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Chat is Google's next big fix for Android's messaging mess (theverge.com)
81 points by OberstKrueger on Apr 20, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 66 comments



Fool me twice google! I won't get fooled again?

In all seriousness, how can anyone advocate for the adoption of this new chat app? After Chat/Buzz/Hangouts/Messenger/Duo/Allo and probably more, I can't with a straight face convince anyone I know to adopt yet another Google messaging product, despite whatever problem it sets out to rectify this time around.

At this point, I have zero trust that the application will continue to get long term support or will even still exist in a few years time. Remember when Google said Hangouts was going to consolidate and fix problems in all these disparate applications as well? Google has lost 100% of the benefit of the doubt with me in regards to trying out new messaging applications and it's not worth putting in the hassle to convince others to use it with me.


> Chat/Buzz/Hangouts/Messenger/Duo/Allo and probably more

Too bad Google dropped XMPP federation; they could have used it between their own apps. Just imagine a world where Google users could talk to other Google users!


And all my friends list could be shared with third parties with abandon!


The short answer, if you read the article again, is because it isn't a new chat app.


You're right, it's not a brand new app, it's an update to messenger, but it's definitely not the continuation of the app they just finished trying to convince us for a year+ to use, Allo.


> In all seriousness, how can anyone advocate for the adoption of this new chat app?

I think the point is: they don't need to. There will be a RCS app on Android phones sold by these OEMs/Carriers. Most of these will be Google's app. So, many people will have an RCS app, even if it is not their primary app, you will be able to send them an RCS message without needing to do any convincing.


Google Wave? Seriously at this point I don't understand what is their strategy. Do something and scrap it after 6 months?


I have to say that Allo was pretty cool. But without encryption is becomes useless.

And they aren't going to get people to adopt to a new messanger without forcing them. Most people just use the default messanger, that's why iMessanger works. The only reason I use other messangers is because texting will not provide me the one thing I want.


After all of these years, I'm surprised that Google hasn't just made their own clone of iMessage and called it a day.

iMessage (being an SMS / chat system with a native desktop client) is the only reason I went back to iOS. As much as I miss and android community, my top priority is avoiding the physical use of my phone whenever possible.

So while this is on the right track, its still not there. Leaving encryption off the table, at least to me, doesn't make a lick of sense.

Combining Google Voice and an iMessage-like service would have been closer to the game-changer they keep marketing their chat apps as... but it looks like we're still going to wait.

A BGR article [1] is assuming that they'll use a browser extension for the desktop client, which is good for cross-platform work, but the ones I've tried in the past (PushBullet, MightyText, etc) all fell short.

Long story short, its a shame to see someone as big and powerful as Google struggle with something as seemingly simple as a good SMS / RCS client to properly compete in the space.

[1] http://bgr.com/2018/02/09/imessage-vs-android-messages-sms-t...


Seems like the article offers a pretty clear explanation for why they haven't:

> Though Google won’t say so, I think that road is fundamentally too dangerous for the company. One would think that Google has more than enough leverage to simply create something that the carriers would have to accept whether they like it or not. What are Verizon and Deutsche Telecom and all the rest going to do, switch to Tizen in protest? Please.

> But the truth is that these carriers have points of leverage over Google that go beyond choosing to sell Android phones. Android is, after all, open source. And though Google can (and does) dictate some requirements in order to include Google services, it can’t dictate them all. A carrier could set Bing as the default search, for example, or set up its own RCS client as the default texting app.

> Perhaps Google could have gotten away with a proprietary, baked-in messaging protocol back in 2011 when iMessage launched. But in 2018, carriers aren’t fond of iMessage, and they aren’t going to take kindly to a similar service acting as the default, especially on Android, the globally dominant operating system.


I can't imagine that this is actually the reason. SMS has long been replaced by iMessage, WhatsApp, Telegram and similar services. Nobody uses or values SMS these days and the carriers know it, which is why the service comes free with pretty much any (european) contract.

So if messaging already happens outside of the carriers' reach, why would those carriers be upset if Google added another entry to the list of services that have replaced SMS?


If it's true that Google was prevented from making a good iMessage-type service by pressure from the carriers, it seems like a market failure. If Google was actually willing to build something and users wanted it, but some third party had leverage to prevent Google from doing that, it seems like the market is broken.

I don't know if this actually happened (obviously), but it really bothers me if it did. It makes me want to boycott RCS and the carriers somehow. I don't want to reward them for winning the battle to make my Android phone less useful, less encrypted, and easier to toll.


One fun fact I have heard is that the Android Messages app did not receive updates through the play store because carriers wanted to retain control.

If you're in the US, you could switch to Project Fi.

I think the crypto thing is less about carriers own opinions and more about the regulation that carrier provided services face. Hopefully it will at least have an encrypted OTT mode the same way that Allo does.

