When I had an iPhone, one of the prominent iPhone-only features I loved was iMessage. Ditching all that and turning to Android, was not that hard, but I felt a void. iMessage was it. Now, with Google’s new plan for SMS, I hopefully won’t regret anything. It’s gonna be the iMessage for Android.
In a statement to The Verge, Google has confirmed that it plans to put all of Allo’s resources into smoothing the way for RCS or Rich Communication Services. This is a new standard that is set to replace SMS and will soon be compatible across most major carriers around the world. The Universal RCS Profile supports read receipts, typing notifications, larger image and video file sharing, and will work over Wi-Fi and LTE.
The consumer name for this platform will simply be called “Chat”. Rather than Google try to make an iMessage Clone, it has decided to embrace the existing RCS Profile and make it the default messaging experience on Android. There wouldn’t be a separate Chat app, this would all take place in the Android Messages app. Chat services will be flipped on soon, but the timeframe may vary by carrier.
If the other person doesn’t have Chat enabled or uses a non-Android phone, SMS will be the default fallback, so there isn’t any plan to phase it out. Google has already announced its partnership with many phone makers like Huawei, Motorola, LG, HTC, and Sony to use Android Messages as the default SMS/Chat app. As of the time of this post, there are 55 carriers and 11 smartphone makers that are on board with moving toward towards supporting Chat as the successor to SMS.
Because the standard is implemented at the Carrier level, it is not possible for it to be as secure as other IP-based messaging apps that offer end-to-end encryption. Although Google is leaving the transmission of the message content to the carrier, it wants to improve the user experience by updating the features of the Android Messages app itself.
A couple of expected features coming to Android Messages includes web-based desktop interface to carry Chats over to the desktop, Smart Reply as we’ve seen in Allo, Google Photos integration, Clearer organization of messages, better search features, and “more expressiveness”, which could mean we might see more stickers come in Android Messages.
The RCS rollout has been long and shaky, with Google behind its rollout, Android users will finally have a better default messaging experience.