new stuff

Big changes are coming to the Android Hangouts client

As expected. Google has announced a few new features to the Android Hangouts app during their Google+ event today. There are three new features coming:

  • Locations sharing
  • Animated gif support in chats
  • SMS messaging support

We reckon the first two have their fans, and we can see that they would be useful, but let's be honest — SMS support is what everyone wanted. With Google's planned changes to the messaging API we predicted this would happen, and we're glad to see it wasn't announced as a Kit Kat-only feature.

No exact word on when we should see any updates, and Vic Gundotra simply said they were happy to announce this today. We'll be on the lookout for it, and we imagine many of you will be, too.


Reader comments

SMS messages, animated gifs and location sharing to come to Hangouts app for Android


+1000 THIS! F SMS, I want MMS! Once this is done, we can all move to GV and be done with all these 3rd party SMS/MMS apps.

What? Isnt there MMS already in the native app? Cuz i use it all the time!

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which, honestly, is 1000 times better than mms where is takes your picture down to a crappy size and makes it look like garbage!

NO, people are just assuming since he didn't mention it, it wont be in there. i think, and hope, it will. but then again, i am not a big picture sender over MMS simply because it usually comes out like crap on the other end.

Bound to a phone number and device, and aged protocol - MMS is a shitty protocol and SMS is a little less shitty.

I want to reach someone agnostic of their phone number (what if they change it?) or their device (what if it breaks? what if they lose it? what if they have 2-5 devices?) or the country they're in (just works over data)

160 character limit, only uses voice connection, etc.

It's not terrible and it's all I use other than Facebook but it's certainly not perfect aka ideal.

But my sister doesnt use hangout. But still i can send pics to her via the native sms app. So im a bit confuse of what u guys are talking about

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No, it has photo sharing. It's not the same.

If I can't sent a picture to a basic flip phone, it's not MMS.

What I am most excited about is that hangouts doubles as a video chat service that can incorporate multiple people into one "hangout". Now gone are the days of iPhone users exclusively being capable of video chatting whilst not being intelligent enough to download an app for it. This should finally build off the facetime moniker and boost sales overall of android once they have a well-made commercial for it!

I really hope that along with animated GIFs they've made Hangouts a little more responsive than it currently is. Nexus 7 2012 here and Hangouts has been known to hang at times. Needless to say it's atrocious on my old HTC Desire.

agreed....takes a good 4 seconds to load on my G-nex.
although it is amost instant on my 2013 Nexus 7 (and never actually hangs)

I hope there's an option to route it through Voice. I've been using GV as my sole mobile number for years. I don't even know my carrier number off the top of my head.

Right there with ya. My girlfriend asked what number I called her from the other day because I forgot to set up GV on the new LG G2.

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Will someone please explain what SMS support really means?

How does it impact me communicating with a friend who uses Hangouts or normal SMS through our carriers versus a friend who isn't on Gmail/Hangouts and we only communicate through normal SMS via our carriers?

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Exactly.. most of my friends that I current SMS/MMS with are iOS users. Seems like this doesn't help nothing on this Hangout update?!?

Since it has SMS support... anyone can text you from any phone and it will go to the hangouts app. Its full SMS support. Send and receive messages from your phone number.

except hangouts is available on ios too. if you all switched to hangouts it would be a much better experience. ESPECIALLY with group chats. Cause most phones now convert that to an MMS for groups. Which works but is a pain! Not to mention you would be able to share full size, not shrunk down photos.

I agree. That has been one of the worst parts about people sending group texts from iPhone. You see everyones reply, even people you do not know.

When I receive a text from a person I know uses an iPhone, I make sure to not reply to that specific message, but I create a new message to that person so who knows who does not see what I am saying.

I can not even count on both of my hands how many times I have received replies to someone ELSE'S message (I was simply included in the send out) from complete is incredibly frustrating.

It means you can use Hangouts to SMS with anyone even iOS people using standard app. Think of Facebook Messenger.

