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At Google, Nick Fox Gets the Message

Nick Fox, the man in charge of Google’s still-unannounced mobile phone service, also has become head of Google’s communications products like Google Voice, Hangouts and Messenger, a signal that the company is getting more serious about building mobile messaging products.

The young executive, who previously ran an AdWords unit, started running the new communications group recently, according to several people briefed on the move, and is a curious choice given his prior experience. Now he’s overseeing various attempts for Google to better compete in mobile messaging applications with powerhouses like Facebook and Snapchat.

Internally, Google has recently worked on a chat app that is tied to phone numbers, similar to WhatsApp, according to a person briefed on the matter. That project pre-dates Mr. Fox’s ascension. Engineers also have been working on a new group or “party” messaging app, this person says.

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Certain forces at Google had long coveted WhatsApp, though the company had made a big bet on Google+ as its future messaging platform.