Previously code-named Babel, Google yesterday announced its new cross-platform unified messaging product called Hangouts. Shortly after, the software surfaced on Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play store for Android.
In replacing Google Talk, Hangouts supports one-on-one and group chatting across desktop, Android and Apple devices and includes photos, emoji, and video calls.
In a nutshell, the app integrates messaging from Google’s GTalk, Google+ Messenger, Hangouts and Voice products. But that’s just scratching the surface as Google obviously has big plans with the product…
For example, one of the most requested features – SMS integration – is “coming soon,” to Hangouts Community Manager of Hangouts and Chat, Dori Storbeck, wrote in Google+ post comments. SMS support would turn Hangouts into a viable alternative to Apple’s iMessage, which only works between iOS devices.
Plus, we know from previously that Google Voice integration is in the works, as are other features that didn’t make it in the initial release, such as the invisible status, voice messages, zoomable images, the ability to send video and group chat enhancements.
When you first fire up Hangouts, the app will ask you to confirm your number. Don’t worry – this isn’t a requirement. According to a Google support document, confirming your phone’s number with Hangouts helps those who have your phone number find you on Google services.
For example, your friends will be able to start a Hangout with you by typing in your phone number. This is really helpful if you don’t have a Google+ profile, or your friend doesn’t remember your email address.
Group conversations support photo transfers, emojis and status indicators. You can also turn any one-on-one conversation into a video call with up to ten participants.
And because Hangouts is a cross-platform solution, you can start a conversation on your iPhone, pick it up on your Mac or Windows PC and continue right where you left off on your Android tablet or iPad. For the time being, Hangouts is a decent 1.0 release.
Video chatting in Hangouts for iPad.
You can send photos in group conversations
Some of the headline Hangouts features include:
- View and continue your Hangouts across devices.
- Get notifications just once. After you see an alert, it’ll be removed on other devices.
- Snooze your notifications if you’d prefer to respond later.
- See what you talked about in the past, including shared photos and your video call history.
- Keep a record of any Hangout for just a short period of time by turning history off.
- View collections of photos shared from each of your Hangouts.
- Choose from over 850 emoji to express what’s on your mind.
As for the aforementioned SMS integration, DroidLife spotted an area labeled ‘SMS for Hangouts’ in the Google Account settings interface on the web.
“Tough to tell if this is new or not, but it does appear to be a way “to receive messages from Google+ Hangouts as SMS, when you are idle'”, the blog speculates.
Hangouts is available free via Apple’s App Store, Google’s Play store for Android and as a web app on Chrome Web Store. The universal binary supports your iPhone and iPad natively, but note that the software requires an iOS device that has a front-facing camera and runs iOS 6.1 or later.
Hangouts replaces the Google Talk Android app and the Internet giant notes that some folks may be unable to install the app on their Android device, or the Play Store ‘Open’ button could take them to the old Talk app.
Not to worry, this will auto-fix itself as Google is rolling out Hangouts to everyone over the course of several days. “Rest assured Hangouts will be available soon for all Android 2.3+ devices, tablets included,” release notes read.
Here’s a nice promo video.
If Google’s new chat thing isn’t your cup of tea, how about BlackBerry Messenger for iOS? Your boss is sure going to love it…
So, have you tried the new Hangouts app yet?
If so, how did you like it and is this something Apple should be worried about?