Internet giant Google has officially launched a new free messaging service that will link up with users’ SMS text messages.
The new platform, which has simply been called Chat, has started its global rollout and will be available to Android devices, with the operating system owned by Google running the vast majority of smartphones on the market away from Apple. Smartphone manufacturers such as LG, Huawei and Samsung will all integrate the app alongside each of their default messaging services.
Chat will be a rival service to Apple’s iMessage and Facebook-owned platform WhatsApp, and works similarly to the traditional SMS text message. However, like iMessage and WhatsApp, it will inform the user when the recipient of a message has read it and shows when they are typing something back.
The service will also be able to support high-quality pictures and will have group interaction features, similar to that of WhatsApp, and will also support GIFs.
Should users of Chat not have access to a Wi-Fi system, the service will take up some of data from their data plans. Furthermore, should a Chat user send a message to someone not using the service, the messages will be sent to their default SMS service.
According to the Verge, Google had not confirmed a specific launch date for Chat and has been working on this project on the downlow, liaising with smartphone manufacturers and mobile networks to ensure that all parties would be ready. It was also reported that over 50 mobile networks, including the likes of T-Mobile and Vodafone, had signed up to support the service.
At present, WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging platforms available, with more than 1.5 billion monthly users. However, there are more than two billion devices that use the Android operating system, which could pose a problem to the Facebook-owned service. Unlike WhatsApp, Chat will not use end-to-end encryption, a form of protection that makes it almost impossible to intercept messages.
Prior to the launch of Chat, Google ‘paused’ its efforts on Allo, which it launched in September 2016. This was initially developed as a way to rival Facebook and its Messenger platform. However, Allo has not really taken off in the way that Google would have hoped as fewer than 50 million downloaded the app. As a result of this, most of Google’s designated Allo team are likely to move over to Chat.