Google’s history with messaging apps is legendary, with Android having at least three of them in the past decade. The company has never been able to get one to stick, though, and none have stood toe to toe with Apple’s iMessage platform. As such, text messaging on Android feels stuck in a bygone era where typing indicators and read receipts never happened.
Chat could change that. It isn’t just another app, Chat’s built on top of the RCS (Rich Communications Services) protocol, the replacement for antiquated SMS texting. To truly compete with iMessage, Google will need to roll out a desktop messaging app and offer end-to-end encryption, not just offer support for group chats and animated stickers. We haven’t seen evidence of a desktop app (but there is a Web version), but the latter has already, unfortunately, been ruled out.
The success depends on getting enough carriers and hardware manufacturers on board. So far, Google has partnered with Samsung, T-Mobile and Sprint to push the standard’s adoption. Apparently, there are over 50 carriers, almost a dozen hardware manufacturers and a pair of OS makers (Google and Microsoft) supporting RCS, but there are still notable absences from the likes of Apple, AT&T and Verizon. With the Pixel 3 announcement coming soon, maybe that won’t be the case for much longer.
Android One is not Android Go. The latter is a line of budget handsets designed for developing markets. The former requires a little more explanation. One of Android’s biggest strengths (an open platform) is also a huge weakness. If you want pure Android, not a version skinned to look like whatever the third-party hardware maker decided, and free from bloatware, your options were limited for most of the last decade.
The idea with Android One is to give customers confidence that the Android phone they’re buying meets a certain set of standards, including security updates and a uniform interface. Google keeps a tighter leash on Android One than it does the Android Open Source Program, but unlike its internally developed Pixel devices, doesn’t control every aspect of design.
That gives manufacturers a little flexibility to adjust specs and features for different regions or to prioritize one aspect of the hardware over another. For you and me, Android One offers the promise of regular security and software updates straight from Google.
Arguably, it’s an extension of the Nexus line’s legacy and Play Edition handsets of yore. All you have to do is look for the Android One badging, and you’re good to go — a stark contrast to the “will I?/won’t I?” guessing game involved with updates for other Android-powered handsets. That strengthens the platform overall and ensures that more people have access to the latest and most secure version of Android possible.