The actual trouble with Google’s cell messaging approach

If you’re reading this column, odds are, you don’t use your cellphone like the majority.

The public has one app for textual content messaging — the only one installed on their phone by default. Sure, they could have some other platform-unique messaging application, like fb Messenger. But they likely are not looking to add greater complexity into that lineup. And with regards to texting, they probably do not even reflect on consideration on what app they use; they just faucet the icon for “the texting app.” Microsoft SharePoint 2016

Google Messaging
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Google would not seem to be aware of this. Or possibly extra accurately, Google would not seem to care — and the organization’s announcements round messaging at this yr’s I/O developers’ convention are the high instance of that disconnect. Extra than something, these announcements spotlight just how out of touch Google is growing with the needs and realities of its customers in this all-crucial department.

Permit’s set the degree, we could? Take a deep breath, ‘purpose there’s some important historical past to cowl right here.

How we got here: The Google messaging saga

Again in Android’s early days, devices shipped with “stock” messaging apps: the aptly named Messaging, which became the platform’s default texting client, and Google speak, which was Google’s cross-platform IM utility for non-SMS-based conversations. (Google speak changed into also regularly known as “Google Chat” or “Gchat,” as you can remember — no longer surprisingly, as its implementation in Gmail changed into confusingly branded as “Google Chat” at the least a number of the time.)

At a positive factor, another app called Google Voice got here into the photo. Voice became a unique app for folks that desired advanced name routing abilties — a single number that’d take care of all your texting and voicemail and could intelligently forward calls and messages to any telephones you wanted. The Voice app came with its personal standalone gadget for texting.

Then I got here Google+. Google+ brought two extra apps into the equation: Hangouts for video calls and Huddle for IM-like messaging. Huddle was ultimately renamed to Google+ Messenger, and each it and Hangouts obtained their personal standalone icons within the Android app drawer.

Stressed yet? Me, too. However, cling on: This adventure’s getting started.

After quick infancy, Hangouts multiplied into a broader messaging device that mixed its personal shape of IM-fashion messaging with the app’s unique video-calling functionality. Google made it clear that Hangouts would finally update communication and become the organization’s essential messaging answer.

And genuine to that promise, in 2013, Hangouts relaunched — with the newly elevated version defined by way of one Google exec as “the unmarried conversation app that we need our users to depend upon.” the new Hangouts might combine Google communicate, Google+ Messenger, and the antique Hangouts into a one-prevent pass-platform app for all your messaging needs.

Besides, that is, for SMS-based texting. You would nonetheless need the antique Messaging app on Android for that — at the least, until later in 2013, when Google delivered an SMS guide to Hangouts and subsequently made it into a real universal messaging answer. The organization even made it clear that Hangouts would be “the future of Google Voice” and might eventually take over all of its capability — something that (partially) came into awareness with the aid of late the following 12 months.
A glimmer of hope in Google’s messaging gaggle

At final, progress — one app to rule them all! Or so it appeared for a short even as.

Hangouts had matured into the default messaging program on Android devices — an unmarried unified spot for any cell messaging desires. Use it for texting; use it for IMing. Use it for video chats, audio calls, even advanced Google Voice-connected conversations. Use it from your cellphone and use it from a computer or pill; it’s all synced up and prepared anyplace you check-in.

Suffice it to mention, this represented an extensive step in Android’s evolution from hard-around-the-edges strength tool into polished, patron-friendly product. I should subsequently provide my buddies and circle of relatives a simple manner to set up messaging on their devices that’d “just work” everywhere — without all the complication and confusion. It felt like a main milestone.

Regrettably, that feeling lasted for handiest about a year — till bafflingly, Google appeared to neglect its personal message of simplification. In the past due 2015, the employer launched a new standalone messaging app. Messenger went lower back to the pre-Hangouts generation of Messaging and furnished a brand new default environment for SMS-primarily based texting. , the equal issue Hangouts were extended to deal with seamlessly along with on-the-spot messaging and video chat.

Google became back to having a jumbled labyrinth of overlapping messaging options for Android users (and that doesn’t even forget the other proprietary messaging clients 0.33-birthday celebration tool-makers often upload into the mixture). The boiling water simply started to spill over this beyond January, while the enterprise commenced displaying a activate to Hangouts customers that requested them to transport over to Messenger for his or her SMS texting needs (even though Hangouts clearly nonetheless supports SMS messaging at the moment).

Little did we recognize that even that turned into simply the start of Google’s mobile messaging backslide.
An acquainted-feeling destiny

So that is where matters stood with messaging on Android as we headed into this 12 months’ I/O event. And that’s why the internet spoke back with a collective “WTF?” when Google introduced it was growing no longer one but two extra new messaging apps that’d exist along with Hangouts and Messenger.

At the manner later this 12 months is Allo, a “clever” messaging app it really is essentially an expanded version of the same type of instant messaging available on Hangouts — and Duo, a one-to-one video calling app it truly is essentially a refreshed version of the one-to-one video calling capability on Hangouts.

Each app mirror a function Hangouts already handles, simplest in an updated manner, and with a few new features covered. However, in preference to really upgrading Hangouts to have those new functions and updates — which might have really sensibly served customers — Google opted to begin over yet again and create two totally new structures.