Let's also not forget how carriers have hampered Android updates.


He mentions in the video that when he asked Google reps why they didn't just do iMessage, they claimed it was because of anti competition fears if they forced their own proprietary message platform on everyone's device, including those from partners like Samsung which already have their own messaging apps. That sounds plausible.

Disclosure: I work at Google but not on anything related to messaging.


That does make sense.

Its actually something that plays against the overall Android experience, for me. Its either: get a phone that has been rooted and has decent ROM support, or live with a bunch of crapware I can't remove, but might be able to disable.

Its unfortunate.


Why not use Hangouts? Seems like it meets all the requirements you've listed (desktop client, sync with email account messaging, video chat, phone calls.)

I'm not trying to promote the product so much as wondering what I'm missing out on, if anything.


Hangouts is ok, but as far as I recall, its either a Hangouts message or SMS. For my contacts, very few use Hangouts on a regular basis. SMS is still king around these parts.


RCS was extremely complicated. It needed cross-collaboration from carriers and Qualcomm.


Signal has a desktop app that syncs with your phone, and if you use Facebook messenger, caprine is a great desktop version.


If messages are end to end encrypted, Google cannot use them to target ads.


I give it two years before Google tries something else.

Honestly, as soon as Google Voice (and its integration with the languishing Hangouts app) support breaks, which I fully expect to eventually happen, I'm jumping off the last of the Google boat. The inertia of "all my friends can at least contact me on this number that follows me around carrier-to-carrier" is the only reason I haven't stopped using Google services almost entirely:

My searches are DuckDuckGo. It's even more useful than Google for image searches because it still has a "View Image" link.

My primary email is now a private provider. The old Gmail account is kept to not miss old contacts reaching out and as a dumping ground for "sign up with your email so we can spam you forever!"

My online storage and backup is private, paid, and encrypted. There are still a few public links in my Google Drive, but I no longer use it day-to-day.

I can't remember the last time I actually needed live collaborative editing for work. I still use Google Docs/Spreadsheets occasionally, but I'm mostly collaborating with people elsewhere in the world and I wake up to see their edits/comments the next day. I'm not sure this bit even needs a replacement.

The last holdout is that sticky Google Voice number. I woke up one day a year and a half back and thought to myself, "you make real money now. You signed up for Google's free services all the way back in high school (when you had to have an invite for Gmail). You can afford paid services for these things, and the paid services are just as good. Why are you still giving Google more of your info than they would otherwise vacuum up?"

The fact that Google's "fix" for its own ADHD concerning chat/message platform(s) has no encryption is enough for me to say, "Nope. Done. Get me out of there once and for all."


I'm always interested in expanding my knowledge of alternatives (especially paid ones where I directly support the business). If you don't mind, I'd like to know what you use for your primary email and online storage/backup. I currently use Posteo for my email and SpiderOak for backups.


> all my friends can at least contact me on this number that follows me around carrier-to-carrier

Isn't it possible to migrate phone number between carriers in US?


It was somewhat more complicated before the advent of smartphones, and I had Google Voice before I had my first smartphone. The user experience on flip-phones was also not quite user friendly to the person with Google Voice, but it was completely transparent for everyone you were communicating with.


Hangouts was so close. It had SMS, audio, video, text, desktop clients. It was about to be the android equivalent of imessage. And then they pulled SMS and started pulling other features and pushing duo/allo.

I've switched to telegram at this point and now I have that and SMS. It's a shit show.


The bean counters didn't want to pay to be a free SMS gateway.

What Google should do is just build a shared messaging API that can integrate multiple services into one app.


Or they could just do what Apple did with iMessage and just basically use the user's mobile phone as the SMS gateway. SMS I send from my laptop actually get routed to my iPhone and sent to my carrier as a normal SMS using my own plan. This also has the big plus the SMS actually will originate from your mobile number (rather than the SMS gateway's number). Can't see why Google could've gone down this route given Apple has done it with huge success...


> What Google should do is just build a shared messaging API that can integrate multiple services into one app.

You mean something like XMPP? (On which Google's original chat service was based).


No. They should stay out of the backend and do something like a more sophisticated notification API that let's you use whatever service from a unified app. They can slip in their own offering but still support others in parallel.


But they pay for Google Voice?


'But, like SMS, Chat won’t be end-to-end encrypted'

Hey Google? 1992 called, they want their clear text messaging app back...


Without encryption, it's dead on arrival.


It's not, the vast majority of people don't care. But if you don't have that, then SMS is good enough. I don't have a data plan so it's a non starter for me anyway.


With encryption many countries won't let their carriers implement it. So also dead on arrival.


