes will get RCS first, not Apple’s iOS just yet). Let’s just hope things start rolling out soon.