Mountain View yesterday at Google I/O announced their new messenger app, Hangouts, for Android, Chrome, and iOS! It has been a long time in the making, and it’s finally here. The Google Talk replacement is available for Android, Chrome, and iOS.
Hangouts brings with it a plethora of new features to toy around with, including group messaging, inline pictures, and more! As per the usual, if you’d rather watch the video review, just head down to the bottom of the article.
When you first open Google Hangouts you’ll be met with a new and fresh interface. The app opens to a window that shows your current conversations. Similarly to Gmail, you can archive messages by sliding your conversations to the left or the right.
By sliding to the right of the app you can start a new Hangout with someone. In the New Hangout page, you’ll see the people that you most frequently contact, and below that you’ll see everyone in your Google+ circles. If you have a lot of people circled, this list is pretty gigantic. Thankfully, you can easily search for a name or circle you want to chat with.
Hangouts doesn’t use the green or grey dots that Google Talk used to identify if someone is online or offline. Instead, you can tell if a contact is online if their profile picture is faded or clear. A faded profile picture means your contact is unavailable, and a clear picture means they’re online. One downside is that Hangouts doesn’t support the “invisible” status like Google Talk did.
After opening a conversation simply slide back to the left to go back to your active conversations list. At the top right is a plus sign that lets you start a new hangout. Similarly to Gmail, if you want to archive a conversation, simply slide them off the screen. You can view them later in the archived hangouts section of the app or your “Chats” category in Gmail.
Next to the plus sign is the menu button, which is made up of the usual three dots. In this menu you can access your archived hangouts, hangout invites, and you can set a notification snooze for an allotted amount of time. If you want to sleep and you keep your phone by your bedside, you can set it to eight hours. During that time Google Hangouts won’t bother you.
The settings menu isn’t really anything special. Really all you can do there is change your notification behaviors (i.e. set a new ringtone or turn notifications off entirely) or vibration settings. There’s also a way to control the blocked users list and customize invites for your circles. There also seems to be an option that’ll quickly take you to your Google+ profile page.
When you get down to the core of Hangouts, it basically functions the same way Google Talk did. You can have text conversations with people and start video chats just like you could on Google Talk. The difference here is that video chats are now Google Hangouts like they are on Google+ instead of normal video calls on Google Talk.
Google has had some new functionality to the app though. You can now have group chats, which was a much needed feature in Google Talk. In my testing, this worked seamlessly. It’s a great feature if you often need to have group chats with your team at work or with a bunch of gaming buddies during your downtime.
One of the best features of the new Google Hangouts app is the amount of emojis there are. Hundreds of them are available at your fingertips. There’s smileys, animals, dragons, and much, much more. I think you can easily say that there’s an emoji for every expression in Hangouts.
In the Chrome extension of Hangouts, you can make unicorns dance across the chat window. Considering that it has dancing unicorns, I’m quite disappointed with the lack of a nyan cat. Unfortunately, dancing unicorns (and nyan cats) aren’t available in the mobile app.
Lastly, one of the great things about Hangouts is that you can now share images directly through the app. This functionality wasn’t really there with Google Talk. Normally people would have to upload the picture elsewhere, such as imgur, and then paste the link. Now you can easily share files straight from your device.
Overall, the new Google Hangouts app is a vast, and welcome improvement over Google Talk. As was expected, Google has had a few launch problems. Some people aren’t able to get the Hangouts app working on their tablets, and some people aren’t getting switched from Talk to Hangouts a full day or longer after updating. Issues like these really dull the excitement of a big release. It shouldn’t be long before all of the kinks are worked out, as Google seems to be on top of things after already pushing out a new update since the app’s release yesterday.
SMS support for Google Hangouts also still seems to be up in the air. We’re not sure if that’s going to get added, but if it does, there’ll be a more positive outlook on the new Hangouts app. It’d also be nice if AT&T would unblock video calling through the Android version of Hangouts on their network. I guess you can’t have everything, can you?
Aside from the kinks that’ll eventually get worked out, there really isn’t a reason to not like Google Hangouts. Of course, at the time of this writing, the lack of SMS support is a tad disappointing.
You can update the old Google Talk app to get the new Google Hangouts. Keep in mind that it may take up to a few days to get the new interface though. You could also just download the new Hangouts app from the Google Play Store.