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Hangouts: what is dead can never die

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.

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?

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Readers' favorite comments

  • Fred Jacobowitz Jan 11, 2017

    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 Jan 11, 2017

    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 Jan 11, 2017

    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 Jan 11, 2017

    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 Jan 11, 2017

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

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  • 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.


  • 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 Jan 12, 2017 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 Jan 12, 2017 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.


  • 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 Jan 12, 2017 Link to comment

      Hangouts will continue and improve for consumers and business users.


    • 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 Jan 12, 2017 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 Jan 11, 2017 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.


  • 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.


  • I agree with all the cheers. Hangouts is still great (though not as great since they UNMerged our chats). The evolution from Voice was painful, but it's been a good ride. Now with the Hangouts dialer, it's become my main phone number for SMS, MMS, Voicemail transcription, Free VOIP calling. I don't even share my real cell number any more because Hangouts just so configurable. I even got another POTS style phone to use Hangouts for calls at home now.
    As for Allo/Duo, it would have helped if they had picked ONE app, with a decent name, oh yeah and maybe make it available for our phones… .(Still not on the Play Store for me). Constant name changing is bad marketing. Even a silly name with longevity is better than a new one.
    … which begs the question… what's going to happen to our GrandCentral numbers? Back to Google Voice?


  • I love hangouts I use it to stay n touch with my fiancé who is overseas fighting for our country n few other friends I talk to n stuff I would miss it a lot n miss talking to my fiancé a great deal n get to talk to my soon be six yr old little boy we have bonded n he says to me every night I love u mommy n daddy n to my dogs n he is just the greatest little boy n my life n I love him n his dad very much so keep hangouts alive please


  • Google come uo with Really bad name.
    Unsutable for enterprizes not very business word. And almost impossible to pronounce by Eastern Europenians.


  • Hmm. Not hip. I guess hip is the important thiNg since the whole world runs like pop music, since it's all about data mining and ads.

    Working across several career fields since hangouts came out it was the only messaging app used professionally in my organizations. From government to gov contracting to sales to education ... We all used hangouts. So easy. Could be used in facilities with no cell phones without a hiccup. Use it all the time still.

    What options do you have other than hangouts? Don't say Facebook, as that is A Taboo to any professional or government worker, frequently banned and blocked at work. Only the younger employees use it. Skype? Junk product. Were all already using gmail and other Google services. No one is using Microsoft services. Seems to leave ICQ and AoL IM. Which of course is a joke. Irc clients are a pain to set up for many.

    Of course there are tons of messengers, but hangouts is already integrated with every professional's life. What next, are we going to be told to use Hotmail? Ha! Our work filter won't even allow Hotmail addresses into our mail server .


  • Best messaging app for business as it integrates with gmail and your google account. You never lose a message, it's searchable. Very spartan appearance, no distractions compared to FB's messenger app and skype. Good call quality. Messages and calls go through reliably, compared to skype. Not so intrusive, unlike viber which requires access to your contacts. Accessible from a web browser, so I can use it at any internet cafe. And because it is preinstalled on android, it is easy to request anyone to convert their messenger w/o them having to install any new app on their unit.


  • Absolutely love hangouts...its reliable. I use it over Skype for messaging clients, partners and more.


  • I love Hangout . And i love Google . And i love my ProjectFi phone . So am hoping Hangout stays .


    • Eh... Project Fi? Fairly indifferent, but I don't recommend it to my friends. Good for people that never use data. Emergency phone ... And since the Nexus 6... What ya got???


  • I hope they don't take it away, I love hangout because I don't have to give out my phone number to people that I may not want them to have. Whatsapp is just voice calling it don't allow for video chat. On hangout you can send a video message I hope that it stays around.


  • I tried them all, so far I stick to it because nobody could beat it. I use it all across my platforms; beginning a video call from my PC and switch it over to my phone to go and show something to my friend and then go for a drive switch it over to voice, get home and switch it over to my laptop or tablet. The whole thing is just perfect for me, except as of late something got broke and it doesn't ring properly across my devices anymore and it sometimes think I'm still in a call when I'm not, stayed stuck a whole weekend. I also like that my search in Gmail returns Hangouts conversations as well so I can retrieve that URL my friend gave me... You get the picture I guess. I use group chat once in a while too...


  • Terrible analysis. "Wah, it's not hip." "Wah it's not sexy." I understand that this is an opinion article but reach down deep inside of you next time and try to find some of your writing ability.


  • Hangouts is tightly integrated with Project Fi as well, so I hope it will continue. Half it's lack of adoption is probably due to it's unfortunate name. While in Europe last year my phone stopped working, but thanks to Hangouts I was able to get by using my Asus 8 inch tablet.


  • I use Hangouts for one reason and one reason only; it is the only app that properly handles text messages sent and received through my Google Voice number. If the would add Google Voice support to Google Messenger I would gladly move away from Hangouts.


