Will Google's 'Chat' change the Android texting experience?
Google is working on a new messaging service called 'Chat' which will directly compete with Apple's iMessage. It will be a unified messaging service for Android users that aims to replace not only WhatsApp or iMessage, but also SMS. So far, Google has not been able to come up with an instant messaging service that could rival Apple's iMessage.
Google's Chat is different; users won't have to download another app. It is based on Rich Communication Services (RCS), which is a successor to SMS standard. So Chat will be a carrier-based service, but at the same time, it will support standard features of texting apps like read receipts, group texts, typing indicators, full-resolution images, videos, and GIFs for a wholesome experience.
Instant messaging apps are called over-the-top (OTT) services, which circumvent the telecom operator by sending messages over the internet. But since Chat is carrier-based, Google is convincing telecom companies to adopt RCS instead of SMS so that Chat can come on all smartphones. So far, 55 carriers and 11 OEMS have agreed. The only major manufacturer not on board is Apple.
Not being dependent on an operator allows iMessage to be end-to-end encrypted. If Apple ever decides to support RCS, it will have to give up on user privacy and security, something it is fundamentally against. Naturally then, this means Chat will not be a secure service. It will have to follow government's communication regulations on search and surveillance and be open to legal interception.
In the past, the company has experimented with unified messaging services in the form of apps like Hangouts, Duo, Allo, and Android Messages, none of which has been entirely successful.
Chat head Anil Sabharwal said, "We can't do it without carrier and OEM partners. We don't believe in taking the approach that Apple does. We are fundamentally an open ecosystem. We believe in working with partners to deliver a great experience." Google might also not support encryption because it needs Google Assistant to work in Chat, which will require analyzing users' messages.
If a recipient doesn't have RCS enabled on their phone yet, they will still receive messages sent from Chat in the form of an SMS. The service is also expected to launch a web version. Both of these functionalities are present in iMessage as well.