'Making/receiving phone calls is just the beginning', says product manager

Since Google's introduction of the new Hangouts chat service, members of the team responsible for deploying it have been working to reassure people that it will eventually include Google Voice as a component. And for good reason, as there was no mention of Google Voice at Google I/O even as the ability to make outbound Google Voice calls via the desktop Chrome extension was unceremoniously removed in the update to Hangouts from Google Talk. Product manager for real time communications at Google, Nikhyl Singhal, reassured everyone today that outbound calling for Google Voice is still available via Gmail, and took a moment to reveal more information about the future of the service. In a Google+ post, Singhal went on to explain that not only will Google Voice be seamlessly integrated into Hangouts, but that "Hangouts is designed to be the future of Google Voice". The team also intends to bring back full inbound and outbound calling functionality from the Chrome extension going forward.

While it's not completely understood why it had to remove the ability to make outbound calls on the desktop all together in this process, it's great to hear directly from Google about possible new features. Building on initial thoughts of what Google had up its sleeve for a unified chat service that would fully integrate calling and SMS, these bold statements have us cautiously optimistic about upcoming releases of Hangouts.

Source: +Nikhyl Singhal


Reader comments

Hangouts to integrate Google Voice 'seamlessly' in the future


And if you have used Talk, and you Have used Voice, you have to be seriously worried about Voice being merged into this mess.

I've used both extensively. This is a huge step up from Talk/G+ Messenger. Just because YOU get lost in the UI doesn't mean the rest of us do. I love it and the folks I chat with (our statewide Ingress group) also love it.

I used Google Talk extensively, but hangout doesn't work like talk (can't tell who's Online from my email contacts) and I don't want to gchat with my phone contacts since in can simply text them... So at the moment hangout is useless for me

Agreed 10000%... Once MMS is done, this will convert millions to GV. DO IT ALREADY GOOGLE!! They technology is there, just friggin do it already. NOW!

I hope they add MMS to this sertvice too!! Once they do, I'm gonna use my GV number exclusively. Mainly because it's personalized :)

in web, if there is a green line under the contacts they are online.

in mobile app if the contact is grey(not online), if its not grey then online.

I know its not very intuitative

Well, in my contact list nobody is gray so it means everyone is online?:) I don't think so:) Would have been better to keep those green dots:)


On Google Talk, it used to work the way he described it, but it is completely unreliable now.

Sometimes I have an active hangout open and have sent and received messages and its still grayed out, but if you slide to the contacts screen its not grayed out there.
It is internally inconsistent.

(Actually it seems that the list of hangouts are Grey if you read them and black if you haven't yet read that hangout since the last message arrived).

And if you have a hang out open, you have to CLOSE THE ENTIRE APP and restart it to get to your list of contacts again to just check if they are black or not. unless you hit the Plus sign to add a new hangout.

its not exactly grey. the contact picture will be dimmed out.
on my contacts on hangout I can see the difference

That tells you when a person is online. It doesn't tell anything about whether they're Available to CHAT. Being online and being available are NOT the same thing. I already have ways to contact people if I don't care when they respond; text/email/G+. I need IM capabilities (as do many many businesses who reply on IM to manage teleworkers) and the ability to have control. I don't want my phone/computer, ie. Google, controlling what they think is my availability. Hangouts is a huge step backwards from GChat/Talk in this regard. Time to find a new service.

There's no point in knowing this with the direction Google is taking this service.

You don't know if someone is next to their phone before sending a text or next to their computer/device when sending an email, do you? It is meant to be seamless program where you send a message, and the person will get it eventually.... like a text or email. It is meant to be Google's version of iMessage.

The way I see it, it looks like Google is trying to take things one step further than that. Hangouts is eventually trying to supplant your phone entirely. Complete replacement of voice, SMS, and MMS over a data connection using one program that virtually every Android phone (currently 75% of all sales) will already have installed. If Google does eventually start their own wireless service like has been rumoured for years, this sounds like a necessary first step to change the way people look at communicating with each other. All Google would then have to do is sell dumb data pipe access.

I'm cautiously optimistic that got Google will follow the Scott Forestall example and can whoever was in charge of this travesty.

Exactly the opposite.

The rollout pretty much worked as they expected.

The app itself is an inconsistent mess, unreliable, confusing, and does not half the time.

"The rollout pretty much worked as they expected."
Are we talking about the same app her? The one that was supposed to be available right away, except it wasn't and folks had to push updates from Play (until that stopped working)? The app some folks are still waiting for updates of? Either we're talking about different apps or you've been out fishing on the Hyak.

I chat with dozens of people on a daily basis in Talk/Hangouts (for Ingress). The only complaints I've heard from any of them about the app is what a pain it was to get it installed and then how do they mute an individual conversation (after which they facepalm because it was obvious).

