Google’s tendency to release multiple competing chat apps is almost meme-worthy on the internet. Whereas Apple long ago settled on iMessage, Google has gone through Google Talk, Huddle, Hangouts, and more. Its most recent attempt at chat is Allo, but no one is using it. As a result, Google is “pausing” work on Allo. Let’s not sugarcoat this — Allo is dead. Instead, Google is putting all its eggs in the RCS basket.
Allo was announced almost two years ago at Google I/O alongside the Duo video call app. Duo has gotten good traction and people like using it. Allo, on the other hand, has stagnated. This app takes a WhatsApp-style approach to messaging, as it’s based on your phone number, but it sends messages over the internet with more features than SMS. It doesn’t support SMS as fallback like iMessage, though.
Google’s Allo rollout suffered from a predictable problem. No one was using Allo because it was new, and because no one used it, no one wanted to start using it. Chicken, meet egg. There were so many other ways to send messages that Google couldn’t break in. Google confirmed to The Verge that it has decided to move most of the Allo team over to other messaging projects, which most likely spells the end of Allo as a chat platform. It hasn’t seen an update since January, and it’s unlikely to get much attention in the future, either.
According to Google, the Android Messages SMS app will be its new focus. This app currently only does SMS, but it’s ready for RCS messages as carriers add support. RCS (Rich Communication Services) is an evolution of SMS that sends content over the data network. RCS supports read receipts, file transfer, group chat, and a lot of other features that don’t work with SMS. Most carriers and manufacturers are on board with RCS, but SMS will still exist as a fallback.
As part of its focus on RCS, Google will revamp the Android Messages app with a new name and enhanced features. The app will become “Chat,” and Google promises this time it’ll stick with an app and make it work. The current Messages app will get an update later this year that transforms it into Chat, so you don’t have to do anything. As carriers add support for RCS, you’ll be able to take advantage of advanced features in Chat, as long as the person you’re messaging also has RCS support.
So, if you’re one of the few using Allo, it’s time to look for alternatives. Maybe that’ll be Chat later this year, but RCS support is still spotty. This is a long game for Google.