Google has announced plans to completely overhaul the way users of its Android smartphones message each other.
The search giant’s latest product, Google Chat, is a new service aimed at allowing Android users to send messages and image files over a data network. It works in a similar fashion to WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage.
Chat will be bundled into the majority of new smartphones that run the Android operating system, although the messaging service isn’t expected to arrive until later this year.
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While we wait for a release date, here’s everything you need to know about the messaging service:
What is it?
Google Chat is a new messaging service designed for smartphones that are powered by Android, which is a mobile operating system developed by the search giant.
As it currently stands, Android phone owners are limited to regular text messages, Business Insider says. This restricts users to certain characters and compressed media files. As a result many download free messaging apps, such as WhatsApp.
With Chat, Google aims to provide Android users with a built-in messaging app based on rich communication services (RCS) technology, the news site says. This operates on a data network rather than a mobile signal.
Apple’s iMessage system uses a similar technology. When a data or Wi-Fi network is available, iPhone owners can send messages without using their text message allowance. They can also send higher quality media files to recipients.
What about Google Allo?
Google Allo is the company’s recent attempt at providing a messaging service. But it isn’t nearly as popular as established apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
While Allo came with “all the features you’d expect” from a messaging app, it didn’t offer anything new for people using WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, according to The Verge.
The company also failed to sign up phone makers to the service, the tech site says. This meant users had to go out of their way to download the Allo app. It also meant text messages wouldn’t appear correctly for users unless they’d already installed Allo.
After just two years on the Google Play store, the firm has now ceased development of Allo. Instead it’s focusing its efforts on launching Chat, Slate reports.
What makes Chat different to WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger?
Taking on messaging giants such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger is no mean feat, but Chat could be Google’s best chance yet of upsetting the status quo.
That’s because it will be integrated on future Android-powered smartphones straight out of the box, The Guardian says, so users won’t have to manually download the app from the Google Play store.
Most major smartphone makers, including Samsung, have pledged to install the app as standard on their devices, the newspaper says. Only Apple, which has its own iMessage service, has failed to include Google Chat on its iPhones.
The Sun says that Microsoft has signed up for the service, suggesting Google Chat may come installed on computers running the Windows 10 operating system. This would allow users to start a conversation on their phone and continue it on their computer.
When does it come out?
Google has yet to announce when Chat will roll out on Android devices but BGR says it’s expected to become available “later this year.”
The vague launch window is partly down to the smartphone maker providing the service, the website says. This depends on when companies decide to launch their first mobile product with Google Chat installed.
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