In our second article on messaging apps, we consider Google’s recent ‘about-turn’ on its platform, Allo, and ask if its ongoing collaboration with mobile operators is the traction needed to give Google a viable real-time communications solution.
It could be argued that Google spreads itself too thinly. However, as the world’s premier search engine (among many other things) it can afford to be. But despite its software bias, Google’s Midas Touch has yet to successfully impact messaging or social media. Google Plus is just kind of ‘there’ (and continues to linger on) and has nowhere near traction as Facebook. So it comes as some surprise that the search giant has decided to actively terminate messaging platform, Allo.
From the outside looking in, this might appear to be an admission of defeat – but nothing could be further from the truth. Google might be offloading some deadweight (an app with only 50 million users…), but it is not doing so without a backup plan – otherwise known as Google Chat. But is the search giant too late to the messaging game? Will users and also businesses like yours see it as worthwhile addition to your growing messenger armory?
The ace up Google’s sleeve is Chat’s use of RCS messaging – Rich Communication Services – an initiative launched in 2007, and published in 2016, to create a globally interoperable messaging service.
Backed by everyone from the GSMA to major mobile operators like T-Mobile, Sprint, and Vodafone; RCS is the natural successor to SMS, and unlike OTT (Over-The-Top -- basically internet-based) messaging services like WhatsApp, Signal, etc., it works in tandem with mobile phone services. Yup, RCS is a universal standard technology. This means if all else fails, and a recipient is using an outdated handset, messages can still be sent as SMS, reducing the point of failure – so your business’ communications will always get through.
This network effect strategy extends to mobile device manufacturers too. Huawei, Samsung, Asus, and HTC have signed up. Although RCS already exists in various forms (the more ‘advanced’ messaging options offered on many mobile devices) Google’s efforts to bring about a standard version put Chat in good stead; which is why it discontinued Allo and will undoubtedly do the same with Android Messaging at some point.
But what is RCS’ real appeal for businesses? Well, there’s the convenience of not needing consumers to download anything or ‘sign up’ for access as it is already pre-installed into the app tapestry. But in a world where 4G is as ubiquitous as network coverage, the technology used is moot to some extent.
Additionally, the functionality offered is pretty standard. Features like the ability to see that someone has read your receipts, send group texts, see when others are typing, and share full-resolution images, video, and location; are what users have come to expect.
While consumers might not see a surge of additional functions, the real bonus points are what RBM (RCS Business Messaging), can offer brands like yours. More effective multimedia messaging will allow your business to showcase its brand assets in greater detail using richer media formats, providing a better user experience. This is a feather in the cap for interactivity too. RBM effectively allows brands to create real-time customer service channels that run via the mobile network.
While take-up has been small, some big players are on board, including DHL, Subway, and Booking.com. And it is clear to see why they would give RBM a try. After all, SMS messages from brands tend to look a bit outdated. At least with a visible branded profile account, there is little danger of customers deleting any order details, delivery times, or special offers, as they’ll be clearly distinguishable from spam messages.
However, in the spirit of openness and honesty, it must be said that there are a few key sticking points with RBM that some users might not able to get past. Firstly, unlike most OTT messaging platforms RCS (like SMS) does not offer full end-to-end message encryption. This means that, although messages are encrypted in transit, they run the risk of carrier scrutiny, which may be a problem for customers – which has a knock-on effect for businesses.
Second, as nice as it might be for users to have a shiny new messaging service, as RBM will run on mobile networks, sending messages may well incur a cost. True, these may be absorbed by a customer’s monthly allowance – but it could impact negatively.
As Google ups the ante on a whole stack of hardware and software – from Turing-test passing AI assistants, to a new version of Android – as announced at its 2018 I/O Conference – there’s still some uncertainty around RBM and how it will stack up.
But there can be no doubt Google’s latest foray into mobile messaging is a smart one and much more likely to succeed than its predecessors. And if its voice AI (artificial intelligence) ever becomes part and parcel of Chat’s functionality then there is no end to how sophisticated business messaging could get for Android users.
For now, here at Mesaic, we will keep monitoring its progress and will begin offering it to our business customers as soon as it is present in their operating countries.