Google’s finally figured out what it’s doing with its neglected messaging app, Allo, and though I’m not happy about it, I’m slowly accepting that this is the way it has to be.
Allo is retiring next year in March, to that lovely place in the sky where all of Google’s other sunsetted products rest in peace, like Google Wave and the beloved Reader. The writing was on the wall when Allo’s Head of Product left earlier this year, and then a majority of Allo’s development crew were rolled up into the Messages team. But I held strong. What if, I wondered aloud, to no one in particular, they finally rolled up SMS into Allo?
I maintained the fantasy. I went on using Allo, inviting people to it and encouraging family members to only use it to contact me. “SMS doesn’t work for me,” I’d tell them, and then do my best to highlight all that Allo could do. “We can Google with each other in real time!” I even tried convincing the public, writing articles about little ways you could use the Assistant to make Allo worth its time.
Now that Allo is on its way out, I see the bigger picture. Allo is cute, but it was merely a testing ground for the Google Assistant. And while the artist-commissioned stickers and self-reflecting emoji were a nice touch, that was never enough to differentiate it from the dozens of other messaging apps already in the Play Store.
Anyway, I can’t blame Google for killing off Allo. The Assistant is best utilized on a smart speaker like the Google Home rather than a chat app so few people used, though I loved the way it integrated into multi-person conversations. At the very least, it looks like Google will bring some of those features to the Android Messages app via RCS. Per The Verge:
RCS is the text-messaging standard set to replace SMS for Android phones — it supports features that you would expect from any text-messaging client, including typing indicators, high-resolution images and video, and better group chat.
Of course, then the article reminds us that, unfortunately, RCS won’t bring end-to-end encryption to Messages. That was another tidbit I attempted to use as bait to lure in people towards Allo. “Look! Our messages are totally private!”
I’m going to continue to use Allo until the day it’s officially decommissioned. When that day arrives, I’ll back up my conversations, and then likely revert to the archaic ways of Android Messages. It’s not that there’s anything inherently wrong with SMS and the Messages app; it’s just that I loved the experience of using Allo, like the prettified backgrounds and the little ways you could emote through smart replies or stickers. I loved the random interactions with the Google Assistant, even the times it messed up, just because it made my husband and I laugh in the midst of some very chaotic days. I hope some of these abilities make their way to Android Messages, even if they only work for the person wielding an Android phone. If Google should learn anything from Allo, it’s that it should bundle all those unique and experimental Assistant features into apps that its users already recognize.