Google is pausing work on its messaging app Allo, launched in 2016, as it looks to focus on Rich Communication Services (RCS) with the help of operators via a project called Chat, The Verge reported.
RCS is standardised globally by the GSMA and, in this case, would enable users across all Android devices to chat for free.
Google wants the default texting experience to be as good as that on services including WhatsApp and Messenger, and it will be similar to the way iMessage works on Apple devices.
This means the inclusion of features including read receipts, knowing when the other user is typing, full-resolution images and video, and group texts. However, it will not have end-to-end encryption, the news outlet said.
Chat will not be a new texting app but Android’s default for texting, and will be an operator-based service rather than a Google service. Chat will be interoperable and messages will be sent via a user’s data plan instead of SMS plan.
Google garnered the support of more than 55 operators globally as well as Microsoft. This is via the GSMA’s Universal Profile, which the association describes as “a single, industry-agreed set of features and technical enablers developed to simplify the product development and global operator deployment of RCS”.
However, it is still unclear what role Microsoft will play and when operators will roll out the service.
Anil Sabharwal, the Google executive behind the Google Photos app, will lead the new efforts.
“We can’t do it without these [carrier and OEM] partners. We don’t believe in taking the approach that Apple does. We are fundamentally an open ecosystem. We believe in working with partners. We believe in working with our OEMs to be able to deliver a great experience,” he said.
Google currently offers four messaging apps: Hangouts; Allo; Duo; and Android Messages.
Android Messages is the current defautlt texting apps for most Android devices (not including Samsung) and has 100 million monthly active users.