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How to manage Hangouts: when one SMS app isn't enough!

If you have a Nexus 5, or have installed Google's Hangouts instant messaging and texting app recently, you may have found yourself a little confused by how the whole shebang works now that you have multiple text messaging apps installed. I'll clear up the confusion for you here.

google hangouts teaser
Hangouts just keeps getting better, but it can confuse things. / © Google

First up, if you have a Nexus 5 you would have Hangouts already set as the default messaging app. If you run a custom ROM like me, or added Hangouts at a later stage, you can set Hangouts as your default SMS app in your device settings - but only if you are running Android 4.4 or higher. Just go to the ''More'' section in Wireless & Networks and you'll see the ''Default SMS app''. Tap that for a selection of your installed messengers. You also have the option to access this area from within the Hangouts settings menu (if you are on KitKat).

AndroidPIT Hangouts Default
You can easily set your default SMS app in Android KitKat. / © AndroidPIT

Now, if you have any other pre-Android 4.4 device with Hangouts installed at a later date, you'll likely have another messaging app installed already: either the stock Android messaging app or another manufacturer-specific one like Samsung's ChatON. Because you don't have the ''Default SMS'' option in your Android settings, you have to go into Hangouts and ''Turn on SMS'' via Hangouts' settings. If you turn SMS on in Hangouts you will still be able to read SMS in your other messaging app, but you won't be able to reply. It's probably best just to delete the other messaging app (unless you are unable to, of course, either because your OEM won't let you or you don't have root access).

AndroidPIT Hangouts Settings
If you go into your Hangouts settings you can also set your default SMS app. The above screen shows the KitKat settings. Non-KitKat Hangouts will say ''Turn on SMS'' with a check box next to it. / © AndroidPIT

If you're stuck with two apps, you just need to know how to manage them. As mentioned above, you can still read SMS in both but only reply from Hangouts. If your device is running an older version of Android, that is, below Android 4.4 KitKat, then your old messaging app will no longer notify you of received messages (if you have SMS in Hangouts enabled). If you want your old SMS app to be in charge, simply disable SMS in Hangouts (or delete it) and/or switch your default SMS app.

AndroidPIT Hangouts HoverChat
Hangouts now has SMS or instant messaging options (left) and using multiple SMS apps just requires some management (right). / © AndroidPIT

The same goes for any new SMS apps you install (like Hover, for me). Whenever I got an SMS when I first installed Hover, I got double notifications, one chat head from Hover and a notification from Hangouts. I simply had to choose which app I wanted notifications from. You can switch defaults, delete the one you don't use, turn SMS on or off in Hangouts or finally, disable notifications for the unlucky app in your settings menu under Apps or App Manager (depending on your model). It's even possible, for example, to get Hover chat head notifications and then reply through Hangouts, simply by disabling notifications for Hangouts and then manually launching Hangouts when a Hover notification comes in. Not that neat, but it can be done!

Don't forget to check out my three indispensible apps for better texting.

Hangouts Install on Google Play

What is your preferred messaging app? Do you still juggle more than one?


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  • tekf33k3n May 23, 2014 Link to comment

    Is there a way to get Hangouts to stop pestering me to 'pick me, pick me, pick me' as the default SMS app? I like the SMS app I'm using better (hello) but Hangouts will pop up every now and then, begging me to use it instead. It's kind of annoying.

    • My1 May 23, 2014 Link to comment

      Ask Google.
      But no in "Google it" but really ask them. They developed it...

  • My1 May 23, 2014 Link to comment

    one more reason not to use KK...

    • tekf33k3n May 23, 2014 Link to comment

      That makes no sense. What does KitKat have to do with Hangouts functionality? This has to do with an app, not the OS.

      • My1 May 23, 2014 Link to comment

        It is not particularly about hangouts, but rather the SMS handling. If only the default app can send, then e.g your anti theft app cannot send warnings over sms...

  • Ann Droid May 23, 2014 Link to comment

    Does Hangouts backup my old messages from the other SMS app? In other words, before I delete my other app, I'd like to make sure I have the old sms' saved.
    edit: I have 4.3

    • Hi Ann, just install Hangouts and open it to make sure! When I installed Hangouts it automatically accessed my SMS archive and all of my messages were there. But I can't be sure this works on every device (although it should).

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