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Hangouts: what is dead can never die

Even just beginning to understand Google’s Hangouts strategy is a challenge. Hangouts, Messenger, Allo and Duo all coexist, are officially installed onto a billion devices, but are only actively used by a small minority of users. Seeing as Google only secretly pre-installed Hangouts onto the Pixel smartphones and just recently decided to shut down the programming interface (API) for video chats, it now seems that the end is nigh for the messaging service (soon to be added to the deal Google services graveyard perhaps?)

Is Hangouts doomed? Google has been quietly hinting at the fact the messenger service will be put to sleep one day very soon. The latest victim was the API that allowed third parties to manipulate video chat. It was also previously reported that Hangouts will be further developed as a standalone app, with a new focus on client companies.

Opinion by Eric Herrmann
Hangouts was never cool
What do you think?
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2310 participants

The messenger app was never really popular, even though it was pre-installed on the Android smartphones from all manufacturers in order to abide by Google’s guidelines. There are, however, a great deal of users who never started or activated the app on their device. Instead, they installed WhatsApp in order to stay in touch with friends.

A reason for this is likely because Hangouts was never really that hip. In the beginning of its existence, Google tested the patience of Hangouts users on a regular basis: pictures could only be sent and received via a Google+ account, a hurdle that was only resolved much later. Stats in the Play Store show that Hangouts was very rarely actively employed by users:

  Hangouts WhatsApp Facebook Messenger
Downloads > 1 billion > 1 billion > 1 billion
Rating ~ 2.5 million ~ 49.3 million ~ 37.6 million

That being said, Hangouts has quite a few advantages: it offers the best synchronization between devices and can be used easily on multiple devices, a feature that practically no other messenger service offers. Also, Hangouts allows for the smooth transition between video and voice calling.

A new app turns a new leaf

In October 2016, it was reported by Android Police that Google would no longer make Hangouts mandatory for smartphone manufacturers. Instead, starting in December 2016, manufacturers would have to pre-install the latest video and chat service Duo. Users are able to install Hangouts if they wish.

It seems that Google can’t really win the messenger game. All efforts in this direction have turned sour, seeing as users are already hooked on competitor services, ones with which they can actually get in touch with friends. Google really has no chance, no matter what they come out with next, just like we saw with the arrival of the Assistant app, Allo.

AndroidPIt google pixel XL 9797
Hangouts is deactivated on the Pixel. / © AndroidPIT

Hangouts cannot die…

...because it actually never lived. Already in its early days, the messenger service found itself being held under the water by weak marketing. It received new features much too late and was forever affected by the consequences. Since then, it could not be revived and lurks unused on millions of smartphones. There really were just a small group of users who discovered its strengths and knew to use them.

Hangouts found a special niche in the business world. Google, having realized this, is now turning its focus to businesses, a very smart and understandable move. Even I can see that Hangouts has a lot more going on in terms of syncing than Skype or WhatsApp.

However, private use of Hangouts is almost worthless. Only a few users use the service, most of which are tech nerds like me who got into it. Hangouts doesn’t have enough sex appeal to really make it. And as we can see from recent news, Google has started to snuff out Hangouts.

Did you ever get into Hangouts and are you sad by the turn of events? Do you think that Google will ever see more success in the area, and what would they need to do to achieve it?

Readers' favorite comments

  • Fred Jacobowitz 5 months ago

    I think you out of your mind. Hangouts is the best messaging service there is. As you stated .. it syncs flawlessly between phones, desktops and WiFi only tablets. A cell number is not required. I can jump from my WiFi only Nexus 7 to my Windows desktop and not miss a beat. Whoever didn't take advantage of this offering probably was not aware of its capabilities. I use it with my Google voice number to make phone calls from my desktop. I can let someone control my desktop from a remote location. Duo is not a replacement for Hangouts. It is absurd that Google is killing this. Perhaps it was the best kept secret.

  • Edward Amarille 5 months ago

    I use hangouts for SMS using my gvoice number, which coincidentally is the number I use for my personal business. So if hangouts is just being transferred over to business focus, it won't really bother me much.

    I do like the fact that I can go to any of my devices with hangouts installed (PC, iPad, iPhone, or Android) and easily pick up where I left off from the last device. No other messenger I've used sync's as smoothly no matter what operating system it is on.

  • Kyle Salewski 5 months ago

    You've got to be kidding me. This article reads like Hangouts is being discontinued, and it's quite the opposite. The old API is being retired since the new Hangouts video is launching. And this API is for the old version of the video call, where you can add apps inside them. Adding an app has already been disabled for a year. Get your facts straight.

  • Avichal Sharma 5 months ago

    Hangouts is the only decent messaging app out there, it doesn't require any phone number like most other apps. It works for both mobile and desktop. It's got screen share, multiuser video/voice call, and even commands for certain animations or symbols (like /shrug /ponies etc.). IDK what to use after hangouts kills itself because using phone no. for messaging app is out of question.

  • Kyle Salewski 5 months ago

    Don't listen to the OP, they aren't shutting Hangouts down

69 comments

Write new comment:
  • This actually made me very disappointed, because I have always been using Hangouts to communicate with other people and the fact that it is getting shut down will make me have to find another way to get in contact with them.

