A war’s brewing between BlackBerry Messenger and Apple’s upcoming iMessage, and Samsung isn’t content to sit on the sidelines. The phone and tablet maker plans to launch its own mobile messaging service called “ChatON,” with the promise of supporting even its competitors’ smartphones.
Like BBM and iMessage, ChatON will let users send text, images and videos to other phone and tablet users for free. Of course, the service will be available on Samsung’s Android and Bada devices, but ChatON apps will also be available for iPhone, BlackBerry and other Android phones, while a web client will let users continue the conversation on their PCs.
Users can chat one-on-one, or in groups. (It’s not yet clear whether Samsung will copy some of BBM’s hallmark features, like the ability to see when someone’s typing, but ChatON has some frilly features of its own, like animated messages and an “interaction rating” for every contact.)
It all sounds peachy, especially when set to the awesome music in the official video. Just one problem: No one’s going to use it. Or at least, most people won’t use it unless the people who do can convince iPhone owners not to use iMessage, BlackBerry users not to use BBM and everyone else not to use alternative programs such as WhatsApp and TextPlus — let alone the core text messaging services that are built into every phone. None of that is going to happen.
That’s not to say we don’t need cross-platform messaging. The explosion of smartphones means it’s a lot easier to communicate without traditional text messaging, allowing users to buy smaller texting plans. (AT&T has already responded to the trend by forcing customers into more expensive packages.) But with so many companies offering their own solutions–not to mention the messaging that’s built into Facebook, Google+, AOL Instant Messenger and so on–the traditional text message remains the most reliable way to send a quick note to someone regardless of phone or operating system.
In a perfect world, phone makers would create integrated messaging services that work across their respective platforms, but that’s never going to happen either because it’d diminish the competitive advantage for any single phone maker. At least Samsung’s heart is in the right place.