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Chat is Google's big answer to Android's messaging problem (Update)

Could this SMS replacement be the messaging service we've all been waiting for?

Published onApril 20, 2018

Android Messages Google Pixel 2 XL AA 1

Update: Google sent over an official comment on this story to clarify that the Chat efforts for Android Messages is not a totally new effort by the company. This service is already live in many countries that have RCS and Google plans to expand it to more markets in the future. Within the Android Messages app, Google uses “Chat” as the label for RCS, and it’s being used as a more “consumer friendly way” to brand it instead of RCS. In fact, “Chat” is the label that’s being used already by Vodafone and Samsung for RCS.

Google also added that “Chat” is not a consumer brand, and that branding and marketing for RCS is “driven by carriers tailored to each market.”

Original story: Google is planning to introduce some huge changes to the way messaging works on Android through a new messaging service called Chat. As reported by The Verge, the Mountain View company is “pausing” work on Allo and moving the team over to the new service all with the hopes that it will finally bring messaging on Android up to the same standard as its rivals, including, most notably, Apple.

While Google has made plenty of attempts at a messaging service before, Chat would appear to be quite different. Unlike Allo, Hangouts, and Android Messages, Chat will not be an app. Instead, it will attempt to upgrade the existing Android Messages app with a new set of underlying carrier-based features.

Instead of using SMS, Chat will be based on based on the Universal Profile for Rich Communication Services standard.  This means it will be able to include many features found on other messaging services such as read receipts, group texting, and the ability to see when others are typing. The cost of sending a message could also come out of the user’s data plan, meaning it could be much cheaper than SMS, although exact pricing will be determined by each carrier.

Much like Apple’s iMessage, users will also be able to send messages to people whose phones don’t support the service. In this case, the message will be sent as an SMS and you will be charged accordingly. This makes it much more than a simple messaging app as Google are actually trying to change the way the default messaging works on Android phones.

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Of course, Google can’t do this alone. The report states that Google has been trying to get the backing of every major cell phone carrier on the planet, and has reportedly seen some considerable success in the U.S. Currently, 55 carriers (including AT&T and Verizon), 11 OEMs, and Microsoft are all said to have agreed to support the standard. According to the report, nobody knows when or if Apple will get on board.

Now that so many big players are involved, the article suggests that the service will be rolled out by Google in the near future. It apparently hopes that Chat will be turned on for many users by the end of the year.

It might be time to wave goodbye to Allo.

Android Messages’ broader scope and feature set will almost certainly cement its place as the de facto messaging app for Android devices, and it now seems equally inevitable appears that Google Allo will be put out to pasture in the near future.

Ostensibly the company’s Facebook Messenger competitor, Allo launched at Google I/O 2016 to much fanfare but has failed to find a wider audience, sitting at just over 10 million downloads on the Play Store – which is the same count it had at the tail end of 2016 – compared to Android Messages’ 100 million.

There’s no doubting that Allo hasn’t performed as well as the search giant would’ve hoped. The lack of native SMS support and the vast number of already popular alternatives likely played a major factor.

With the app’s development team now moving over to Android Messages, as per the report, it might be time to wave goodbye to Allo.

Next up: Get ready to text from your desktop using Android Messages

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