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Hangouts vs Skype: The differences and similarities explained
Google Hangouts and Skype may have fallen behind Zoom throughout the pandemic. However, they still have plenty of users who use the platforms almost every day. The basic premise is the same, but there are many differences between the two services in terms of their features. Which one to choose in the Hangouts vs Skype battle comes down to precisely what you want and need from a messaging service.
On this page, we’ll compare the two platforms head-to-head and explain their differences as well as similarities. We also go through which one is better for business users and explain the paid business options. Let’s dive in.
Hangouts vs Skype: Similarities
Both Hangouts and Skype offer the basic features expected from a messaging app. They allow you to send messages to your contacts and make video and audio calls. You can share files like videos, images, and documents, among others. Both services also support group chatting, though each has its series of limitations in place that we’ll touch on later.
Hangouts and Skype can be used on desktop and mobile devices and support several different platforms (Windows, Android, iOS). Messages automatically sync between devices, so you can pick up where you left off if you decide to switch from a PC to your phone in the middle of a chat.
Skype and Hangouts are both free.
As you would expect, both services are completely free. However, both offer the option to add credit to your account that you can use to call any phone number from your Hangouts or Skype account and pay for it by the minute. It’s not something most people need, but it’s there for those that do.
We’ve tested both apps for quality and speed, and we did not notice a significant difference between them. We sent messages and placed video calls, achieving similar speeds across the board.
Hangouts vs Skype: Differences
Though the broad strokes are similar, the two services are very different. The Hangouts app is more straightforward and less feature-packed than Skype, making it easy to pick up and use.
On the other hand, Skype lets you delete and edit the messages you have sent. You can also react to messages with various emojis and quote messages and forward them to a different contact. You can even send audio messages hassle-free and create polls. However, you get none of those features with Google Hangouts.
Then there’s video chat. You can group chat with up to 50 people on Skype, while Hangouts allows 25 people. Skype also offers great features for video chat that come in handy for small businesses, various online meetings, or just a casual conversation between two friends. You can share your screen with others, record the chat, and even turn on subtitles if you can’t hear the call clearly.
Hangouts, on the other hand, offers nothing like that. It just lets you see and speak with one or more people, and that’s more or less it. There are no useful extra features available like there are on Skype. You can use filters, though, which make the conversation a bit more interesting. For example, you can put on a pirate hat on your head with the press of a button, but that feature is only available on desktops.
Next up, let’s talk about encryption. Both Skype and Hangouts encrypt the data between your device and the companies’ servers. That means it’s tough — if not impossible — for someone to snoop on your conversation while you’re on public Wi-Fi, but both Microsoft (Skype owner) and Google (Hangouts owner) can technically see your messages and other activity if they want to.
However, unlike Hangouts, Skype also offers end-to-end encryption, which means that Microsoft or anyone else can’t see the messages you send. You have to open up a “Private conversation” with a contact to use this feature. The downside of this is that you lose out on many features, including options to edit, delete, and forward messages.
There’s also a big difference between the two services regarding the user interface. Although this comes down to personal preference, I have to say that Skype has a more modern design that’s a lot easier on the eyes than Hangouts.
While both services are available on loads of platforms, only Skype has a Windows app, while you have to use Hangouts via a browser on a PC. However, the advantage of Hangouts is that you can use it with a Google account, which you likely already have. You have to sign up for a Microsoft account to use Skype (if you don’t have one already), which isn’t a big deal but worth mentioning.
Another thing worth mentioning is the advertisements. Unfortunately, you’ll see annoying ads in Skype’s apps. We haven’t seen ads of any kind so far while using Hangouts, so bonus points to Google.
Hangouts vs Skype: Which one is right for you?
There’s no doubt that Skype is the superior option. It looks a lot nicer and offers a lot more features. I especially like the ability to edit or delete the messages sent and the chance to react to the messages received. I also like that I can start a private conversation that offers end-to-end encryption, although I’d prefer if every message I sent or call I made would offer this protection — just like Viber, Signal, and a few other apps.
