I’ve written about Google’s fragmented messaging service before, but it’s still surprising that Google lingers behind other services such as Facebook Messages and Apple iMessages when they lead with other services like Gmail. Part of Google’s failure is the missed opportunity with Android, which claims 70 percent of the global smartphone market share. The other piece to their failure is that many features showcased from other apps (Facebook Messenger, iMessages) are already provided by Google – just spread across multiple services. This is why it’s encouraging to hear about the rumored “Google Babel,” which very well could resolve many, if not all, of the present problems within Google’s various messaging apps and services.
For me using Google Talk (Gchat), SMS/MMS Messaging, and Google+ Messenger seems incredibly redundant, especially when looking at the fragmentation within Google+. Go on Google+ in your browser and find Google Talk. Go on your mobile device, and find Google+’s Messenger app and Google Talk. Looking to continue a thread started within Google+ or Gmail from your browser? Well you can do that in your Google Talk app. Try to continue a thread from the Google+ Messenger app and good luck. Start a video chat from Google Talk on your device, but then try to add people into the hangout, well that’s not possible – you needed to start it in the Google+ Messenger app. But then try to start a video chat in Gmail and they’re now Hangouts – what the hell is going on?
The answer to this lies somewhere between iMessages and Facebook Messenger – with both being great, but not perfect. Facebook’s updated Messenger app is impressive, especially considering Chat Head’s seamless integration across Android. But its lack of delivering SMS/MMS conversations across devices is a giant limitation. This is something iMessages thrives at, but fails to deliver as a cross-platform solution. Google has a fantastic opportunity to bridge this gap and deliver all of the above – without limitations – by consolidating all of its services (Talk, Google+ Messenger and SMS/MMS Messaging) into one app: Google Babel.
If the rumors are true, and Babel is introduced alongside Key Lime Pie (Android 5.0) at Google I/O on May 15, with a “first-class” iOS experience as well – the war over messaging will drastically change. The one bottleneck remaining for Google may be tethering Babel to iOS’s SMS/MMS services – in order to send and receive within the app while also delivering them across the cloud (one of Facebook Messenger’s limitations). So there should be plenty of exciting announcements at Google I/O, but one housekeeping remediation needs to be Google’s messaging service – hopefully it’s Google Babel.