The Android vs iOS debate has been going on for over a decade now with no end in sight. The supporters of both iOS and Android have some very legitimate points that make one OS better than the other. For example, nothing comes close to the sheer freedom and customization options that Android provides. On the other side, Apple’s Operating System is known for fluidity and simplicity with much better app optimization.
While Android has retained (and somewhat earned) the reputation of being a laggy OS for quite some time, we’re finally starting to see a shift in the tide with major manufacturers simplifying Android and making it much more fluid to catch up to Apple. For example, Samsung, the biggest Android manufacturer has completely overhauled its skin over Android and has moved to a much cleaner looking One UI. Phones from OnePlus and Google that offer near-stock experience have also helped Android’s case.
However, even after all of this improvement, there is one massive reason why people are always hesitant to switch to Android. No matter how fluid Android gets, it has failed to come up with an alternative to a service that iOS users just cannot live without, iMessage. iMessage has completely revolutionized the way people text each other with the ability to send images, videos and other things right from the messaging app. The messages are also end-to-end encrypted which ensures privacy for the user. Coming up with an alternative to iMessage has been Google’s Achilles heel for many years. In order for Android to be lucrative enough for those at the Apple camp to switch to it, having an iMessage alternative is absolutely crucial.
Google has been trying to make an alternative to iMessage for Android for a decade now. However, things haven’t exactly been smooth-sailing for the corporate giant. The company has tried pushing many messaging apps over the years like Hangouts, Allo, Google Messenger and Google talk but none of them got the traction that Google had hoped for. However, things are looking different this time around as Google is fully determined to take things seriously. After years of failure, Google is finally ready to launch its very own RCS (Rich Communication Services) messaging app to rival iMessage. Called Chat, the feature will be integrated seamlessly into the existing Android messages app from Google.
The testing phase for Chat is set to begin later this month in UK and France and people would be able to opt into it. Chat provides pretty much the same features on Android that iMessage does on iOS. This includes sending/receiving media, read receipts and typing indications etc. Much like iMessage, people would be able to turn Chat on or off right through the app. However, one thing that it does lack is end-to-end encryption which could be a privacy concern for some users. Google has stated that the messages are not retained at its servers but media is so the receiver can download it properly. Not having end-to-end encryption is still a bummer and definitely doesn’t increase the chances of success for Chat.
Why did Google take so long to develop Chat?
RCS was created way back in 2007 and Google has been working to bring an iMessage rival to the market for over a decade now. However, such a big company having a go at something that seems simple enough for someone like Google does seem rather baffling at first glance. However, things are not exactly that simple. Chat is not Google’s first go at changing the messaging game. It has tried many times with apps like Allo, Hangouts and Google Messenger. However, the fact that neither of those apps came pre-installed on Android and could not be seamlessly integrated into the native messaging app made it almost impossible for them to gain any traction.
Another reason is just the fact that implementing RCS is much more complicated than what Apple has done with iMessage. Due to Android being open source and so many manufacturers making Android phones, Google just has not been able to streamline the experience. Unlike iMessage that uses Apple’s own database for identification and everything else, Google’s RCS relies on the carriers to deliver messages to users instead.
In order to know whether the other user has Chat or not, Android Messages just sends a ping directly to the receiver. This also means that the messages are exchanged between the users directly and aren’t tied to any servers like in Apple’s case. However, one setback of it is that Chat is tied to a phone number and won’t be able to connect to multiple devices. So, you’d have to have your phone on you in order to use chat on other devices as well.
Can Google Chat really compete against iMessage?
Let’s make this clear. Google Chat is not going to storm through and revolutionize the world of messaging. iMessage has already done that. Furthermore, there are just so many complexities involved with RCS that just make the whole user experience ten times worse. If Google really wants to somehow make Chat better than or even as good as iMessage, it really has to come up with solutions that solve all the complexities of RCS.
The fact that carriers have so much control over RCS has been extremely tricky for Google to navigate through as communication between the carriers for RCS has not exactly been smooth. Even if your carrier supports RCS, you still don’t know if the person receiving on the other end has carrier support for it. Carriers are also approving android devices for RCS one by one meaning even more delays in the implementation of the service. For iMessage, you just need to buy an iPhone. For any other messaging app, you just download it and log in. RCS is a total mess in comparison as you’d have to wait for your carrier to support it and then also approve your device for it. And then, you’d have to see if the person you want to talk to has completed the same process.
If Google does not manage to get all the carriers on board and streamline the whole experience, Chat will also go down as a massive failure just like the rest of Google’s attempts. However, one thing that Chat does have going for it is the integration into the Android Messages app which will prove to be massive in the long run. Android is getting bigger and better every day and more people are switching from iOS to Android every year just because of the feature set that Android has to offer. The messaging market on Android is Google’s to take and if it does eventually manage to somehow jump over the hurdles that RCS poses, then we can expect Chat to be the standard messaging method all over the world in a couple of years.