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I too am eagerly waiting for more clarification. Specifically, those few people that "just use the text app that came with their phone," can those be fully integrated into hangouts. And by fully integrated, can you send to and receive from them, texts without charge? (no text allotment on our plan)


You can use hangouts to send sms.

If they have hangouts installed, then it will appear on their hangouts app.
If they don't have hangouts installed, it will appear as a normal sms.

It's mainly for those that use hangouts, they don't have to keep swapping between the sms app and hangouts app, they can just use the one app.

Good point. I've been looking for an app that enables me to send and receive text messages from my Wi-Fi only tablet, preferably using my existing phone number. I'm not sure if that's possible.

Mighty Text. Install the app on your phone, the tablet app on your tablet and use the chrome plug in for sending from your desktop. Works great and I've used it for at least a year.

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Doesn't work with existing phone numbers... I've held on to one relationship for over a decade, its the ongoing commitment I have to my current cell phone number.

I hear you, I only recently let go of mine. I'd been using GV almost exclusively for several years anyhow.
You might look into porting it to Google Voice, you can do that now.

Yeah except that it's probably going to stop working under 4.4 unless you're prepared to let Mighty Text be your only SMS-enabled app. In which case, this whole Hangouts shebang doesn't really apply anyway lol.

you can text from hangouts to anyone. if they have hangouts and are active users, the message will go out as an actual message (using data)
if they use something other than hangouts for messaging, it will send as a text message (over cellular connection) to their phone as an incoming text.

Yeah he never actually *said* any of that - unless you were watching a different presentation than I was.

Think of it it like iMessage for iPhone or facebook message. They can handle your texts and messages in one app. Texting will look like a hangout.

It means you can now send an SMS message to anyone through hangouts. Simple. This is to be expected and I'm glad to finally see that it is coming. Been waiting on this feature. Hate having multiple messaging apps.

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So then Hangouts can become your default all-in-one messaging app and contains both SMS conversations between two phone numbers in addition to Hangout Chats?

I assume Google Hangouts will need to be installed on your phone and your phone turned on for this to work. And, I would suspect your phone would need to have a data connection (either mobile data or wifi) for this to work. I am anxiously waiting more details on this.

It would need a data connection for the hangouts feature but SMS doesn't require it.

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You generally do need your phone to be turned on to send/receive SMS, yes.
I would expect the features to be available on desktop as well though.

Right, but for the feature to be available on the desktop, I assume the SMS would come to my phone, Hangouts would pick it up and send it to wherever I am signed into Hangouts, desktop or tablet, via data. Like I said, I am anxious for Google to release more details on this.

Not necessarily. I get texts to my moile number forwarded to my Google Voice when my phone is turned off. If Google can intercept messages sent that way for one purpose, I would hope they could send them to Hangouts instead of to Google Voice.

Yes, this feature is yet to be seen, but I suspect that messages sent strictly as SMS will be sent to the phone only. Will be even more awesome if it does support this though.

Again, this is just a guess...we'll all have to wait and see.

Facebook Messenger on Android already supports exactly what was announced today. And guess what - it's not very exciting. We're all filling in the blanks of what we WANT it to do, but if it does only what Facebook does then basically you can send/receive texts (and not seamlessly either, you have to decide whether to reply via text or via data), and when you use it in Chrome your SMS messages are magically not there. Worst case scenario, that's what it will be.

Oh my, you can't turn around can you - Facebook dropped their SMS support today, and Hangouts picked it up! But I still hope it will do more than Facebook's did.

Wondering if this SMS Support in Hangouts going to work similar to iMessage.

For example, the message app on iOS sends messages between two iOS devices as an iMessage. But when the device receiving the message is sending to a non iOS device, it just gets send as a regular SMS text.

I'm hoping it doesn't, unless they use existing Google Voice numbers, at least as an option. iMessage requires you to have a texting plan with your carrier for when a non-iOS user sends you a message. I save $10/mo per phone on my plan by not having texts.

wondering if you will be able to input your GV number into hangouts and have it handle things that way. I am just not a GV user so not even sure how this will work, if at all.

How does the message app on the iphone know if the receiving device is ios or android? It is using just the persons phone #, right?

