Google Hangouts – Everything you need to know

May 16, 2013
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    HangoutsArticle

    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.

    HangoutsScreenShots1

    Design

    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.

    HangoutsScreenShots2

    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.

    Functionality

    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.

    HangoutsScreenShots3

    Conclusion

    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.


    Get it on Google Play

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    Comments

    • http://www.facebook.com/dander.mcsullivan D’Ander McSullivan

      If Google adds sms support, voice chat, video sharing and some kind of Google Drive integration which makes easier to share documents and files and stuff, I’ll give them my soul. Again.

    • http://twitter.com/MattFisher515 Matt Fisher

      Mine still doesn’t work…still old fashioned Google Talk…on Verizon Galaxy Note 2 4.1.2

    • Damian Salvatto

      Mine updated right away….well not until after i rebooted my phone. No problems what so ever. Can’t wait for the sms to be added.

    • SebaKL

      That’s cool!
      I really wish to have everything consolidated in one app, rather than jumping between Whatsapp and other tools. All, within one ecosystem.

      As said in earlier comments, sms integration would be fantastic, but I’m pretty pleased with the app as it is.
      Thanks for the detail break down, AA!
      Very informative indeed.

    • Jens Christensen

      That’s nice, I suppose. I generally don’t use messenger apps, but I would use this if sms support was integrated.

    • http://twitter.com/44R0N Aaron Weyhrich

      *Installation – Big ‘ol blank.*
      _Many of us headed straight to the Play Store to install/update the app only to be met with “Talk” launching._
      The only way I have been able to install the app on any device has been by installing it from Google Play on the web, in a browser.
      (besides sideloading the apk)

    • Luke Pellegrini

      Is it a replacement for the Google+ Messenger app as well? Or just Google Talk?

      • EeZeEpEe

        Replaces both.

    • captin

      if I have the new hangouts and my contact does not then how it works ????

    • Sam

      When android launched….I am the person ….who brought the android b’coz it has gtalk……I liked 3 status[available,away & invisible]……Which i used frequently……b’coz of android battery issues…i switched 2 iphone….which does not have gtalk….then worried myself……other android users has gtalk they are enjoying the gtalk appp…….Now…..I am happy ….Thanks for google….Now even android users does not have proper messaging apppp :))))))))))))))

    • Cameltoad

      Terrible. The change to Talk is huge. I’d like to know who is ‘available’ before i start sending them messages. Chatting is different than texting, which i would do if they weren’t online, but it would be ‘text mode’ and not chat/conversation mode. Would like to know what others now do about the lack of the Talk experience as it was.

      • Redger

        Agreed. Not a fan of an endless list of contacts that may or may not be available and may or may not ever check the service to see if they have a message. I’m generally a pretty huge fan of Google products but this seems to be a bust…

      • disqus_tCQDbz5FhH

        What happened to the status? I hate how you can’t tell if someone is online or not. I miss the Talk interface.

        • JImBob

          I uninstalled the Hangouts app, and Talk was available again on my Galaxy Nexus. The only problem that I can see is that when I now set my Talk status to invisible on my Nexus, I simply show up as idle on another device. A small price to pay for my stupidity of updating to Hangouts.

          • dhinged

            I turned off Google Play Store automatic updating on all of my devices a long time ago for exactly this reason. I would get an app update, suddenly the interface would suck (gigantic pictures everywhere, removed features) or take up too much memory or slow down the device. I have plenty of legacy apps running on my devices that run just fine. I don’t need Facebook reording my apps or drawing over other apps.

      • António

        totally agree – why the hell should I have to go through a giant list of contacts to see who’s online? and even then, how come the guys at google thought that everyone would see the slight difference between an online contact and an offline (faded out) ??? really…?

    • Sergey Tsyapenko

      On my n4 it works in tablet ui, why?

    • Aaron Girard

      I need to know who is available before I can contact them. I also want the people available to be on the top of the list, and the green, yellow, red was VERY important!

    • theyregone

      I miss the cute android emoticons. :(

    • dhinged

      Problem with this: it requires me to use Google+ with all of my work Gmail accounts, including accounts I made specifically for each Android device (so I don’t have to put my personal Gmail on them), which then creates duplicate Google+ accounts of me that I will never use and are indistinguishable from my personal account. I already two Google+ accounts that I don’t use that multiple friends or family have followed… and I can’t even sign into one of ‘em.

      Streamlining messaging into one app might be easier for people who don’t see the difference between an “account” and a “person”, but for me it’s easier to keep them separate as I do know the difference, and that people can and will have multiple accounts for the same service. It’s a nice _option_, but not a good _requirement_.

    • MadMurr

      One of the things I liked best with google chat was the “off-the-record” setting. Has it gone now in Hangouts, given that they tell you it keeps a record of all your conversations/chats in the new app?

    • António

      1. it sucks not to have a “online” or a “gtalk only” list of contacts and that I have to go through ALL of my PHONE contacts and try to figure out which ones are not faded out
      2. it sucks not to have a “home” ?? button – I always have leave the app and open it again in order to see my contact list (or if there is a home button it is not visible)
      3. I have to perform at least 2 actions to start a conversation (select person and THEN start a hangout)
      3. points 1 and 2: wtf were they thinking about?

    • António

      my question to the guys who built the app (or their bosses) is: are you retarded?

    • BillA

      You must be kidding me… You cannot see who is online…worse still, it takes ALL the contacts from your phone and puts them into Hangouts…including the Police Department contact, the local school district weather line, etc. The clutter is unbelievable. This is a HUGE step back for the GTalk instant messaging functionality.

    • Benu

      this is one of the most pathetic app google has ever made. Changed the whole concept of chatting .. and the ios app is so pathetic.. I get chats late. Most of the time, it shows no internet connection, when other chat apps are running fine.

    • Benu

      Google + is a pathetic concept and google is forcing it upon us.. time to search for better option than google. Google is no more interesting..

    • Shele

      I have pictures “stuck” on my phone that I shared thru Hangouts. Absolutely cannot get them off… which I would really like to do without restoring my phone. any ideas???

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