Exclusive: Android’s last chance to fix messages


– Say you have an Androidphone and you want to send a text message, what do you do? Well if you do what most people do, you just open up the Messages app and you tap on an SMS but SMS sucks, it's only 160 characters andyou never know if they get it and the pictures are bad and just everything is bad about it.

Well what else do you do? Well you hope you rememberwhat messaging app your friend uses and openup WhatsApp or Messaging or whatever and send it that way.

This whole situation is a mess, it's been that waysince the very beginning of Android, and guess what, Google says that it finally, basicallyfor the first time ever, has a fix to this whole conundrum and I want to talk about it, but to do that I wanna go inside'cause it's noisy out here and I'm tired of walking, so let's go chat.

Okay, so we're at a quieter place and I wanna start with thebasics of what is happening here because it sounds reallycomplicated when you get into it but the end result is really simple.

At some point in the next I don't know six to 12 months, we don'thave exact timing yet, the default texting app on Android, it's called Android Messages, is just going to get upgraded so that it's going to feel more like iMessage or FacebookMessenger or WhatsApp or whatever.

You're gonna get read receipts, you're gonna get highquality pictures and video that you can send, you're gonnaget really good group texts, it's not a brand newapp, it's just a feature and it's got a really simple name, it's called Chat, it'sgonna be called Chat on every single phonethat it's available on.

So when you open up your texting app, you'll send a text andit'll just magically be this nicer version ofit so I'm gonna explain it in more detail, but youknow what, honestly, before I do that I just want, just humor me a little bit, I wanna do brief historyof all the crap that Google has tried to make messagingwork on Android, come with me.

Okay, so in 2005, Googlelaunched Google Talk, you might know it as Google Chat, it was really popular, it was really good, so when Android launched in 2008, they included it alongsideSMS 'cause that's what you do.

In 2009, the iPhone got push notifications which made apps likeWhatsApp get super popular and then when they came to Android also, it got popular there soGoogle had a problem to solve.

So in 2011, they didn't solve it, they saw Facebook and they'relike we want some of that so they launched Google Pluswhich had yet more chat apps in it, it had Huddle fortext and Hangouts video for video chat, not the sameHangouts as you know, though.

It was just confusing.

Anyway, in late 2011, iMessageand Facebook Messenger launched and they were waysimpler than what Google had and so Google had to fix itagain and so a couple years later in 2013 they launchedHangouts which took all those other apps andcombined them into a single app and everything was greatfor a couple of years and then Hangouts didn't get updated, Google Plus was like failing, and they pulled texting out of it and it was just abig mess again and so in 2016, Google's like we're gonna fix it again, they launched Allo for textchat and Duo for video chat, Duo super popular, Allo meh, not so much.

Meanwhile, Hangouts turnedinto this like enterprise Slack competitor thing, I don't know, whatever.

I haven't even mentionedGoogle Voice and Google Wave and all the other crazyexperiments Google's been doing.

It's been a rolling 10 year disaster and Google has to fix it, Imean look at all this stuff.

What the what? Okay, all that's ancient history, you don't need to know about it anymore, it's still interesting though right? I mean it's insane.

Here's how RCS, this new chatfeature is going to work, it's actually relatively simple.

If you have Android Messagesand your carrier supports RCS, you're gonna send a textand then it'll shoot up to your carrier server, andthen they gotta figure out where it goes so it'll goto a hub that'll reroute it to the other carrier'sserver, that other carrier will be like oh the recipient has RCS too, and they'll get the rich message, if they don't, they'll geta standard text message, if they get a text message, they pay text messaging rates, if they get this special new chat message, it won't cost anything becauseit'll be the same rates as all their stuff on their data plan but if you're sending it to somebody who doesn't have RCS, theircarrier hasn't supported it yet or yeah if they're using an iPhone, it's going to fall back to SMS.

If you look at this graphic of everybody that's supporting it, it'sa whole lot of carriers all around the world, it's a whole lot of Android manufacturers, Samsung's gonna support it in their default textmessaging app, LG and Huawei are on board, and then if youlook at the operating system providers, we've got Google obviously, and hey, look at that, Microsoft is there, I wonder if that means there's gonna be a texting app on Windows.

That all sounds great, but there's one problem, RCS chats aren't protectedfrom government snooping in the same way that a fullyencrypted chat system is so if you need something fully encrypted, you're gonna need to usesomething like iMessage or Signal.

The reason that happensis RCS chats basically follow the same rules asSMS, so the data gets stored on the server, and if thegovernment goes looking for it, the carriers are probablymore likely to give it up, and it's not likeiMessage where everything is encrypted and they couldn't possibly give it up even if they wanted to.

I want to shift gears here a little bit 'cause earlier we lookedat all of the folderol that Google went throughchasing its own tail trying to figure out messaging, and it seems like they've tried everything but they haven't actuallytried everything, even right now they're not doing what to me seems likethe really obvious thing, they're not just makingan Android equivalent of iMessage where you text the message and it goes up to Google, Google figures out whether or not you're inthe system and if you are, you get it and if you'renot, it falls back to SMS.

That's how iMessage works, why aren't they doing that on Android? The answer, if you ask Google, and I did, is they'll tell you that Android's open and they can't make the default a thing that's just a Google thing, they actually have to make it available for other people to buildon and if they were to swing their big Android clout around, then people might getmad and that's not what Android's about and it's a hardsituation that Google's in, like do you fight everysingle carrier on the planet by taking away like onemore piece of their control over what their customersdo or do you partner with everybody and if you're Google, you're more likely to partnerwith everybody because, I don't know, you play ballin a way that Apple doesn't.

If it works, if allbillion of those people have this new text messaging standard, I don't think Apple can not get onboard, like they're gonna haveto, they're gonna become the green bubble, andthat would suck for Apple so I do think that there'sa really good chance that the iPhone is gonnapick up RCS support.

The billion users ofAndroid are going to have their own version of the blue bubble and there's still, I don't know, a trillion text messages sent a year, and so if they can make that experience not suck because it sucks right now, if they can make that experience not suck, they could win and if Google controls the most popular textmessaging app on your phone, Android Messages, they can getall the stuff that they want, they can do GoogleAssistant inside that thing, and they're gonna do that, they can have crazy Google stickers, they can have it tie in toDuo for video chat stuff.

The bottom line, I hope, is that if you have an Android phone, you're gonna get Chat, and your text messaging experienceis gonna get way better.

Is it gonna be as good as I want? No, it's not, it's not gonna be as secure as iMessage or Signal, but it's gonna be a huge upgrade over SMS and honestly, Google deserves somecredit for managing to get 50 something carriers andfew dozen manufacturers to all agree on something, that never happens, so SMS is gonna get a huge upgrade and hopefully, if we're lucky, this RCS thing is gonnafinally kill SMS dead.

So what do you think? Is this crazy plan ofGoogle's actually gonna work or are you just gonnakeep on using whatever text messaging app you use right now? Let me know in the comments, and hey while you're down there, hit the like button, that's fun.


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