April 15, 2024

iMessage and WhatsApp are defeated by Google’s radical messages update

The battle between Google, Apple and Facebook on your smartphone is about to take an exciting new turn; If you’re an Android user, Google just revealed a huge AI update that could change the way you use your device.

January 24 update below, this article was originally published on January 22.

The tech giants behind the most popular smartphone app and operating system ecosystems have spent years fighting for loyalty in messaging. And for good reason. There are no other apps as catchy as WhatsApp, iMessage or Google Messages. They are the center of your social network, the one you return to throughout your day, every day.

And so, just as Samsung starts floating the idea of ​​a paywall for its own smartphone AI offerings, along comes Google with something more innovative. How about incorporating Bard directly into your core messaging platform? A ready-to-use user interface and user base. There are no new apps to install or complex productivity app extensions to master. It is similar in simplicity to ChatGPT, pre-installed on all Android smartphones.

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Google has spent two years pushing its Messages app as the default Android alternative to iMessage. This has included end-to-end encryption and RCS by default, and multiple feature releases. Now, with that done, comes an AI update that connects Messages users to Google, not just each other.

According to Bard himself, this “promises to be a game-changer in the way we communicate. “It is an AI assistant that can enhance your messaging experience in a number of ways, from facilitating communication to enhancing creativity and providing insights… It will be your personal AI assistant within your messaging app.”

There were hints last year that Google might be considering bringing Bard into Messages, though nothing substantial. But after deselecting the latest pre-release APK, 9to5Google now reports that Bard is indeed “coming to Google Messages to ‘help you write messages, translate languages, identify images, and explore interests.'”

There are a number of obvious tasks that this could simplify: creating a recipe or writing a text for your boss are two of the examples given. But this barely scratches the surface of the real opportunity, which (for Google) is much larger.

When ChatGPT launched, you’ll remember the Google Search obituaries that quickly appeared. The future of web search was not going to be browser-based. It would be interactive and talkative. Google’s fitful rush to free Bard continued.

To start, you’ll likely experiment with AI text composition, image recognition, and simple information requests, but make no mistake, search powered by an AI chatbot is the prize (1,2). AI models need more advanced structuring to turn chat into viable business requests, but the end will justify the means and investment.

According to Bard, “it can be your helpful shopping companion in a number of ways… It can suggest unique and thoughtful gift ideas… You can compare different models, highlight key features and specifications, and find reviews and ratings from real users. You can search online stores and social media to show you what’s hot and where to find it… You can track prices at different retailers to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck. It can also alert you to price drops and coupons on items you’re interested in.”

This seems to fulfill the intention of Google Allo which failed due to its inability to properly combine its assistant and messaging. Google is not the only one, of course. Telegram has chatbot options, including ChatGPT interfaces. But for most everyday users, that’s a step beyond what’s comfortable. Google is its territory.

The really interesting question is how Apple and WhatsApp will respond. Clearly, there are elements of the Siri integration in iMessage, although they are limited to the messaging itself. It’s not a direct comparison, but it would be enabled quite easily.

WhatsApp is positioned more interestingly within the Meta group. It’s clear that Meta will be able to bring something like this to WhatsApp quite easily. Since Google leads the world’s largest and most valuable search and advertising ecosystem, it’s ready to go. But Facebook has its own network and can do the same. WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are also cross-platform and more widely adopted than Google Messages. This would bring a new angle to Meta monetization.

The problem, of course, is that when your AI chatbot is powered by an advertising giant, you risk a limited and far from independent experience: a Google search window without the immediate option to scan past the results. of the advertiser.

But the alternative is subscription charges similar to Samsung or ChatGPT for AI features and services. And we know that users will sacrifice a lot of privacy for “free.” AI in messaging will enable the same business model that is behind search and many other services. Advertisers will pay to communicate with you, the services will be free.

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Update 01/24:

The University of Leipzig has just highlighted this challenge of limiting search results to chat responses in an AI interface; Their research specifically looked at the quality of search results for product reviews and recommendations.

The document, titled “Is Google getting worse? A longitudinal investigation of SEO spam in search engines” asks whether SPAM and SEO proficiency has a disproportionate impact on the quality of results that are filtered.

“Many web search engine users complain about the supposedly declining quality of search results… The evidence for this has always been anecdotal, however, it is not unreasonable to think that popular online marketing strategies, such as affiliate marketing, they encourage mass production of said content to maximize clicks. .”

In short, the answer seems to be yes.

“Our findings suggest that all search engines have significant problems with highly optimized (affiliate) content… more than is representative for the entire web.”

Of course, this is not specific to Google, and the researchers also examined Bing and DuckDuckGo over twelve months. Ironically, given Google’s focus on integrating generative AI and search, the researchers warn that this is a “situation that is sure to get worse in the wake of generative AI.”

We have all become conditioned to judge the possible independence of search results as they appear in our browsers, and we have learned to scan those results as if they were their current storefront equivalents. But in a world where you ask a chatbot “where is the best place to buy a Samsung TV” or “where is the best pizza place in Denver,” the format of your results will be very different. We all need to remember that it’s not really a talk.

The AI ​​update coming to Google Messages is part of a trend, of course, and you can expect multiple such AI add-ons to arrive quickly, especially with Google driving much of the push. This should be good news for Android users.

We just saw an official Chrome advertisement about the introduction of three useful new versions of AI coming to beta. Automated tab management and theme creation sound nice, but it’s the Help Me Write feature within Chrome that’s probably the most useful, especially on an Android mobile device.

We’ve also seen GMail’s Help Me Write feature adapted to combine AI and voice, as discovered TheSPAndroid, “Gmail’s ‘Help me write’ feature can help you compose emails with ease and can definitely save you some time. Currently, the functionality is available both on the web and in apps, but you must type the email message yourself using the keyboard. In the Gmail app for Android, Google is working on a feature that will allow you to compose emails with voice. [prompts].”

And there he was previous news that Android Auto will use AI to intelligently filter information in and out of the system, while keeping your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.

There are many positives, clearly, but the core risk of limiting search results is not the only word of warning here. Google Messages chats with Bard are not protected by end-to-end encryption and Google (being Google) will store your data and use it to improve its algorithms. As with other similar models, be careful what you order.

There is no word yet on the timing, but in all likelihood it is not far away. According to Bard, “Google has not yet announced an official release date for Bard in Google Messages, but it is expected to be available sometime in 2024.”

Watch this space.

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