Google is working on another competitor for iMessage – but wait before you roll your eyes and close this story, because the search company isn’t just making another Android app. It’s working on a project that will replace SMS messaging as we know it.
‘Chat’ is the new project Google is working on, reports The Verge, and it aims to replace the current universal SMS platform carriers use for texting with the Rich Communication Services (RCS) standard. Rather than just developing an app, the company is working with 55 carriers and 11 OEMs around the world to standardize the new platform.
The new Chat platform will automatically plug into existing apps such as Android Messages and Samsung’s own app. Beyond Android phones, Google has also gotten Microsoft to join in on the program, so we could see a Chat-enabled messaging apps come to Windows 10. Whether Apple decides to also jump on the Chat bandwagon remains to be seen, but seems unlikely.
How Chat could make a difference
With Chat, Google hopes to modernize texting with all the features we typically see in non-SMS-based messaging apps such as read receipts, typing indicators, full-resolution images and video, and group texts. RCS can also be used to quickly share your location and interacts with online storefronts to automatically suggest items to order.
Unfortunately, the one thing RCS is missing is end-to-end encryption, so it won’t be as secure as other platforms like iMessage or Signal.
Everyone who can’t get Chat messages through the RCS standard, will simply receive a plain SMS message – just like any time you try to send an iMessage to an Android user.
Google has been building support for RCS over the last few years and it plans to further push the project in the next 12 to 18 months, according to Engadget. The biggest hurdle thus far seems to be getting carriers on board. In the US alone, only Sprint is currently ready to support Android phones, with T-Mobile joining soon, and so will previously holdouts AT&T and Verizon.
The project is so big that Google has hitting the pause button on development on Allo. However, the search company isn’t stopping work on improving Android Messages app with built-in GIF searching and Google Assistant support.
"So expect a couple things to happen on the app front. First, Google will finally make a desktop web interface for texting. [...] Second, expect the Android Messages app to rapidly acquire more features."April 20, 2018
Justin Uberti, Principal Engineer at Google, also tweeted that we can expect the first desktop web interface for texting soon and the team is looking to add more Android Message features including smart replies, clearer organization, Google Photos integration, better search and more ‘expressiveness.’
Google has had the worst success in creating a unified messaging app, as both Hangouts and Allo have failed to garner the mass appeal that iMessage holds. However, Chat could be different it’s a fundamental replacement to the aging SMS standard that will be better for everyone.
Expect to hear more on this at Google IO 2018 in May.
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