Google has begun the rollout of ‘Chat’, the messaging service that, it is hoped, will replace SMS text messages on Android phones, and bring it into the same ballpark as WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage.
What’s The Problem?
The SMS messaging system for Android phones has suffered over many years from being simply a succession of poorly supported, different apps all using the same basic the short message service (SMS) from the1990s to send text messages over a mobile network. The result has been that none have been particularly popular among android users, who have been envious of the simplicity and ease other messaging services e.g. iPhone that have better features and send messages over the internet instead of using SMS.
New System, New Features
The solution to the problem for Google has been to take many years to develop a whole new messaging system that is based on a standard called the “Universal Profile for Rich Communication Services” (instead of simply making another app), which allows Android users to send messages and image files over a data network.
The new ‘Chat’ service offers many more features such as group texts, videos, typing indicators and read receipts. Since RCS is a communications standard, it will be up to mobile operators to enable the service, but Android will still have SMS to fall back on anyway.
Chat is a carrier/network-based service (i.e. not a Google-based service), so one of the key ways that Google has gone about making sure that Chat will work is to try to convince as many carriers as possible to take the new standard, and make the Chat services interoperable between carriers.
If you text someone who doesn’t have Chat enabled, or who is not an Android user, your messages will revert back to SMS, in the same way that an iMessage does.
It is thought that Google has done enough work with 50+ carriers to ensure that most of them will enable the use of the Chat service this year, which is handy since the global rollout by Google is already underway.
Au Revoir ‘Allo’
Another indicator of Google’s commitment to getting Chat 'out there' is the pausing of its work on its ‘Allo’ messaging service.
Data Plan Instead of SMS
Since Chat messages will be sent over the data network i.e. sent with your data plan instead of your SMS plan, it is expected that charges for messages could be less, although this will be up to the networks.
One flaw in the Chat service could be the fact that messages are not encrypted, and could, therefore, be a security risk if intercepted.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Business and individual users of Android will be pleased to hear that at last there may be a messaging service that is built-in, allows plenty of modern functionality, and is up there with competing services e.g. WhatsApp and iMessage.
Hopefully, the main networks will support the service as soon as possible, and with messages being sent over the data network the hope is also that costs for the service could be kept at a very reasonable level (depending on the network).
The one question mark for many users may, however, be the lack of encryption of the messages, especially at a time when data security is at the forefront of their mind with the introduction of GDPR next month.