Google pauses Allo, presses play on Chat

Google has announced a re-calibration of its efforts in the messaging space, pulling engineers off Allo and onto a new communications initiative called Chat.

As originally reported by The Verge, Chat is the "consumer-friendly name" for Rich Communication Services (RCS), a new standard that Google are hoping will supplant SMS.

Once enabled, it promises to allow for richer and multimedia friendly messaging features found in other texting apps like iMessage and WhatsApp. For example, features like read receipts, typing indicators, Google Assistant integration, GIF-searching, full-resolution images and videos and better group texts.

Importantly, RCS is intended to be a carrier-based standard - not just a Google one. Google say they've already gotten 55 carriers and 11 OEMS on-side as well as Microsoft, a detail that could suggest the RCS might soon come to Windows 10.

At this stage, the biggest absence here is Apple. That said, sources speaking to The Verge claim that the company is currently in discussions with Google about supporting RCS.

Google say RCS will automatically be enabled by inside Google's default Android Messages app. Then, if your carrier supports the feature, text messages sent using the default Android messaging app will automatically be sent as RCS ones.

If the person you're texting has an RCS-friendly device and carrier, they'll receive this message just as if it were a normal text. If they don't have a compatible carrier or phone, they'll still be able to receive RCS messages - only they'll be automatically and seamlessly translated into a traditional SMS.

Interestingly, The Verge says customers sending these messages will be charged for data rather than they would for an SMS message. They also note that RCS won't offer the end-to-end encryption found in messaging services like Signal or even iMessage.

In terms of local carrier adoption, Optus told Ausdroid that are "investigating the development of Rich Communication Services."

"We’re considering the accessibility of this functionality in current handsets and how smartphone manufacturers are responding to this technology.

Meanwhile, a Vodafone spokesperson released a statement saying that the telco are "constantly evaluating new technologies and if and how we might integrate them so will let you know if we have any updates."

Expect more information and news about Chat to emerge at Google's I/O Conference next month.

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