As you may know, Google offers next-generation messaging clients like Allo and Duo. But the firm is also working to improve the normal SMS/MMS experience on Android too.
Confusingly, this involves more messaging apps. Because of course it does.
Google announced Allo—for text messaging—and Duo—for video messaging—at its Google I/O 2016 conference last May. Since then, it began rolling out Duo in August, and then Allo in September. Like other modern messaging apps, Allo and Duo integrate with bots and agents, in this case the Google Assistant. In other words, they are much like the Skype Preview app on Windows 10, which itself used to be two (sorry, three) separate apps before Microsoft got over that little bit of insanity.
But Allo and Duo are doubly confusing because they do not replace the stock Android SMS/MMS app, which is called Messenger.
Today, however, Google announced a new messaging app that will replace Messenger in Android. (But not Allo or Duo, of course; those will continue separately.) The idea this time around is to improve the SMS/MMS standards by working with the industry.
So this new app, called Android Messages, will work with SMS and MMS, of course, but also a modern version of this technology called Rich Communications Services, or RCS.
This won’t work unless Google works with wireless carriers, however. And we know how awful that can be. So Google is announcing today that 27 carriers and device makers from around the world have agreed to let it replace Messages with Android Messages and take advantage of modern messaging functionality. Left unsaid is that many hundreds more have not agreed, I guess. (Here in the US, I believe only Sprint has agreed.)
(And it’s not just phone makers holding this back. As you might expect, some of the biggest Android device makers, notably Samsung, are nowhere to be seen in this announcement.)
In any event, for those lucky few who do eventually get upgraded to Android Messages, you will see a single new client for SMS, MMS, and RCS. Features unique to RCS include the ability to search and share all types of content and easily access your messages, branded business messaging (like from your airline the day of a flight), and more. Google is also jumpstarting an RCS early access program for businesses so they can dive right into that stuff.
You can learn more about Google’s RCS work on the—wait for it—Jibe website. Why Jibe? Because all of this stuff has to be so confusing.