  • I use Hangouts to meet with groups of students all the time. I sure hope it doesn't die outside of the business world.

  • L. Howard 5 months ago Link to comment

    Hangouts is wonderful. I just wish I could get more people to use it. My mom uses Android devices and we use Apple, but my daughter can use hangouts to video chat with her since we relocated. She can also use it to call certain persons and not occupy my cellphone. I've been using Google Voice for years and once I integrated that into Hangouts, I got used to it and like it. It's not dead. People just were never shown all its benefits. Just installing on devices doesn't mean people understand how it works.

  • markdj 5 months ago Link to comment

    Hangouts will not die and cannot die. It's part of the Gsuite of apps. This is a terribly written article and you should feel bad for writing it. The API that is getting shuttered if in the old version of desktop hangouts interface, no one uses that anymore.

  • I love hangouts and have used it everyday for a 2 or 3 years now. Hopefully it's not going away for good. Who else got really upset when they got rid of the merging hangouts with sms feature like I did?

  • Love hangouts, it used to be my go to all in one messeging app, I wish Google had GV #s in Canada so it would of been my go to all in one communications app. I still use Hangouts with those that have hangouts, but for locally, since they decided to unmerge SMS and H/O I use messenger for SMS. Tried Allo and Duo, and what a waste of time and energy that Google did when they could of put those efforts to make Hangouts the killer all in one communications app destroying facetime

    • markdj 5 months ago Link to comment

      You know what? Facetime only works on iOS and macs, it is only one video to one video, so anything can pretty much beat it. Duo has it best in quality and cross platform compatibility for phones anyway.

  • CJ Hardy 5 months ago Link to comment

    LOL... In case you had not noticed already, Hangouts has millions of happy users that would be VERY unhappy if Google discontinued it. Improve it - of course. Merge it with something else, evolve it... whatever. But kill it? Dump it's excellent functionality? I doubt highly Google would ever do that. You may want to reconsider some of your conclusions.

    • markdj 5 months ago Link to comment

      Hangouts will continue and improve for consumers and business users.

    • Bastian Siewers
      • Admin
      • Staff
      5 months ago Link to comment

      Well, Google themselves are saying that the want to move Hangouts to a Business app. We don't really agree that that's a great idea, but that's what they are actually doing. And what's going to happen to Hangouts in the long term is a whole different question...

      • markdj 5 months ago Link to comment

        That's not exactly accurate, they will promote using it for business but Google have also said they will keep it for consumers too

  • storm 5 months ago Link to comment

    Hangouts coupled with a Google Voice number is an excellent tool. As just an SMS client, who cares. But it really brings the completion to the Google Voice experience. Google Voice is a superior service of phone calls and messages. Keeping all that in sync with the SMS on the same number just makes it transparent to your contacts and maximizes your use of your phone and associated numbers. The wifi and computer access are gravy.

    Not the solution for everyone, but if you use GV, Hangouts was, and continues to be, an excellent service.

  • I've NO Idea what el Goog is up to. I gave up when they junked Reader. Hangouts is thisclose to being the Perfect Messaging service. Just "Materialize" it and it's fine. It's also the Only messaging app (aside from Allo) that lets me use my Valuable Google Voice number. (But Allo can't be set as a default message app). Poor design choices for Hangouts is a Major Mistake : they've Materialized everything but Hangouts & Voice. Seems like the writing is on the wall. Why didn't they combine Allo & Duo? Why can't I use my G Voice with Messenger? There are now 4 apps that are duplicates and only 1 (maybe 2 w/Allo's G Voice support but not Duo)? Different departments are messing All this up and my iMessage brother is laughing his ass off at Android/Google. All el Goog had to do was use the Allo/Duo app designers to work on Hangouts and if you like carrier billing then Messenger is your go to app. I Rue the day when both Hangouts and Voice are junked. Yet all signs lead to this Major Mistake!!

  • So people need an app with "sex appeal". That's the dumbest excuse I've ever seen.
    Hangouts is one of the easiest to set up and talk with, through Google Plus (hence the old G+ on PC), PC and smartphone, without it eating up every CPU cycle and RAM memory on your phone as the others (I'm looking at YOU, Facebook and your atrocious Messenger app). It's seamless across-the-board, and I wouldn't take anything else above it.

  • I used it to communicate with my kids. They have an Android phone without a sim card. WiFi only. But hangout allowed me and my wife (iPhone user) to chat with them. Plus they used it to "call's their friends without a cell plan. It was the perfect app for my family.

  • Jen Doyle 5 months ago Link to comment

    Hangouts allows multiple people in a chat window - making it perfect to organize groups of people, or keep them abreast of an emerging situation. The only thing I would change about it is to make it *searchable*.
    But the opinion (and this is an opinion piece) one person has that it never gets used is based on the number of ratings? Because Hangouts has been around for so long, no one is going to repeatedly rate the app when they get a new device. I've had it on 2 tablets, 2 laptops, and 4 cellphones. I rated the app *once*. Instead of contacting Google and other app companies referred to in the article, the writer picked an arbitrary statistic that matched their opinion.
    Selection bias is an enemy of logical thinking.

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