I second that. And, please make them MANUALLY settable with an AWAY option (not just Busy). I don't want my phone/computer deciding when to make me Available. Just because I'm Online doesn't mean I'm Available. Something like the Green Robot lab would be great too.

If you text or email someone, do you know if they are online/away/busy before you decide to send the message?

NO. And that is EXACTLY why Hangouts needs status indicators. If I don't care when the person gets the message, I'll text/email/G+ them. If I need to chat with the person now, I use GChat or Talk. At least, I used to. IM is supposed to be Instant, hence its name. Appears that Google has moved away from supporting IM in favor of competing with Skype and iMessage. Will be interesting to see how many people/companies move to another IM service. Sad considering I've been a loyal Google user since Gmail became available.

Interesting process flow... though I think you might be a little backwards. Talk only flies for "right now" if the person is signed in. Personally, if I NEED to hear from someone, I text them, because I know they'll have their phone with them. Too many people are invisible, or always set to busy on Talk (nevermind G+ Messenger). It wasn't an instantaneous thing.
Eventually, the app will message someone by IM first, if they're not online then it will get sent via SMS. That's the process flow Google has approximately laid out. Online and offline become moot points.

Very many, I'm guessing in the millions, of businesses use IM as a way to manage and collaborate; especially with mobile workforces. They have stated policies that require staff working in various locations (at home, on the road, in a traditional office etc) to use a specific IM service and keep their status current so coworkers can efficiently communicate with one another during the work day. Being able to set a custom Busy or Away status like "Working on xxx report. Done a 3pm." lets your coworkers/manager know that you are actively working and prefer not to be disturbed but are available to chat if necessary. It's a great management tool and one that is used a lot. Because of this significant change to GChat/Talk, a scenario like this is no longer possible. I know of several businesses already scrambling to find an alternative. Not all companies can afford the luxury of changing their whole communication strategy because their chat provider has decided to go in a new direction with virtually no warning.
Hangouts, in its current form, may be a fun social tool but it lacks sophistication and usefulness for serious business users who need more than video chatting.

I've worked with a few companies that use IM clients. I haven't come across any that use GChat. Regardless ofthat though in my experience, both professionally and personally, busy notifications seem to mean squat to most people. Either they're going to bug you, or they're not. So you're either Available, or signed off.

If you get a message and you're busy, just ignore it. It's not a hard thing to do.

That's been my approach to texts, emails, and phone calls for years. People can TRY to get me at 3AM if they feel so inclined. I won't even get mad. Whether they succeed is another matter.

I don't think this will ever happen. Nor will they add an "invisible" status. Google is trying to shake things up. They DON'T want people to think of Hangouts as just another IM client...something that you can turn on or off. Hangouts works more like your phone: either it's on (signed in) or off (signed out). I think once Voice is integrated it will make more sense to people, because then you will have the ability to ignore a call. All you have to do to ignore a message though is just not look at it, same as an SMS/MMS/email.

Not really...a bit further than iMessage. Hangouts will eventually be able to replace your dialer, messaging, video calling, MMS, and IM all in one app. In fact, the only difference between SMS and IM should depend on what phone/service the receiving contact has, with no need to choose on the sender's end. I think Google is making a VoIP push here.

I'd love GV to be integrated!! I use it for both voice calls and SMS now, and I'd love to see it get some love with hangouts. I can only assume this is Google's way of making MMS and google voice integration easy on their coders and techs? Since building a service that allows MMS would just be a can of worms, this would be a much better solution, imho. Anything that allows me to send pics from my gv number is a plus in my book, since right now I'm out in the cold on that front

And, while they're fixing things up, how about figuring out a way to clean up/consolidate contacts scattered among my Gmail, G+, and Google Talk contacts. Maybe I've been doing something wrong, but, when I added a new contact to GTalk, instead of just letting me seamlessly add it into a Gmail contact, it creates this separate contact that I can only join to an existing contact on my phone. Same goes for G+ contacts. Joining contacts isn't rocket science, but the whole thing strikes me as a confusing mess, with each application managing their own contact systems.

Oh, and how about giving people a heads-up that a G+ profile hasn't been used for a long time, and then maybe doing a purge of long-dormant ones. Of course, Facebook could do with a bit of housecleaning as well, but that's another conversation. will give you the option to combine fragmented contacts. They could certainly make it easier though.

I would say make it an option to merge contacts, as I do NOT want my G+ contacts to be on my phone. I don't talk to anyone on G+ outside of G+ :P

I use Google Voice and GTalk extensively, specifically by making outgoing phone calls from Google Voice through GTalk. Well, I used to. Obviously, Hangouts has temporarily messed up my ability to do so. I hope Google fixes this soon. I'm glad I have Skype as a backup, but I liked using Google Voice/GTalk much better.

You can still make calls using Google Voice from the GMail website, and from the Chrome extension. No need for Skype at all.

I'd prefer to have google voice integrated into the dialer, somewhat like GrooveIP but more seamless, instead of messaging.

