Google has done a lot of good things with Android, which would explain why it is the most widely used mobile operating system on the planet. However, most would agree that the built-in messaging service in Android is not exactly great, as it is less featured and less secure than Apple's iMessage. In an effort to to close the gap, or at least narrow it, Google is working on a new messaging service that is simply called Chat.
Chat is different that SMS and other third-party services like WhatsApp, which are over-the-top (OTT) services. In addition, with Chat users will not have to download a messaging application or register a new account. As outlined by The Verge, Chat is basically an upgrade to SMS that is based on Rich Communication Services (RCS), a new standard that is better than SMS is several ways.
Google is building chat because (A) its other messaging efforts (Hangouts, Allo, etc) have not been a huge success, and (B) it's losing the messaging war with Apple and iMessage. That might have been a tough pill for Google to swallow, but without doing so, Chat might ever exist.
Chat enables a richer texting experience. It includes things such as read receipts, higher quality pictures and videos, and better group texting, to name a few of the perks.
There are a few important distinctions to note between Chat and SMS, and also iMessage. For one, messages sent through Chat will use data, not SMS. However, if a user does not have RCS enabled on their phone, the message will be received as a standard SMS text. And compared to iMessage, one feature that is not included in Chat is encryption. That means your messages could still be read if intercepted.
Probably the smartest thing Google is doing with Chat is making it a carrier-based service than its own. The decision to do so significantly enhances Google's chances of making Chat more widely adopted. As for right now, Google has partnered with 55 carriers and 11 OEMs to support Chat, with Microsoft being on board as well.
As for when this will roll out, Google expects that most of those carriers will activate Chat services by the end of the year.
Thumbnail and Top Image Source: The Verge via Google