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Google to take on iMessage with Chat, the supposed successor to SMS

Despite its attempt with Hangouts and then Allo, Google has failed to compete with its rivals iMessage chat application since Apple debuted it back in 2011. Now playing catch-up, Google has helped launch ‘Chat’, a new RCS-based service that works with carriers to replace SMS messages as we know them.

Chat is quite a different service to Google’s latest attempt with Google Allo, which released in 2016. While Google has now suspended its development of Allo and diverted all of its resources to Chat, the new service is not a Google service, as such.

It is primarily being built by carriers across the world as a successor to SMS, with modern functionalities, such as read receipts, typing indicators, group texts and full-resolution images and video, and group texts.

Chat will use data instead of SMS allocation from carriers, however the application will be versatile, reverting back to SMS when the user messages someone without Chat functionality switched on. This might be a concerning factor for those currently on packages with small amounts of data, but if the popularity of Chat takes off, carriers will likely reflect that in the pricing of their plans.

Image: Chat preview by The Verge

While this sounds a lot like iMessage, Chat will not be a clone of Apple’s service. In fact, similar to SMS, Chat won’t carry end-to-end encryption like its competitor, which is a questionable move with universal services such as WhatsApp offering a more secure service.

Chat’s strong suit, however, is that it will finally be baked into Android handsets, replacing the current messenger. Manufacturers will be creating their own RCS-based applications, with Samsung confirmed to have one in the works for when Chat goes live. Android users will be able to switch to Google’s version at any point given the open-source nature of the platform.

Google will also be affording Chrome users the option to send messages via browser, thanks to a Chat-based extension that is in development.

Currently, there is no window as to when Chat will be switched by carriers, although Google is hoping that it will be available on handsets “this year.” Hopefully Google will have more news to share at its I/O event in just three weeks’ time.

KitGuru Says: The lack of end-to-end encryption is certainly surprising given the services currently on the market, however Chat is still a step up from the current SMS-only system baked into Android. Personally, I can’t say I’ve used Allo once in the year and a half that I’ve owned my Google Pixel so I’m welcoming a bit of change. Does Chat appeal to you?

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