All this wait for a kit kat bar is killing me slowly!

Sent from my SM-N900 using the S-Pen

All this wait for a kit kat bar is killing me slowly!

Sent from my SM-N900 using the S-Pen

Yayay I'm watching for the update but I'm sure it will take a couple days.... but where are yall seeing these releseses at I don't see anything on the live stream besides a banner saying when it starts....

The big improvement this could offer is native SMS messaging from a non cellular device. IE, tablet and such.
Yes i know but screw google voice app, it sucks.

Exactly! I use Mightytext on my nexus 7. it gets the job done, but using Hangouts to text SMS on the Nexus 7 would be much better. Just like you can send iMessages from an iPad

It kills me when people say this.... Stop with the "face time" thing like its superior. It sucks, and only works over Wifi. Both Google Hangouts and Tango are better video calling applications.

iPhone 4 cant. And iPhone 4s or higher can work... depending on you carrier and which plan you have. any restriction to me... means it doesnt work.

I didnt use Hangouts before.... but now that im not restricted... Ill be using it. Proudly too.

Actually, it's improper to refer to any soft of video chat as "face time." Face Time is a half-assed "me too" function that was released far behind everyone else. Face Time is not a standard to measure against, so it doesn't define the idea of video chats. So, if you wanted to say that it still needs video chat, you would be better of saying that it could use a video chat feature, or "that craptastic proprietary Apple function that isn't really useful for anyone who knows at least 1 other important person without an overpriced Apple product, otherwise known as 'Face Time.'"

Not only does Hangouts already have video calling, it can even do group video calls, which can be started directly from the message stream. Unless it was a recently added feature, I'm pretty sure Apple's Face Time only supports 1to1 video calls.

I've used Hangouts' video chat a few times, and while I'm not a huge fan of video calling from my cell phone in general, it works just as well as Face Time as far as I can tell.

Goodbye stock messenger app; you can join the stock calendar and internet apps in the "I don't use you anymore" folder.

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I'm disappointed that the new hangouts update doesn't seem to mention integration with Google Voice. Not even voice calling which iOS has!!!!

I really want to ditch the antiquated GV app for messaging.

Pure guess: It's possible the voice calling will be KitKat only, which would make it a feature that would be announced at the KitKat event.

I'd like to know if the combined SMS functionality will include the ability to text with my GV number (that being my "main" number).

Yeah that would almost be better than voice calls. At least I can continue to use GrooveIP in the mean time but the GV app is just bad for messaging.

I's so weird to see no mention of Google Voice anywhere these days. It's become clear that I should give up hope of the service really evolving and that I should instead start praying it doesn't get removed.

Honestly, what are the chances they work to integrate it better in the Google ecosystem? It seems very Google Reader-ish right now :/

Sweet! Bout time Goog! Oh, and Blackberry who? Hangouts owns BB.

Posted via Android Central App on my white Nexus 4 with StraightTalk

You can't make everybody happy lol Google worked hard for this update and some people still complaining. Eat a Kit-Kat.

I'm actually incredibly disappointed with this announced update. iOS now has google voice/voip support - where is ours? Hopefully it's a feature that gets integrated into 4.4 because this is pretty annoying.

Likely, the features that are most important to Google+ was talked about today. The remaining features will be talked about with 4.4 release.

I'm only disappointed that they left so many open questions. A solid demo of all this working would have been great.

I hope you're right. But voip/gv calling from hangouts on your phone seems like it would have been mentioned in a discussion about a hangouts update.

Soooooo am I the only one here that doesn't give a s*** about SMS (and Voice for that matter) integration?

Must have been months since my last SMS, I really don't recall it any more.. :)

Well, that's nice.

Some of us still have friends and family who use SMS, mmmkay?

As for voice, that's pretty cool. The more we are able to do over wifi the better, becuase eventually wifi will be so ubiquitous that the carriers will _have_ to compete with it on price.

If you still have friends and family that use SMS to communicate, you should break off communication with them instantly :)

Nah, of course this is a great thing. I was just wondering about the amount of people requesting this feature for so long. Must be really important, and that kinda blew my mind.