I believe it already is, at least on my N4. Ported my number to Google and now all my calls go out on GV with my GV number (as opposed to my T-Mo number nobody knows), as the GV app is set to handle all calls. Is there another level of integration you would like to see?

I thought it was this way on all GB+ Android phones. It gives me a choice to make all calls w/ Google Voice (my preference as well), none, or to ask me every call. This is WITHOUT porting my number, since if you make calls with Voice, the person you are calling's Caller ID will show your Voice number. You can't integrate it any tighter than that lol!

I think I put it mainly down to addiction from many years of BlackBerry, but it does have some real practical use to know that someone is a-okay enough to have read your message, even if they can't respond, or to know if they are still awake etc

That already exists. You can see if the person read a message by looking at the small profile picture that appears just below whatever message a person has read. If the profile picture appears ABOVE the message you just typed, then the person hasn't read the message yet. Once they do, their profile picture will drop below it.

This works for individuals or groups.

You're not the only one. Nobody seems to really 'respect' it. Either you're online or not, in which case they'll have to use some other method to reach you.

- the default list should be people who have Hangouts installed/enabled. People who don't have it yet shouldn't be so mixed in with those who do.
- show who's signed in and who's active/busy.
- higher quality pictures. I shared some and they are basically downsized to thumbnails.
- picture zoom functionality.
- animated gifs.
- voice calls.
- voice messages.
- sms/mms chatting as fallback option.

1. Hangouts/Talk cross communicate.
2. This is something folks are just going to disagree on.
3. I think the point with the pictures is that they SHOULD be thumbnails. It's a data-lite communication platform, not a way to send 5mp photos. That's what email/G+ are for.
4. See #3
5. Animated .gifs? Really?
6. Voice calls are coming with the upcoming integration of GVoice (RTFA)
7. ?

#7 will just be a voicemail left via GVoice integration. I would assume message translation will be in the bundle too.

No, if they are going to try and compete/replace the stock SMS app in the future. Then they are going to have to let you be able to view pictures sent/received in high quality.

Also, animated .gifs would be cool. The ".gif" file format was created in 1987. Animated .gifs were created in the early 90's. That's 20+ years ago. Give me a reason why we shouldn't be able to view them?

I'm not necessarily asking for 5MP pictures, but something larger than 320x320pixels would be nice. The current quality is so poor that you can't actually see what the picture is about. It's about 5x smaller resolution than what MMS allows for. It's pathetic.

And the lack of a zoom is inexcusable in today's age and technology. Trying to excuse it is just fanboyism of whatever Google does. If/when they increased photo size and added zoom, are you seriously going to complain about it? Your stance is absurd.

And yes, animated gifs. They are having a resurgence. Between animated emoticons and vine like gifs, they are needed in this day in age.

For some reason Google thought this was 1996 with the image size, lack of zoom, and lack of animated photos.

Does anyone know how Sms will be integrated? Right now I use Gvoice for my texts since they are free and don't use standard (carrier) sms.

Once all is merged voice, chat, and sms How will I be able to seperate which one is sending the sms text: gvoice or the carrier sms......

Anyone have any insight on this?

This is the big question for me too, since I use GV for both calls and SMS. The Voice SMS function is horrid (no threaded texts?) and considering stock messaging doesn't integrate with Voice, I've been using DreamBig's Messaging +Google Voice app, which worked very well until the recent GV update caused some problems. Now I'm using the previous version of Voice to keep the messaging app working, but would love to see it all come together in the future without losing too much.

With this future Hangouts, it would be nice to know that my texts and calls are using the Voice number, not the carrier. Messaging +Google Voice gives you the option to send by either and provides an indication of which number was used. I commend Google for trying to integrate these functions, but the devil will be in the details.

Hopefully Google Voice comes to other countries like Canada along with this... we've been waiting forever! Oh and don't forget about Google music All Access :(

My phone doesn't automatically open the app. I have to open it manually and then I get the message and future messages.

I was kinda pissed when they updated the Chrome extension and it removed call functionality. I actually use the calling function on the Google Chat extension quite a lot. Gmail was a pain in the ass because I would often forget that I had to keep the window open and hang up by accident.

I'm glad to hear that they are gonna integrate calling again. It's a big deal for me.

Hangouts is actually a pretty fantastic app.

Google Voice is great, but EXTREMELY dated. Once GV is integrated into hangouts or vice versa. And you can, send SMS, MMS, Video Chat, Emoticons through the GV/Hangouts app. I expect Google+ Messenger and Google Talk to be completely eliminated.

And only after all that, can we finally have a unified Android Messaging system. I believe, (Hope) this is the way Google will be approaching this. This, in my mind, would be perfect.

I don't know if anyone noticed it but one of my friends drew my attention to this problem. Check your sent mails in your gmail account...hangouts put every single chat message you've sent as a sent e-mail...this is just so stupid and it fills up your gmail with trash...