If you fired up your Google Messenger app this morning, you might have noticed something different: It’s now called Android Messages. And while the new name doesn’t actually change anything about the way we use it, it could lead to big things down the road.
Amir Sarhangi, head of Rich Communication Services at Google, explained in a blog post that the new name is a step toward finally creating a default universal messaging app on Android. As it currently stands, the app formerly known as Messenger comes preloaded on Pixel and Nexus devices and some others, but for the most part, the messaging experience on Android is even more fractured than the OS itself. Many manufacturers ship their own default SMS/MMS app, and most users end up turning to WhatsApp, Allo, or Hangouts for their texting needs.
Google is looking to change that with Android Messages. Going forward, Android Messages will be the default app shipping on a wide variety of phones not made by Google, including handsets from some big-name manufacturers such as LG, Motorola, Sony, and HTC. Additionally, numerous smaller phone makers have also agreed to the change, including ZTE, Micromax, HMD Global (Nokia), Archos, BQ, Cherry Mobile, Condor, Fly, General Mobile, Lanix, LeEco, Lava, Kyocera, MyPhone, QMobile, Symphony and Wiko. However, missing from that list is the biggest Android manufacturer of all: Samsung.
Furthermore, Google is also moving forward with bringing the RCS standard to Android phones. With support for high-quality photos and videos (up to 10MB), location sharing, read receipts, and the ability to see when someone is typing a message, RCS would deliver a robust communication experience on Android. But it’s not going to happen overnight. Google has announced that while some carriers are on board with the change—Sprint, Rogers, Telenor, Orange, Deutsche Telekom, Globe, and Vodafone—notably absent are Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. So, there’s still a long way to go.
However, Google seems to be serious this time. Sarhangi also outlined how RCS can improve business communication and launched an Early Access Program for companies to explore the technology. Numerous companies are already participating in the program, including Virgin Trains, Walgreens, Baskin-Robbins, GameStop, Subway, and many others.
Let’s chat: Messaging on Android has always paled in comparison to the experience on the iPhone. With Apple’s devices, you need only sign into your iCloud account and your chat history will be automatically synced whenever you buy a new Mac, iPhone, or iPad. It’s the single greatest advantage Apple has over Android, and is likely the reason many people stay inside the walled garden. A new name for Messenger isn’t going to close that gap, nor will it change the fact that Google has three different messaging apps—all with their share of shortcomings—but this move does give us hope that one day we'll be able to buy a new phone, sign into our Google account, and be able to pick up where we left off on our last conversation.