It would be nice if they just rolled the phone dialer, GV, and Hangouts all together.
Seems silly to have
the phone 'app', dialer to call someone
GV to txt / viewing messages
Hangouts to also txt and potentially mms and do video calls.

So here is what I am wondering. Will I be able to text from my iPad or Android tablet?

Let's say I receive a SMS on my phone from someone who does not use Hangouts. Since Hangouts is receiving the text, will it sync with the Google servers and show up on my tablet? In that case, my reply would then be sent from my tablet, to the Google servers, sync with Hangouts on my phone, and be sent as an SMS to the recipient who does not use Hangouts.

This is what I want.

OK... so if I make this my default SMS app on my phone and someone sends me an MMS... how will my phone receive it?

That's what I want to know too. I want to go all-in on Hangouts, but I want to get all my messages. I guess I'll just test it when I get the update!

I wonder if Google is dragging their feet with Hangouts/Voice VOIP since there are already fairly usable alternatives like GrooveIP in the market making it less urgent? I mean iOS has it but was there previously a way to use Google Voice for calls on iOS at all?

Ummm... no.

As others have mentioned, the Kit-Kat rollout will probably bring more features to Hangouts/GV.
They likely only covered the features most relevant to Google+ users today.

I bought GrooveIP. GrooveIP is not a solution. It doesn't work properly. It's not stopping Google from doing VoIP.

You and I have different definitions of "usable."

In all seriousness, I thought about this too, but since it was part of the iOS app update, it would be very surprising if the Android app didn't get the same feature.

Maybe it depends on the phone but it works perfectly on my S4 GPE as long as I have 1 bar or better of HSPA. On LTE and Wifi voice quality is just as good if not better than standard carrier voice calls.

I just died.. and came back to life LOL finally sms support......

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I'm the last android hold out amongst my iPhone friends. We have group chat (iMessage/cyanogenmod) and send pics and meme back and forth. We still don't know if it supports picture messaging with other messaging services?

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My question is how it will integrate with iPhones for people receiving SMS (or MMS) from me. Lots of my iOS friends have hangouts for video chat, etc but still use the stock messaging app for texting since Apple won't let them choose other apps for defaults and they rarely if ever check their Hangouts app for anything else. I'm curious if I will have the option to choose whether a message is sent as SMS or (whatever Google wants to call the Hangouts messages I suppose) to my iPhone friends and family or if the app will recognize them as a Hangouts connection and automatically deliver the messages there. I'm a little worried that they won't be looking in the right app for messages that I send them but we'll have to wait and see I suppose. Still an exciting development!

I think it will be two threads like Facebook messenger. I know that's not what we want, but I'm calling it

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I hate to be pessimistic, but I predict we will all be dissatisfied when this rolls out. I can't see this being the iMessage beater we want. I bet it will be more like the fractured approach Facebook messenger integration took.

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Google's Blog says:

"The Android app and video calling features will be available in a few days, while the On Air improvements will roll out over the next few weeks."

What everyone wanted? At least I never asked for it or anything...not like I dislike it though.

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Doesn't appear to be fully working yet, it seems. I have friends with gmail accounts / Android phones, but to my knowledge don't use hangouts. I tried it last night; deleted an existing hangout I had with someone, tried to start a new one and picked their phone number contact from the list. When I tried to send it, they never received it / it looked like it was a normal hangout message, not an SMS. Didn't see anywhere to specify how I was sending it either.

Just tried it with someone who doesn't have a gmail address in their profile. Went to pick their contact to send, and I got an option to "Invite to Hangouts via:" and it lists all of their contact information. It doesn't look like it's going to send an SMS, but try to get them to install Hangouts instead.

imho all this sounds like merging GV capabilities that exist currently under the Hangouts banner....Am I missing something?

About time. I tell every android user to use hangouts anyway. It's alot better than stock messaging. Hope they integrate it something similar to apples imessage

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My hangouts app for some reason never lets me send a message. I always get message not send try again error. No matter what device.