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Hangouts (replaces Talk): Google's multi-messenger

Kris Carlon (translation)
7

In the new version of Google Hangouts you'll now find SMS support too, making it Google's go-to multi-messenger app. Because Hangouts now combines the chat service from Google Plus with the standard SMS app, in Android 4.4 KitKat, Hangouts plays a central role in the version update. As Google's services spread, Hangouts will only gain more importance in the future, for example through the integration of Google Helpouts. How Google Hangouts currently functions though, you will learn in today's review.

google hangout logo
© Google Inc.
4 ★★★★

Rating

Good👍
  • Chat messages, video calls and SMS/MMS in one app
  • Good video and call quality
  • Extra features such as location, Emoji, mood
  • Free of charge and free of advertising
Bad👎
  • No integration of Google Voice
  • SMS functions are linked to a phone number
Tested on Android Version Root Modifications Tested version Latest version
Google Nexus 5 4.4 No 1.2.018 (849105-30) Varies with device

Features & Use

With the integration of SMS, Hangouts is positioned to be the central point of contact for communication with your circles. A Google account is required to use Hangouts chats and video calls are possible only with other Hangouts participants. However, SMS messages can be sent as usual. If you use Hangouts already, or plan to, then the new Hangouts is perfect because it combines both services into one app.

AndroidPIT Hangouts 1
Don't forget to enable SMS if you want to use Hangouts for everything. / © AndroidPIT/Google

There is a distinction drawn between Hangouts chats and SMS conversations, with both being shown separately, even if they are with the same contact. A small icon on your contact's profile picture notifies you which messages were received as an SMS and as such, replying will mean you are paying for it on your mobile phone bill. Hangouts does not provide access to Google Voice either, which means that a Google number can not be redirected to Hangouts, also balances of Google Voice can not be used (as they can with the Gmail plugin).

AndroidPIT Hangouts 4
There's plenty of ways to let your contacts know what you're doing and feeling. / © AndroidPIT/Google

The SMS functions in Hangouts are linked to the mobile phone number, meaning messages are stored on the device and not online, so they are not available on other devices. In the settings you can also disable SMS support, making Hangouts just an instant messenger app only. You can of course use any stand alone SMS app as well as Hangouts with SMS support disabled.

AndroidPIT Hangouts 6
Images, video, emojis, location...Hangouts has it all. / © AndroidPIT/Google

Other new features are the option to share your current location, the ability to let your contacts know which device you are on and when you are on a call, and what your current mood is, which you can set either as a displayed ''status'' emoji or at any time in a conversation through the many emojis available.

AndroidPIT Hangouts 7
Hangouts video calls are great fun and reliable. / © AndroidPIT/Google

For video calls, there are unfortunately no costumes like we know from the desktop version of Hangouts, so the video stream can not be changed with funny insertions (hats, beards, glasses) or effects.

In the settings you can specify your Google Plus profile, customize notifications and link your mobile number with the Google Plus account.

AndroidPIT Hangouts 3
You can even snooze on your notifications. / © AndroidPIT/Google

Screen & Controls

Google Hangouts is simple and clearly laid out and appears in the current, bright holo-design style. On the New Hangouts page you can see the list of your contacts. A green Hangouts bubble indicates who is online. ''People You Hangout With'', ''Suggested People'' and ''Other Contacts'' are also available on this overview page.

A swipe to the right shows your last Hangouts that can be easily swiped offscreen for archiving. The app differentiates between chats and SMS conversations: thus, although it is clear that each message was sent or received, both types can not be grouped together in a continuous exchange with a contact. That would be a desirable option. Profile photos are also automatically defaulted to Google+, so if your contacts don't have G+ you'll only see a blank space unless you manually change them.

AndroidPIT Hangouts 5
In-conversation settings let you block and disable notifications. / © AndroidPIT/Google

The most important functions such as starting a Hangout or video call, inserting emojis, inserting pictures or location, are available via self-explanatory buttons. With the context menu you can also set your mood, start group chats, customize notifications and make general settings changes. During a video chat you can easily switch between the view of yourself or your partner.

Speed & Stability

During the test period Hangouts ran fast and stable. Some users report problems with undelivered SMS messages, both when receiving and sending. This was not reproducible during the test with all messages being delivered as expected. Even in Android 4.4 KitKat there have been problems with the automatic retrieval of MMS which could not be traced during the test period. Video chat ran smoothly and fluently (with appropriate internet connection), and the call quality was encouraging.

Price/Performance Ratio

Hangouts is available for free and offers a one-stop application for SMS and chat messages as well as video calls. If you have a stand alone SMS app Hangouts is still good value.

Final Verdict

Personally, I have long used Hangouts in preference to Skype, because even with a waning internet connection the call quality is still acceptable. Plus, I find the combination of chat and SMS messages in one application very handy. It was, however, disappointing that Google Voice was not integrated into the new version of Hangouts. I would like to be able to use my voice credit for international calls or SMS in order to avoid mobile phone tariffs and roaming charges. It would also be desirable to have access to SMS messages on multiple devices and also to have online SMS backup, as is possible with chat messages. The existing features and functionality of the new Hangouts is convincing, but there's still room for improvement, hence a one star reduction.  

(originally by Jakob Straub)

Comparable Apps

Developer

Google Inc.

Comments

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  • Guy Deridet Nov 14, 2013 Link

    Sms are integrated with Hangouts but not free.That's why I disinstall Hangouts'update. The day Google offers free SMS I'll allow him to make business with all my Sms.

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  • Rolex Chauhan Nov 14, 2013 Link

    hangout is I would say better then talk, I use it, not regularly but I do and I like it's UI and it's approach, I am not a geek but yeah I like that app..

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  • User picture
    Admin
    Kris Carlon Nov 14, 2013 Link

    I'm not a huge fan of Hangouts, but I am now using it as my default SMS app (the old one sucked) and as a matter of course, Hangouts gets more play now too. I just wish you could combine SMS and chat conversations with the one contact and switch more easily from an SMS conversation to Hangouts (to avoid those SMS charges) so you can get an SMS but reply in Hangouts.

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  • Brennan West 10 months ago Link

    won't let me download

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    • User picture
      Admin
      Kris Carlon 10 months ago Link

      Hey @Brennan, what's the problem? Is it downloading the APK and then failing to install or is it not compatible with your device? Let me know what device you have and Android version etc and we'll see what the issue is. If you can be specific about where the install failure occurs that also helps.

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  • antonio-rodrigues 9 months ago Link

    Dual Sim users warning: doesn't have full support dual numbers with SMS :/ Will deliver SMS to first SIM number avaliable (you can't set default sim). Other than that, it's a great messaging app :)

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  • dee thomas 9 months ago Link

    what up

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