Recently I was in a Verizon Wireless Store asking about Jelly Bean (Android 4.1) expectations on the Galaxy Nexus (yes I’m that guy), where I encountered a man dead set on an iPhone. While he held his original Motorola Droid in his hand, his contract was up, and he was fed up with Android. He didn’t have a huge list of reasons why, except for one. All he demanded was the ability to send a group text message, and have any additional messages funnel back into the original group bundle he sent it out in.
For anyone who owns an Android, many of you know that you can send a group message – the problem exists when people reply. As each reply comes back as an individual text message, following the conversation can be borderline impossible. iPhones don’t have this issue, as it orders group text conversations neatly into the package it was sent out in – regardless if it was originally sent from an Android, iPhone, or other platform.
Although Android needs to fix its obvious group text-messaging problem, there’s a larger battle happening, and it’s over cloud-based messaging. In the last decade, Google won the email battle pretty handily, but as email mixes with chat services, “messages” look to replace the more cumbersome email platform. So how can services like Google+ fix a variety of problems within the Google ecosystem to help position Google messages ahead of its competitors?
Google is all about consolidation and simplification. That’s a large reason why Google+ itself exists and why Google changed their privacy policies back in March. But one thing that never really made sense to me was Google+’s mobile messaging service in their iOS and Android app. I wondered why this just wasn’t Gchat, where anything other than the service, just seemed redundant. Gchat was (and still is) a platform users enjoying communicating on, and is also one that already has a connection with other users outside of Google+. What’s even more bizarre is that while the Google+ app uses an independent service titled “Messenger,” the web-based version of Google+ uses Gchat. One obvious recommendation is to remove Messenger, replace it with Gchat, and maintain group-chat functionality within Gchat. Done.
One thing I keep hearing about Google+, is that there is no way to directly communicate on it. Now for those reading from Google+ – you know this is not the case – but making it simpler should be another objective. The way Gchat has historically worked in Gmail, is the same way Facebook’s messages operate now. So on Gmail, all messages get saved – in the cloud – on a chat page in Gmail (if users elect to do so from their privacy settings). It only makes sense that Google+ would develop a separate page for this service – perhaps combining it with their Hangouts page (Google+’s other form of direct communication).
The next step, is integrating it all together in Android. Google’s mobile OS should have one place for messages that includes text messages and Google+ messages (Gchat). By clicking on the messages icon within Android, you should get a full perspective of who’s online, what text message conversations you have, and live conversations happening on Gchat. There should be obvious indicators alerting users about where each message is coming from as well. What Google accomplishes by doing this, is transitioning the user into a different way of doing things, as we prepare to move everything to cloud-based services. Your Android devices should automatically save traditional text messages to the cloud as well. That way, when you lose your device, replace it, or clean it out, you have a history of important conversations readily backed up in the cloud.
Eventually text messages as you know them will be replaced by more conventional cloud-based messaging. It’s important for Google to recognize this and make the investments needed now. By doing this, Google can help grow Google+, build off of its over 50 percent market share with Android, and integrate already popular apps like Gchat across all of its properties.