Chibueze Anakor

The State of Android Messaging: One Year in a Post-Allo World

Posted March 13, 2020
0 Comments Includes Allo, Android, Google, Messages, Messaging, RCS

One year ago today, Android users lost a truly unique messaging application that, with a little love and care, could’ve been a serious competitor to Apple’s iMessage. That application was called Allo, and it joined a long list of products that were killed by Google. With the death of Allo, Google promised its default texting application, Google Messages, to be Allo’s replacement, so we’ll see how far that application has come within a year. If you want to see me talk about what led up to this point, read my other article about the death of Allo here.


A lot has happened since Allo died last year to get Google Messages to where it is today. First, let’s start with Rich Communications Services (RCS). RCS is a texting standard that is much more capable than SMS or MMS, which are the current standards used worldwide. RCS allows for higher character counts, higher quality images, videos, and GIFs in texts than SMS or MMS, due to less compression when sending those types of media. In October 2019, the four big wireless carriers in the United States (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint) created the Cross-Carrier Messaging Initiative (CCMI), which is a joint venture meant to implement a universal RCS standard across all of the major carriers, which will come with a pre-installed application on Android phones. The CCMI is an interesting case because the carriers decided to implement RCS without Google, which has been the driving force behind RCS up until that point. Shortly after the CCMI was announced, Google decided to implement RCS itself on Android phones through the Messages application.


Since RCS is now common amongst a lot of Android phones (with some exceptions), Google Messages’s feature list has expanded. In addition to the RCS features mentioned earlier, Messages now supports read receipts, which lets you know that the recipient of your message read your message, which is a common feature found among many modern messaging services like iMessage, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp, and the dearly departed Allo. Other improvements over SMS/MMS include the ability to send and request money via Google Pay, the ability to send documents, like Microsoft Word documents or Excel spreadsheets, via text. As of this writing, it is rumored that Google may also bring emoji reactions to Messages, bringing it one step closer to applications like iMessage and Facebook Messenger. There is one feature that Google Messages (and RCS as a whole) lacks, which is encryption, which is becoming ever more important in a post-Cambridge Analytica world and is supported by applications like iMessage, WhatsApp, and Signal.


Earlier, I mentioned that RCS is common amongst Android phones, with some exceptions. The most notable of which is Samsung phones, which are the most popular Android phones here in the US. There are other Android phone manufacturers that have their own pre-installed text messaging applications on their phones, and if you have one of the handsets mentioned above, you can install Google Messages via the Google Play Store to join the ranks of RCS users. I also mentioned earlier that Google Messages was updated last year to implement RCS, but with the most popular Android phone brand not being supported with RCS (unless the Messages application is installed, which most average people don’t do), it doesn’t really mean much because most Android users won’t be able to get the benefits that RCS provides.


Have Google Messages and RCS done a good job at replacing Allo after a year? At this point, I would say no, and the reason why, as I’ve said earlier, is because not that many people can enjoy it here in the US, due to a combination of Samsung and some lesser-known brands not having Google Messages as the default texting application on their phones and average consumers not choosing to change the default application on those aforementioned phones. There have been great improvements to Google Messages that have been made over the past year that I previously mentioned, but I think that many of those features would’ve made it to Allo if Google had given it the care that it needed. Plus, what meaning do those features have if a very small amount of people are able to use them? I do have hope for the future of messaging on Android, as more people will discover Google Messages, Google will eventually open up RCS to third-party messaging apps, and the CCMI allows more people to have RCS functionality pre-installed onto their phones. Hopefully, the article will have a more positive tone when I come back to this topic next year.

What do you think about the state of messaging on Android? Let me know in the comments below.