The update brings quite a few features that have been requested ever since Google launched its integrated messaging platform.
Google has updated its Hangouts app for Android with a plethora of new features that aim to simplify the messaging experience, particular for text messages.
The biggest change comes to the way Hangouts handles SMS. Earlier, the app would have separate conversations for SMS and Hangout messages exchanged with a particular contact. After the update, these will be combined into a single conversation, and users will be able to select whether they want to send a message via Hangouts or SMS right from the conversation window. Conversations can still be separated, though Google seems to have left out the option to merge them back together.
Another highlight of the update is the simplified contact list, which is now divided into two main sections – People you Hangout With, and Phone Contacts. This is aimed at making it easier to pick contacts for sending SMS, though in actual usage it also makes the process a bit longer, as users must scroll through the Hangouts contact list before being to browse through contacts with phone numbers.
The last major feature is a new homescreen widget, which is pretty similar to the Gmail widget and simply lists all conversations for quick access. Other changes in the update are minor but still welcome, including performance improvements for video calls, option to long press on images to save them, separate voice and video call ringtones, and the highlighting of outgoing Hangouts messages.
Here’s the full changelog:
- Merged SMS/Hangout conversations: SMS and Hangout conversations with the same recipient are now combined into a single conversation. You can control whether you want to send a message via Hangouts or SMS with the flip of a switch, and different message types will be easy to tell apart in the conversation. Of course, you can always merge and unmerge conversations if you’d like
- Highlighted outgoing Hangout messages
- Simplified contact list: now there’s two main sections in contacts — People you Hangout With, and Phone Contacts — making it simpler to navigate, and easier to use for SMS
- More Prominent Presence Status (on call, moods, etc)
- New Notification sound
- Separate voice and video call tones
- Performance improvements: today’s update includes better quality video calls, as well as improved SMS and MMS reliability
- Home screen widget: add the Hangouts widget to your homescreen for quick access to your recent conversations
- Long press on images to save media
Overall, it’s a substantial update that goes a long way towards improving an app that has been among the more lackluster efforts from Google. The update is currently rolling out on the Play Store, though it could be up to a week or more before it propagates to all users.