Skype is a better option overall.
For me, the choice is clear. I’d take Skype over Hangouts any day of the week. However, that may not be true for everyone. We have to keep in mind that Hangouts has advantages over Skype, although just a few.
The first is the lack of ads, which is a good reason for some to overlook Skype and go with Hangouts instead. Another is that Hangouts is a part of your Google account, so you don’t have to sign up for the service individually. You can use the same password for Hangouts that you’ve already committed to memory. Once you’re signed into one Google service, you’re automatically signed in to all of them anyway.
So, to sum up, Google Hangouts is right up your alley if you want a simple app that does all the essential features right. But if you want as many features as possible, Skype is the way to go.
If you’re still having second thoughts about which one to use as your primary messaging app, test them both out for yourself. Also, consider which of these two apps are used by your friends and family. A messaging service is meaningless if you don’t have anyone to chat with, regardless of how good it might be.
Note: Please keep in mind that Google plans on killing off its Hangouts app. It will be replaced by Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet, which are already available for business customers — more on that in the next section. Consumers are expected to get access to them this year.
Hangouts vs Skype for business use
For one-on-one or group business-related video chats, Skype is a much better option. It allows up to 50 people to join in, instead of just 25 supported by Hangouts. Skype also lets you record a meeting and share what’s on your screen. Unfortunately, the free version of Skype is still not suitable for many businesses, as it lacks a few standard features. These include the ability to turn off your mic or the mic of one of the participants.
For that reason, both companies have paid services aimed at businesses, big and small. Google has two: Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet. The first one allows for secure team messaging, either one-on-one or within a group chat. On the other hand, Hangouts Meet is a video and voice conferencing tool for up to 250 participants per call on its most expensive plan.
Microsoft used to offer Skype for Business but replaced it with Microsoft Teams, a service that combines messaging and video conferencing into one.
Hangouts Chat and Meet are part of the Google Workspace subscription plans that bring you many other valuable services. Pricing starts at just $6 per user. On the other hand, Microsoft Teams is free, but it only allows for messaging and file sharing between team members. You’ll have to pay at least $5 per user to get the video conferencing feature included in your plan. And just like Google Workspace, Microsoft Teams also includes other services like OneDrive storage and more.
Once you add features, the two services are very different, making it impossible to proclaim one winner. Both get the job done, though. Your best bet is to check the pricing offered by both services along with the included features via the buttons above and then decide which is a better fit for your business needs.
Alternatives to Hangouts and Skype
While Hangouts and Skype have the power of Google and Microsoft behind them, they’re far from your only options. Video conferencing platforms have become all the rage throughout the pandemic, so you have plenty of freedom to try new options. Here are just a few of our favorites:
If anyone had a good 2020, it has to be Zoom. The video conferencing platform became the backbone for plenty of work from home offices and remote learning. Universities and elementary schools alike turned to Zoom to help get kids back to learning. The platform itself is free, though you’ll face a strict 45-minute time limit for unpaid meetings.
Many schools and organizations pay for premium Zoom access, which means that you can use an owned account to start a meeting without a time limit. You can also record your meetings if some of your teammates can’t make it on time. We use Zoom here at Android Authority, and it works very well for our global team.
Microsoft is already the team behind Skype, but it also offers the Teams platform for business-minded users. It’s similar to Skype, though it provides expanded support for groups of up to 300 users. You can record meetings and share your screen, which are features unavailable to Skype users.
You can test Teams for yourself in a few Office 365 plans from Microsoft, though there’s also a free version available. Microsoft offers a special six-month free trial as part of its pandemic response if you want to try the premium features.
Our last Skype vs Hangouts alternative is Discord, and it does things a little differently. You can primarily use Discord for its chat feed (something like Slack) or plug in your trusty microphone for voice calls with your team. Discord offers Go Live video calling, though the attendance limit keeps you at 50 users.
If you choose Discord, the first thing you’ll want to do is set up a server. This allows you to create chatrooms for your team, and the privacy features keep others outside of your organization at bay.