Alternate messaging platforms have been the cat's pajamas of 2013, and I see no sign of the trend letting up. Like a bull on a parade, software companies have decided it's time that the traditional text message underwent a facelift, and it's turned into something of an unexpected race to provide the best UI.
First, it was Facebook who launched a revamped Messenger client dubbed "Chat Heads" which I wrote about upon launch and lauded its functionality. Then came BlackBerry's overhaul of its Messenger app which now allows cross-platform communication, its clearest disadvantage in 2009, but far from unique in today's market. And most recently, Google launched Hangouts which synchronized its Google+ messages and Gmail chats under a revamped Google Talk platform. "Babel," as it was once called, did not unify all of Google's services, but it is still a gem of their portfolio with the addition of video hangouts and even an iOS app.
It's all quite apropos of these software companies to take advantage of something iMessage, WhatsApp, and Viber have called their own for quite some time, but I'm happy they've spurred options and better software developments in an area of communication that I have felt needed an overhaul.
For starters, when Facebook Messenger with Chat Heads hit the market, I was a wild advocate for the way it changed my communication habits. Having a bubble anywhere on my screen without it taking away from what I was doing in the foreground allowed me to keep my activities front and center without having to relaunch the messaging app. To this day, I still prefer the experience of Chat Heads over any standard or third-party messaging app. Overall, Chat Heads started the resurgence of alternative messaging platforms this year, and we ought to thank Facebook for it.
Then Google answered Facebook's shortcomings with Hangouts, quite easily the most efficient and intuitive way of communicating that I have come by. Phone calls even feel passe after video calling. However, it's lacking SMS capabilities, something DroidDog reported was in the works. Add in a proper quick reply functionality like Chat Heads, and Hangouts would be pretty sufficient to replace the stock Android messaging app. Thus, I'm pretty happy with the app is it is, but it could still be improved.
Likewise, the functionality of these alternative messaging services have made me feel rather lame when texting. These services have quickly turned into what I want to use rather than an option for me. It's similar to the way texting overcame phone calls, even though it was a clear step backwards in communication. With these alternative messengers, I feel like the bridge has closed in that you now use Google Hangouts or Viber, for example, to communicate with people entirely and those pesky native phone and messaging apps are now inferior options.
What turned into a game of trade-offs between the benefits of sending a traditional text message to using something like Google Hangouts, has quickly become a game of convincing my friends that I simply don't feel like texting anymore. In fact, I've realized that I don't even like texting.
The problem is, here in The States, most consumers have accepted text messaging as an end when I've come to view it as the means to other ways of communicating. I'm really beginning to wish I could completely detox my text messaging habits with a society that doesn't indulge in carrier services like texting as easily as it has since the smartphone came to fruition, but it's proving difficult.
However, I haven't had much luck. I'm stuck using multiple platforms across varying applications just to keep conversations going. Make no mistake, Dear Reader - I intend to continue using Google Hangouts and Facebook Messenger with Chat Heads as my messaging platforms of choice - the problem is, I'm actually starting to despise text messaging which normally wouldn't be a problem if it wasn't so commonplace here in The States, and also if I could eliminate it from my mobile plan for a credit.
As a whole, these messaging platforms are only mimicking BBM and iMessage, with Apple's offering being more common among mobile users as it is built-in to the iOS operating system. I'd gladly welcome Hangouts as a replacement to the Android messaging app in the same manner that iMessage complements traditional text messaging. Thus I've been led to a point where I wish Google would have gone slightly further with Hangouts and simply replaced the traditional messaging application.
What do you say? Does the text message feel as old to you as it does to me? Do you think it's time messaging apps incoporated video calls? Should carriers overhaul the traditional text messaging plans to improve the value of communication? Hit the comments below!
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