The carrier does not have to implement anything specific for Google. Apple's implementation shows how to do hybrid messaging apps without putting any burden on the carrier. They use the standard SMS system provided by the carrier where necessary so no changes needed by the carrier as they just process it as a normal SMS. And when both sides have Apple devices the messages are exchanged securely via IP which carriers can also process as normal IP packets. Google could easily do the latter securely while offering an opt-in (or opt-out like Apple) option to fall back to insecure SMS.


Please name one country that bans their carriers from implementing a message system without e2e encryption.


This isn't exactly an answer to the question you asked - but I believe at least India mandates SMS use A5/0 which means SMS cannot legally be encrypted.

(This is half-remembered memory from a DefCon talk I watched on YouTube recently: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQSu9cBaojc )


how does iMessage get away with it


If the problem is "Nations making rules about SMS encryption" (like India does I believe) - then Apple isn't an interested party because that's all on the cellular carrier to implement and comply with.

Telegram is a current example of the different problem of "how can a nation regulate non SMS messaging app encryption" I suspect Apple _is_ wondering just how long iMessage will "get away with" that...


iMessage is not a carrier protocol, which is because it did not have to thread the needle with carriers the way Google has here with RCS.


E2E encryption isn’t a product Google will want to offer unless they have keys to a back door for marketing purposes, and to give to their TLA and Pentagon pals.

Signal exists, and that’s where my hopes lie. It’s not perfect, but it works.


Allo has support for e2e.


Support for E2E is very different to E2E by default like iMessage.


And they just killed it.


Hey you with good ideas? 1984 called, I can't tell you what they said next...


"As part of that effort, Google says it’s “pausing” work on its most recent entry into the messaging space, Allo."

Oh hey look, another app Google is going to neglect and then abandon. What a surprise.

/s


What happens to Allo? Abandon it just like hangouts? Google has been playfully abandoning most of their products lately. It’s the consumers that has to live with it. I bought a nexus 6p last year, only to find out Google is dropping support with Android P. Oh man I wish I bought an iPhone, atleast it gets support for 5 years. ‍️


I get that everyone is still mad about Reader, but if all of Allo's features get rolled into Android messages and it retains interop with existing Allo users, does it matter at all? This honestly seems like something pointless to get mad over since every other thread about Google's chat apps was about how they had too many...


It's strange to see Americans struggling with problems that are completely solved in other countries. Here, WeChat in China. They somehow aren't getting the network effects like WeChat had and have to resort to getting every carrier to promise to - I suppose - impose it on their customers.


what's the point of rcs when it's controlled by the carriers (aka you will be billed for it). at least with imessage it's free to send between apple devices.


From https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT207006 (at the bottom of the help article) - "If Wi-Fi is unavailable, iMessages will be sent over cellular data. Cellular data rates might apply." So I'm not sure if it is free over mobile data.

On the other hand, I believe AT&T zero rates their RCS messages if you have an unlimited texting plan. (e.g. https://www.att.com/shop/wireless/features/advanced-messagin... > FAQ > how much does advanced messaging cost). Could not find details on TMobile except this article: https://newsroom.t-mobile.com/news-and-blogs/rcs-messaging-l...


>On the other hand, I believe AT&T zero rates their RCS messages if you have an unlimited texting plan

But what if you don't have an unlimited texting plan? Let's say your current plan includes data + modest amounts of talk+text, but you do most of your communication over chat apps, so you never really touch your text allowance, even though you text a lot. now with RCS, you now have to pay extra $ for those texts you're sending out, or pay $ for the unlimited plan. plus with chat apps, you could send free over wifi. so from a customers point of view, RCS is worse in every way.


The combo of Samsung and T-Mobile is great - text messaging with RCS is great!


Data usage is not free and also controlled by carriers.


sure, but you can send imessages free over wifi. I doubt you can do the same with RCS. come to think of it, that's the only reason why carriers would even agree to implement this in the first place: they get to charge users for data that they would have otherwise transferred on wifi.


When everything else fails, we send an SMS.

Google: sms must be broken, let's fix it.


Here's the mobile friendly version of the article:

https://www.theverge.com/platform/amp/2018/4/19/17252486/goo...


A data plan will be required on Android according to the video[1].

[1]: https://youtu.be/PCh-qRYMAKk?t=3m39s


Is that an onerous requirement? Even my 70 year old mother has a data plan these days.


Prepaid/GoPhones are what lost of low income people use. Traditionally no data plan. This is even more common abroad in developing nations.


This is a solved problem. By entities other than google. SMS works fine on every phone. Whatsapp and Messenger also work fine. Choose one or two and use it.


Whatsapp has solved this problem as far as I'm concerned. Even my north american friends are getting into it now.

It's the perfect messenger for the average user.


Mobile only is sad...

I want to be able to chat from whatever platform I'm on right now, like hangout and xmpp previously.


Nevermind that "Hangouts Chat" is already called "Chat" on Android…


Everyone I know is on WhatsApp. Why would anyone switch?





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