Google Unites Gmail And G+ Chat Into “Hangouts” Cross-Platform Text And Group Video Messaging App

Posted: May 15, 2013 in Apps, GT, Mobile, Startup
Tags: , ,

Today at I/O, Google rebranded “Hangouts” as a new
unified, cross-platform messaging system. It lets
people text, photo, and group video message across
Hangouts’ Android and iOS apps, plus its Gmail and
Google+ site integrations. Hangouts rolls out today,
replacing Google Talk [GChat] and G+ Messenger. While it doesn’t support SMS yet, it could challenge
Facebook Messaging and Apple’s iMessage. For over a year, whispers from GigaOm, Droid
Life and others signaled Google would undertake
a big unification of its fragmented messaging offering.
Today Google will offer new free iOS and Android
Hangout apps, the Google+ integration, and you can
upgrade from Google Talk to Hangouts by clicking on your photo in the Gmail chat list. There are currently
no plans for other platforms like Windows Phone or
Blackberry. Google’s Vic Gundotra said at I/O today in San
Francisco that “Technology should get out of the way
so you can live, learn, and love.” Operating systems
and devices shouldn’t matter. You just want to talk
with those you care about. That’s the point of the
revamped Hangouts. It brings humans and conversations to the forefront. Hangouts Is The Messaging Kitchen Sink Presence, Circles, And Delivery Let’s take a closer look at the features Hangouts
offer. Presence, or knowing when friends are available
to chat, is a big focus. You can see when friends are
on Hangouts, if they’re currently typing, and if they’ve
seen your messages [also known as read receipts].
Using Google+ Circles, you can select specific friends or a whole group to start a chat with. Hangouts takes care to deliver your messages to
whichever web interface or mobile app your friends
are using. If you’re offline, Hangouts will store your
messages until you return. Unlike Google Talk, it
won’t send you an email every time you get a
message while offline. It only pings you by email if someone starts a conversation with you while you’re
away. Hangouts won’t send you duplicate
notifications on different platforms, and you can
snooze notifications all together if you need some
quiet time. The idea is that you can start, stop, and restart a
conversation as you move between platforms, and
you can chat with friends across the desktop,
Android, and iOS devices. Text, Emoji, Photos, And Video Of course you can send simple text messages, but
where Hangouts shines is in vivid multi-media
communication. To spice up your words, you can add
any of 850 hand-drawn emoji. You can send photos in
Hangouts, which are saved to a saved to a Google+
album that you and you conversation partners can view, edit, and share later. In fact, you can go back
and view your photo and messaging history at any
time, or you can turn history off so your dispatches
aren’t saved. The crown jewel of Hangouts is its namesake’s video
chat. You can talk face to face with up to 10 friends
at once. When you’re in a video chat, you’ll see who
is talking in a big window while the rest of your chat
partners are shown in tiles below. Friends’ Hangouts
will ring when you call them, and they’ll get notified if they miss the digital meetup. But Hangouts video isn’t just a group FaceTime.
Google added a bunch of bells and whistles. You can
visual and sound effects or make use of special
Hangouts apps. So if you want to wear a virtual pirate
hat or set off some fireworks, you can. You can
watch YouTube videos simultaneously with friends while laughing together, and take screenshots to
capture moments for later. No SMS, Yet The biggest feature missing from Hangouts is the
ability to send and recieve SMS messages to and
from friends who don’t have a Hangouts app installed.
This means Hangouts isn’t truly universal. Several of
its competitors allow it, including Apple’s iMessage
and Facebook’s Messenger For Android (but not for iOS). So if you want to pull mom into a Hangout, you might
have to send her a standard SMS from your phone
and tell her to install the Hangouts app. That could be
significant stumbling block. However, Google tells us
SMS support is one of the most requested features
from Hangouts testers, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes in a future update. Oddly, Google tells us that in some countries, feature
phone users, but not smartphone users, can
participate in Hangouts via SMS. This should help it
reach more people in the developing world, a core
area for growth of messaging apps. Other missing features include voice messages or
VoIP, but you could just use a video call without
looking at the screen to approximate voice calling.
There’s also no Hangouts On Air broadcasting to
YouTube yet. Why Google Needs Unified Messaging The messaging space has become a battleground
recently with independent messaging apps like
WhatsApp and Line competing with Apple, Facebook,
and Google to rule private communication. Everyone
wants to become the high-tech successor to SMS. For Google, messaging could create a wealth of
engagement and monetization options. Of course
Google could monetize Hangouts directly by
cramming ads in it somewhere, or selling special
effects for video chat and stickers for text. But te A stronger, cross-platform chat experience in Gmail
could boost time spent there, where Google already
shows ads. It could also finally give people a real
reason to use Google+. Most importantly, though, Hangouts could humanize
Google. Still viewed as a search and ads company,
people don’t think about it first when they want to
socialize. Hangouts leverages all of Google’s powerful
technology to bring people closer together.

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