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I finally gave up on Hangouts for WhatsApp, and now I wonder what took me so long

That's it. I'm done. I've finally stopped using Hangouts. The trusty messaging service I've used every day since it was originally Google Talk, and stuck with through several product name and platform iterations, is no longer a part of my regular group of messaging services. And all it took to finally switch over was a few weeks on WhatsApp — and now I'm wondering what took me so long.

This honestly shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Google seems to have effectively put Hangouts on the back burner — the apps and websites are effectively unchanged for years now, and no new features have been added in just as long. Google has finally provided information for the migration of G Suite customers from "classic" Hangouts to newer products, and it doesn't seem like the consumer version is far behind.

Hangouts has been around so long we've given it a pass as an objectively bad app and service.

Hangouts as a consistent back-end service is still rock solid, and it's been around for so long at this point, that it's reached a sort of "infrastructure" status — and that has kept it in our consciousness for long past its prime as an actually good messaging service. Its apps are ancient, the web interface is a joke, and there are no proper desktop apps to speak of. Not to mention that all of the core messaging app features we all expect today — like photo and file sharing, location sharing, groups and calls — are all either nonexistent or years behind everything else.

So what has kept me on Hangouts this whole time? Well, it's a combination of momentum, and not knowing everything else I was missing out on.

You can't overstate the importance of conversation and contact lock-in in messaging apps.

You can't overstate the importance of conversation and contact lock-in in messaging apps. It doesn't matter how good a messaging service is, how nice its apps are, how well it works across platforms or what distinct features it has — if the people you want, or need, to talk to aren't on it, it doesn't matter. The same is true from the opposite angle, and it's what kept me on Hangouts — even though the apps and service are objectively bad, I had dozens of ongoing conversations with dozens of people that weren't going anywhere. It's a classic chicken-and-the-egg problem.

It took years to eventually transition all of my conversations off of Hangouts and into other apps — primarily back to SMS and Facebook Messenger for convenience's sake, and now things are funneling into WhatsApp. And making that transition, trying out other apps and eventually landing on WhatsApp, it gave me even more perspective on just what I was missing this whole time by sticking on the antiquated Hangouts. This is what a proper messaging app feels like. The app is fast, consistent, end-to-end encrypted, and has a wonderful web chat experience. There's seamless file, photo, video, audio and location sharing, built-in audio and video calling, and great group chats.

I actually enjoy using WhatsApp, after years of begrudgingly using Hangouts. And now it's finally also an app that I can use to talk to the people I care about most.

Sure WhatsApp has its own little annoyances. Having your conversations tied to a single device and phone number can be a headache, for instance. But I recognize that's mostly a problem for the tiny group of people like myself who switch phones on a regular basis. And some people aren't fans of the fact that it's owned by Facebook — I would prefer if it weren't. Everyone has their preference for what makes a messaging app great for them, and each will find critiques of all the apps they don't use; the important thing is that WhatsApp completely gets the fundamentals right, and is a great chat app overall, even if you don't like specifics of the interface or features.

This isn't so much praise of WhatsApp as it is a condemnation of Hangouts.

But this isn't so much praise of WhatsApp as it is a condemnation of Hangouts. It doesn't matter what chat app you prefer, it's going to be more complete, modern and usable than Hangouts is today. Google has never given Hangouts the attention it deserves, and the service has always suffered for it, to the point where all you had to do to be better than Hangouts was simply make a modern, functional service with competently-designed apps in order to be better. When that's your threshold for choosing something else, you have a dozen great options out there.

Even if Hangouts does stick around, and Google does release a huge update with new features and apps, that doesn't mean I need to stay with it and punish myself with this truly subpar experience waiting for that to happen. I sure hope Hangouts gets better — but in the meantime, I'll be over on WhatsApp, with a high-quality service that I actually like using.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

