Google has been struggling to improve default messaging experience on Android. In fact, it already has a handful of messaging apps including Allo, Android Messages, Hangouts, and even Duo (primarily for Video messages).
None of these have managed to replace popular third-party apps like WhatsApp or Facebook messenger or even come close, but Google now has an alternative solution to the problem – to refine the default SMS experience with ‘Chat’.
Yes, instead of launching another new messaging app, Google is trying to revamp what people are already using – SMS.
Also Check: Why Google Allo has a real chance
What is Chat? Is it a Google App or Service?
Chat is not a Google service or App but a consumer-friendly name for Rich Communication Services (RCS). This service aims to make SMSes comparable to third-party messaging apps or as friendly as iMessage is for iPhone users.
Google has actively developed the carrier-interoperable standard and has been convincing carriers to implement it. It is hoping that all major carriers across the world will integrate Chat and most of them will do so by the end of this year.
At the user end, this would mean features like read-receipts (or blue ticks), full resolution image and video transfer, GIFS, typing indicators, and more. The communication will use data and most probably you won’t be billed like SMS packs.
Google’s Android Messages should also have predictive replies (same as Google Smart Replies and Allo) and even Google Assistant integration. Interestingly, Google will also be launching a web version of Android Messages that will let you SMS using your PC. All the changes will be introduced in the default SMS app. Chat will also work for other RCS Chat enabled SMS apps.
If the user on the other side doesn’t have a Chat compatible app, the message will end up as a regular SMS. Also, a lot of Chat implementation will depend on carriers and the service won’t be end-to-end encrypted.
Why Chat makes sense
Anil Sabharwal, the Google executive who led the teams that created Google Photos apps, will be spearheading Chat.
As he astutely points out to The Verge, people aren’t inclined to use anything other than the default messaging app when it comes to SMS. In spite of the plethora of messaging options and antiquated nature of SMS technology, people keep falling back to it every now and then when required. It’s still a universal option that can’t be eliminated.
So, this is why Chat makes sense. If Google indeed wants to make a big breakthrough with Messaging, it has a better chance of making through by improving what people are already using.
And Google’s SMS app, Android Messages, is still the default option used by most Android OEMs and has over 100 million monthly active users. Over 8-trillion SMS messages are sent every year and with OEMs.
Google has been talking to carriers worldwide and has made a coherent version of RCS, a universal profile, that has standardized RCS and make it interoperable across all different carriers. Everyone is now willing to call the new standard by the same name – Chat- and that’s a big development in itself.
How long will it take before Chat reaches consumers?
Google doesn’t have a specific date but all the changes should reach most consumers within 2 years or so. The adoption will differ from country to country.