There's a new version of Google Hangouts on the way, and it's going to bring some substantial improvements. Version 2.1 of Hangouts for Android's biggest change is going to be in the way that it handles conversations with the same person over multiple channels. Currently if, say, I'm conversing with Phil over SMS through Hangouts, it'll be a separate conversation than our instant message-style Hangouts chat. With Hangouts 2.1, those two conversations will be merged into one continuous discussion.
When talking to a friend with a merged contact you'll have the option of switching between Hangouts chat or SMS, and the message source will be visually distinct. You'll also have the option of de-merging a conversation, should the unified flow not suit your needs.
As a side note, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how much the merging of conversation streams like this is reminiscent of webOS Synergy.
While the merged conversations are the highlight of the Hangouts 2.1 update, there will be more to behold in addition. For instance, the contacts lists has been simplified to two sections: People you Hangout With and Phone Contacts. Quality of video calls has been improved, as has SMS and MMS reliability. And, lastly, there will be a homescreen widget so you can access your conversations even faster.
The update will be available in the Google Play Store this week — once you've got it, let us know what you think. Or you can sound off now on the potential (good or bad) for these to-be-merged conversations.