Technology

Apple’s iMessage Has A New Competition From Google Called ‘Chat’

Google is working on a messaging feature, “Chat,” in a bid to catch up with Apple iMessage. The search engine giant has released various messaging apps previously, and now, with Chat, the company will be hoping to narrow the difference with Apple’s iMessage in terms of user experience.

The Chat runs on technology dubbed as Rich Communication Service (RCS), a new standard for the SMS texts. This is not a new chat app, rather it can be seen as a feature that has already existed on most Android phones under Android Messages. It may be seen as an advanced version of SMS, and will be automatically activated in the current SMS app on Android Messages.

Android Messages Google Chat Apple iMessages
Image source: YouTube Video Screenshot

It must be noted that the Chat is not a Google service, rather a carrier-based service. And, the search giant is only working to fine-tune it so that ” every carrier’s Chat services will be interoperable,” says The Verge. Google is working with the group of carriers that already support the RCS messaging. The idea behind working with these companies is to bring RCS to Android as a chat feature. Apple is, however, still to sign up for RCS, and given its commitment towards the user privacy and security, it is doubtful if the iPhone maker would be interested in the RCS tech anytime soon.

For the Chat feature, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has put his trust in none other than Anil Sabharwal, the man behind Google photos apps, the most successful Google apps over the past few years. Sabharwal, who is overseeing the Chat feature, believes that since the majority of users are on Android Messages, it makes perfect sense to develop the service. It appears that now Google has diverted its attention from its latest messaging app “Allo” to focus completely on the Chat fetaure.

Just six months back, Sabharwal took the helm of the communications team, and was quick to do a review of Google’s offerings and strategies in the segment. So it turned out, the search giant had four messaging apps: Hangouts, Allo, Duo and Android Messages. However, each suffered from one or another shortcoming. So, it was only logical to come up with something that users would flock to.

“At the end of the day … the native SMS app is where users are,” he says. “They’re not interested in going to a different place to use SMS,” Sabharwal said, according to The Verge.

So, now Sabharwal has the big task of addressing a major issue that Google has been facing for quite some time now, and it is the absence of a popular chat app. Sabharwal will have to work hard to make Android Messages as efficient as iMessage, Messenger and to some extent WhatsApp as well.

The Chat has various features that closely resemble the rival online messaging service WhatsApp such as full-resolution images and video, a sign when the other person is typing and read receipts. The Chat would also include a web client similar to WhatsApp. Further, it would also have Google’s machine learning based Smart Reply feature, allowing users to tap and access predictive responses.

Overall, it could be said that the basic messaging app would be about the same. However, the Chat feature would not offer end-to-end encryption, which might come as a disappointment to many as major chat apps such as WhatsApp and Signal are already enriched with the encryption feature. A positive the Chat users would be that the RCS system would also allow users to communicate through pictures, multimedia and stickers, given the network carriers support the same.

Despite all the upmarket technologies, Google still seems to have missed something. The feature primarily depends on the telecom operators. Most of the features in the Chat rely on the carrier services, making it heavily dependent on the telecom companies, which may or may not support all the features. Thus, the success of the service hinges on telecom operators agreeing to offer the service for free or at least at competitive prices.

So, the tech giant has a big challenge ahead as it needs to convince the network operators across the world to offer support to the Chat . The Verge reveals that there are 55 operators across the world supporting the RCS universal profile. OEMs that support the tech are HTC, ASUS, Lenovo, LG and Intex. Also, bringing all the OEMs together and expecting them to offer a similar experience is not an easy task.

Google’s focused efforts to coax the carriers into offering support for Chat is obvious. “Allo” fell flat on the user base front when compared to Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Thus, the below par performance of Allo, forced Google to focus on Android Messages, which comes preinstalled on most Android devices and has an active monthly user base of over 100 million.

Update: the previous version of the article wrongly stated that its a new chat app from Google, called Google Chat. Rather, the feature has already existed under the Android Messages. The article has been updated to reflect the changes.