Google is working on a new messaging service. You're probably thinking, "I've heard this one before," and you're right. But this time things appear to be a bit different.
Google is working on a new service called "Chat". It's not a new app or anything like that; it'll actually live inside your preinstalled Android Messages app. A report from The Verge explains that Chat utilizes Rich Communication Services (RCS) and will use the features that RCS comes with, including read receipts, typing indicators, group chats, and full-res photos and videos.
Messages sent using Chat will not be encrypted, and they will use your data plan. If your recipient doesn't have Chat because their carrier or device maker doesn't support it or they're not on Android, the message will default to SMS.
So far, Google has gotten 55 carriers, 11 device makers, and two OS providers on board with Chat so far. Those include all four U.S. carriers, with Sprint already supporting Chat and T-Mobile planning to add support in Q2 2018. Neither AT&T nor Verizon have said when they'll roll out Chat support.
The two OS makers that support Chat are Google — obviously — and Microsoft, though there's no guarantee yet that we'll see a Chat app for Windows 10. Speaking of a Chat app on the desktop, Google will be making a web interface for Chat users on the desktop, which you'll authorize with a QR code.
One company that's not on board with Chat quite yet is Apple. There's no official word on whether or not the company plans to support Chat, but sources tell The Verge that that Google and several carriers are talking with Apple about supporting RCS.
One other detail worth mentioning is that because of its work on Chat, Google is "pausing" development on Allo. So if you're using that service, you may want to begin thinking about making a change.
Chat sounds like a nice service. SMS is old and outdated, and Google's RCS-based offering has a lot of advantages. Google is aiming to have most carriers begin supporting Chat this year, and Anil Sabharwal, head of the project, expects that most users will have Chat by mid-2019. We'll just have to wait and see if that happens, but here's to hoping that it does.
For more details surrounding Chat and Google's effort to get it going, be sure to check out The Verge's report.