Google Chat Is a Carrier Messaging Service Based on Universal RCS Which Aims to Replace SMS

After Hangouts, Android Messages and Allo, Google is now launching another messaging service: Chat. But it is not an app that you can install on your phone. Instead, Google is learning from its past mistakes, and doing things differently this time around. It is using the momentum of Android Messages — its most successful messaging app with over 100 million users — to build a better messaging system.

Using the “Universal Profile for Rich Communication Services” a.k.a RCS, Google is getting carriers and OEMs to play along with each other to develop a universal new SMS replacement called “Chat.” By replacing SMS with Chat, Google will automatically win over a lot of customers and ensure that its latest messaging service has a universal appeal as well.

RCS has been around for over a decade now, but it has not managed to gain any traction because carriers ended up making their implementations incompatible with each other. With the Universal Profile, Google is ensuring that the RCS implementation of different carriers is interoperable with each other.

Chat will have features like typing indicators, read receipts, ability to share high-resolution videos and photos, group texts, and more. Google will keep developing the platform over time to keep adding new features to it.

Chat is a carrier-based service so all these features will be supported by your carrier. Chat won’t have a new app like Hangouts or Allo. Instead, you use the existing Android Messages app which has RCS support. Installing Android Messages on your Android device won’t allow you to start using Chat instantly as well. You will have to wait until your carrier starts supporting it. If you receive a Chat message but your carrier does not support it, it will be shown as a regular SMS message.

Thankfully, Google says 55 carriers, 11 OEMs, and two OS providers pledged — Google and Microsoft — have pledged to support or adopt Chat. The problem is with the carriers. While Google has managed to get an impressive number of carriers onboard to support Chat — including AT&T and Verizon, they are all not going to enable support for the service at the same time. Instead, the rollout is going to be staggered, and it can very well take up to mid-2019 to be supported by your carrier.

”By the end of this year, we’ll be in a really great state, and by mid-next year, we’ll be in a place where a large percentage of users [will have] this experience.” Though, he cautions that “it will differ from country to country” and from region to region. Europe and Latin America are likely to enable it before US carriers. Still, he stresses, “This is not a three- to five-year play. Our goal is to get this level of quality messaging to our users on Android within the next couple of years.”

Google is heavily invested in Chat so much so that it has paused development on Allo, and it is making the whole team work on Chat and improving the Android Messages app. The company will add new features to Android Messages like Google Assistant integration, GIF search, Smart replies, stickers, and more with future updates to ensure the app has all the features that were found in Allo.

Google is also bringing Messages on the Web. The implementation initially will be similar to WhatsApp web where one has to scan a QR code to authorize the web app.

Since Chat is a carrier-based service, there’s another downside to it as well: it is not encrypted, unlike WhatsApp, iMessage, or Telegram.

Our Take

It is clear that with Chat, Google is trying to make an SMS replacement that will also help it take on iMessage. By getting carriers onboard, Google is ensuring it does not have to work hard enough to gain users for its new messaging protocol. However, getting carriers to play well with each other and support all features of Chat is going to be no small feat.

Google might just have its best shot at success here, but it all depends on how quickly it is able to get carriers to roll out Chat and add new features to Android Messages.

[Via The Verge]