Over a year ago, Google announced that Android Messages would be preloaded by 20+ OEMs as the official RCS client. Now, Google is finalizing its RCS partnerships with carriers and OEMs and will be calling the RCS standard “Chat.”
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First reported by The Verge, Google plans on launching its RCS initiative in the near future (potential I/O announcement maybe?) and is going to call it Chat. At least initially, Chat will only work through Android Messages.
Now, to be clear, Chat is a consumer-friendly name for RCS. Google’s involvement in Chat thus far has been getting companies onto this single standard. In the end, Google’s main involvement with Chat will be having the compatible app (Android Messages) on Android phones. This is a carrier-based service so it will be up to them ultimately if this lives or dies.
The way it works is pretty simple. First, you’ll open the Android Messages app on your Android phone and send a text message just like you usually would. Next, your carrier will send that Chat message to the recipient’s carrier. If the user is a Chat user, the RCS message will be forwarded along. If they aren’t, the text will be delivered in SMS form.
Additionally, with this change, Chat messages will affect the user’s data plan and not their SMS plan. As RCS messages shouldn’t be more than a couple of bytes, this shouldn’t really affect anyone, though carriers could ultimately change how Chat messages are billed.
The whole point of moving away from SMS and moving towards an RCS-based system like Chat is to give users a more rich experience when messaging with friends and family. Chat will support read receipts, typing indicators, group texts, and full resolution pictures & video. Essentially, Chat will allow Google to compete with platforms such as iMessage directly through the Messages app.
As mentioned in the below video, ‘Chat’ is different from competitors like Apple’s iMessage in the fact that the data is not encrypted.
So will your phone support Chat out of the gate? Thus far, over 55 different carriers worldwide have agreed to use the standard as well as 11 different manufacturers. At this moment, only Google’s and Microsoft’s operating systems will support Chat, so Android users will still have to send SMS messages to iOS users. It’s unclear when or if Apple will support RCS.
With the news of Chat, Anil Sabharwal, Vice President of Product at Google, told The Verge that the company is “pausing investment” of Allo as “The product as a whole has not achieved the level of traction that we’d hoped for.” While Google will continue supporting the app, now would be a great time to switch to another messaging service.
Additionally, for when Chat does roll out to the masses, Google is preparing a “Messages for web” interface so users can continue conversations right from their computers. As you can see from the mockup below, this looks and will probably work very similar to Allo for web meaning you will authenticate yourself using a scanned QR code.