Google wants to make its Chat app a lot more personal by copying WhatsApp

Google Chat messaging friends
(Image credit: Google)

Google Chat is introducing seven new features as it's seemingly shifting focus away from just being a business-centric platform to becoming, maybe, more like WhatsApp.

To be perfectly honest, most of the update consists of pretty basic tools commonly found on similar services where you can talk with friends or family. If anything, this is Google catching up to them. First, users will finally have the ability to edit or delete messages on the app. Doing one or the other works just as it does on other platforms: press and hold the text then make your choice. On the desktop, you simply hover over the message and then select Edit or Delete. Second, you’ll be able to directly quote messages ensuring context isn’t lost in busy group chats. And third, people will be able to hide conversations that have been inactive for at least a week so they can clean up the clutter.

Everything we just mentioned is available now. All you have to do is install the patch once it reaches your smartphone or desktop computer. 

Coming soon

But the company isn’t done yet as it has plans to add even more to Google Chat within the coming weeks. Again, these are basic inclusions, but helpful nonetheless. Read receipts, which are already available for direct messages, will be rolling out to group chats by the end of the month. The profile pictures will be off in the lower right-hand corner. Additionally, the ability to add hyperlinks to text (a feature that surprisingly wasn’t already there to begin with) is going to make its way to Google Chat on the web and Android.

There are also a couple of work-centric features in the patch too. You have the AI-powered Smart Compose, a tool already available on Gmail. When typing a message, the AI will make some “contextually-aware suggestions” to help cut down on grammatical errors. It’s currently rolling out to all web users in five languages, including English and Spanish.

There are plans to introduce third-party app support to Google Chat; however, they’re all business-related like Asana support. We asked Google if streaming services or games would ever come to its platform. Zoom, for instance, has a variety of party games available. This story will be updated if we hear back. 

Analysis: Too much, too soon?

It’s obvious Google is trying to expand Chat to meet all the needs of its users, but the question is why? At first glance, it seemed the company was content with Chat being solely for work purposes. Even the upcoming redesign is better suited for professionals than the everyday user. But this recent update is throwing that business-only focus into question. 

To that end, is it really a good idea to try and compete with WhatsApp, a service with billions of users? Hopefully, these seven features are part of a focused vision for the future of the platform and not just Google needlessly bloating Chat. After all, the tech giant got rid of Hangouts for that very same reason.

If you do think Google Chat is getting a little bloated, there are alternatives out there. Check out TechRadar's guide on the best WhatsApp alternatives for Android and iPhone.

Cesar Cadenas

Cesar Cadenas has been writing about the tech industry for several years now specializing in consumer electronics, entertainment devices, Windows, and the gaming industry. But he’s also passionate about smartphones, GPUs, and cybersecurity.