Hangouts has just received an…interesting…update. Hangouts 11 takes one major step forward and another peculiar step backward. First, the good: Hangouts 11 is now capable of sending video attachments, finally catching up to a function available on iOS for quite some time now. As for the bad: conversation merging – where SMS and Hangouts messages to the same person are combined in a single thread – has been removed.
Google claims merged messages have been removed because it was confusing to users and was a little-used feature. OK…but then again, Google also seems to think that microSD cards are “confusing” and I’m sure root would also count as a “little-used” privilege too. But they’re not going anywhere. Either way, this is the hand we’ve been dealt so we’ll just have to live with separated SMS and Hangouts messages in Hangouts 11.
As for video messaging, this is long overdue. It may not be enough to make ex-users flood back to the messaging service but it’s definitely a bonus for those still committed to Hangouts. Now, when you open a chat you’ll see an additional video camera button at the bottom. Tap that, grant Hangouts the permissions it requires, record your video, send, wait while it uploads and processes and then you’ll see your video message right there in your chat.
Unfortunately, you can't play the video message in Hangouts though.
Unfortunately, you can’t play the video message in Hangouts though. You’ll have to choose a third-party app for that. Likewise, when you record a video it will record in your default camera app. So, for example, on the Galaxy S7 Edge you’ll get a different recording screen than the Nexus 6P or HTC 10. Again, this is a third-party tie-in, not a native feature to Hangouts. To say this isn’t exactly seamless would be an understatement, but at least you get the camera interface you’re familiar with.
One final positive note to end on: if having your Hangouts and SMS separated for the same contact bugs you, simply disable SMS in Hangouts and choose an alternative SMS app like Messenger as your default. This will remove SMS from Hangouts and push them elsewhere (which is what Google wants you to do). It means you need to use a second app, but it’s a neater – and less “confusing” – solution than split message types in Hangouts.
Do you still use Hangouts? What do you think of these new changes?