  • 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.


  • I am very sad to hear Hangouts is going to end. I have been using this service for years now and my Hangouts is my only cellphone number, syncing not only from my phone that has no service, but also being able to make calls through my PC via email, the actual Hangouts website, or Google + is wonderful. Skype doesn't have that ability at all. Also as a single woman it allows you to be annyoumous when creepers ask for your phone number, Getting the "Please wait while we try to connect you to the Google subscriber you are calling" allows them to get the hint quickly. I believe that this project may have failed, because of promotion.. Many people still don't know what "Hangouts" is therefore how can they use something if they don't know is out there as an option? I hope GOOGLE reconsiders killing Hangouts.. Cause Skype suc ks and Whatapp is boring.


  • Gary S Jan 11, 2017 Link to comment

    It's pretty sad that such a useful app has to be trashed just because it's not an as "hip". Those of us who actually tried it and know how much better it is than other messaging apps will have a hard time finding a replacement. I guess I'll have to switch to whatsapp soon. It probably comes with really cool Emojis or whatever they're called. 😠


  • 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.


    • That's good to hear, I use hangouts almost exclusively. Could you explain it like I'm 5 though, about the API, please? Will it be mainly the same, if you could guess?


      • Sure.
        This was the old interface, where developers could create apps for Hangouts video: goo.gl/gqZdfu
        It allowed users to wear funny hats, draw on faces, build interactive poker card games, etc. A key feature was calling a person from within a video call.

        This is the new interface that went live early 2016: goo.gl/PNih3W
        It doesn't allow apps, it is just a simple video call that allows screensharing and chat.

        The old interface has only been available via YouTube Live Events or if you went to g.co/hangouts to start a video call or if you were a paid G Suite Business user. So majority of users that use the video Hangouts won't even notice a difference. Also, there are still some apps that are allowed (UberConference, Control Room, etc).

        Hope that helps explain some things.


  • I just used it this Xmas to video conf my daughter's phone in Oregon, my parents don't esktop in NY, and my Chromebook on Cali. You're right about MMS and other features that were slow to roll out, but I've been using it to make call via my GC and Nexus 7. I'll miss it for sure.


  • 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.


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


      • Hello Kyle, the article isn't actually saying that it is shutting down but it is definitely possible. And to be quite frank, in terms of Messengers anything is possible when we talk about Google ;)


      • I wish this was not the case at Google, but you are correct. The whole company is in Beta.


      • Sounds like you are tring to hint at us that they are going to start charging for all this convenience…


      • The article isn't saying it but it is implying it, and I know that just by reading the comments since everyone else is reading it the same way and is worried that the service they use will be no more...


    • well said... me and my friends and family all use hangouts and enjoy the synchronized platform etc....


    • Couldn't agree more. Especially with the combination of Google Voice, Hangouts is objectively the best messaging solution out there. I can do calls, SMS, voice, video, location, stickers, groups, screen sharing and more, on Desktop, PC, Mac, browser, Android, iOS, and watches.

      No other platform comes close. Without voice integration, I couldn't do SMS on the desktop which makes it less appealing, but even still, it's more capable then any other solution. Instead of diluting the user base by letting other teams inside Google push Allo and Messenger, or trying to rebrand Hangouts for enterprise only, Google needs to embrace it by bringing to Hangouts the few features Allo and Messenger have.

      If Google continues down this road, they're only helping WhatsApp because messenger and Allo are lacking as their dual existence proves (or they'd be a single app).

      Who cares about sexy when it comes to something as critical a messaging. We have Smart "phones" to communicate. If that can't be done well, there's a much larger issue to be discussing.

      Google has already lost me as an enterprise customer by acting like real business relationships can be forgone with their email-only, slow-ass pseudo-support model. Are they going to alienate me on a personal level too?

      They're going to take themselves full circle, back to only being a search engine if they don't commit to something and make at least one of their products stable.

      Next, are they going to tell me Gmail is being phased out because it's not sexy enough?


    • I agree. And now that I'm on Project fi it's even better for me because I can get my texts and calls on any of my devices.


    • I agree completely and used Hangouts in the same capacities. I'm very disappointed to hear the news. My entire family of six sons and I have 'always' used Google voice and Hangouts, and I really don't want to use Skype and FB Messenger. Bummer.


    • markdj Jan 12, 2017 Link to comment

      Google is not killing hangouts. The suggestions in this article are false


  • Chad D Jan 11, 2017 Link to comment

    Wow, so where do all of the GV users go?


  • thank you google for removing one more stupidity from beautiful android world.


  • 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.


  • I have Hangouts disabled on my new Zmax Pro, and if I ever get a phone I can root, it'll be one of the very first pieces of stupid bloatware to be uninstalled, if in fact it's still present. Glad to see it's going away; now if they'd release something to uninstall the stupid thing, that'd be REALLY great!

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