47 Comments
  • Signal is a much better option than WhatsApp.
  • Why do you believe Signal is better? Just curious about your opinion. I use Whatsapp because it is known worldwide. Line is good also.
  • Signal is less flashy but it's opened source and arguably more secure as a result since its monitored by the community. WhatsApp is still the king in terms of user reach though which is why it was recently targeted. The real question which we will never know is when did FB first find out about this exploit before patching it? I say that because based on their track history they have left known bugs in their code before and only fixed them after it gained enough public attention. Either way I would still prefer to use WhatsApp over SMS but I would prefer to use Signal over both. https://www.androidcentral.com/update-whatsapp-now-prevent-being-exploit...
  • Signal is another option to use. Not a much better one.
  • Maybe, but no good if the people you want to chat to don't use it. the majority of people i know uses facebook messenger, some use Whatsapp, but I will not install whatsapp, so they either have to use SMS, voice, or
    if they must Facebook messenger.
  • Signal's extremely basic from a feature perspective and is a complete nightmare to transfer between devices. That latter part made it a complete non-starter for me. Signal suffers even more from the issue of "if nobody's on it, it doesn't matter." Signal isn't in the public consciousness anywhere near WhatsApp (or Hangouts).
  • Yes it is
  • The only thing I agree with you on is the apps feel quite dated. Ease of photo/file sharing? I don't have any issues. No proper desktop app? I am running Windows 10 at work, and Linux Mint at home. I use the Chrome extension for Hangouts, and it works flawlessly in both OS. This is actually what's keeping me on Hangouts. I want desktop and mobile apps that synch all the conversations across all devices I own. WhatsApp doesn't have a proper desktop app, only a web portal. No location sharing? It's a button right in the mobile app. I use WhatsApp as well, but I mostly use it for group messaging because SMS group messaging sucks so bad. I like it for groups, not so much one-on-one conversations. I have been preparing myself for the day when Hangouts officially quits working, and I am pretty certain that I will switch to Telegram. It ticks off all the boxes for me: desktop apps, mobile apps, easy to see if someone has read a message. The biggest hurdle is getting all my Hangouts people to switch.
  • I just made the switch to Telegram for a lot of reasons you just listed. It's got actual NATIVE desktop apps for Win/Lin/Mac, great native Android and iOS apps. It has optional end to end encrypted chats, but also normal cloud chats that have all of the convience you get from Hangouts. Also just tons of way more modern features. It's the best of all worlds IMO. Plus it's run by a non profit, so there's no profit motive. Much of it is open source too. 10/10 would Telegram again.
  • I did the same with Telegram once Google canned Allo (yeah, I know) and LOVE it. I predominantly needed something that was fast, worked across multiple platforms and devices simultaneously, and allowed me to create an unlimited number of groups. Contact presence/lock-in is always an issue anywhere, but my primary needs were to communicate with family and a core group of close friends, so it wasn't too terribly hard to get them to migrate away. I still, of course, have folks who only use SMS as well as those who I only need to reach out to on a rare occasion who are on FB, but Telegram meets all my needs.
  • I transitioned over to slack from hangouts. Am happy with it even if I had to start my own community to use it.
  • Whatsapp is tied to your phone and it requires it on and with a network connection - even when you are on a different platform that might have a gateway app (like WzPad or the Chrome extension). I use both Hangouts and Whatsapp, gladly would settle for the later (if only for the ability to delete pics and videos) if not for the rigid phone restrictions.
  • 100% this... Without support for me to message from PC I won't use a closed ecosystem like Whatsapp or any other messaging platform that requires 3rd party tools, guaranteeing not everyone will use. 75% of my hangouts messaging is done via PC. NO reason for a proprietary app on cell when the new RCS is now the norm and on everyone's phones without additional apps. It has all the features I would ever need.
  • I use Whatsapp personally, but also Hangouts. Hangouts we use for my kids' tablets, since they don't have phones. I can chat with them while i'm at work, or if I'm going to be late from work, I can text them that way.
  • I've done that years ago
  • Whatsapp is garbage. Owned by Facebook, now showing ads, which is something the creators promised it would never do. And we all know how trustworthy Facebook is with our data. Go ahead and give them access to your private conversations. I'll continue to use Hangouts and Telegram.
  • I presume the creators don't own it now, so they have no control over what the new owners do with it, also they need adverts to pay for it or are you going to pay a subscription?
    I have said many, many times before, I have no problems with Adverts, it is the tracking i have a problem with. Say on my phone, if I do a search for something using Google, I get an advert for it on Facebook. So I use duck duck go on my phone now to search for things.
    There are places where i don't think I should have adverts, like in windows. Facebook is as trustworthy as any other to be honest. I don't use whatapp, some people at work has a group on it they have asked me to join, but i will not use it as it asks for my phone number and will not go past that.
    while facebook do ask, it don't need it to work.
  • My thoughts exactly. If you're switching from Hangout, switch to something that is more secure and private.
  • Whatsapp doesn't have proper mutli-device support, nor a native tablet app, nor a native desktop OS app. that is a problem.
  • Yes they do.
  • Hangouts is dated, yes, but bad? No.
    WhatsApp is not what messaging should be, used it, kept it installed for a while, but Hangouts is still better for me. I'd switch to Telegram or Signal before choosing WhatsApp.
    Hopefully that Hangouts refresh that should be available to us by the end of the year will be a great upgrade to what it currently is.
    All I want from a online messenger app is to have a sync between all platforms without the need to "connect to your phone".
  • All messaging apps are the same to me. I'm fine with Hangouts. It's just a tool to chat with others. Why make a PhD project out of it?
  • Well nope. WhatApp is owned by Facebook. Best opinion now is Telegram.
  • As i said above, no good if the people you want to chat to is not on it. i am not into all this rubbish that these messaging apps put on, all i want to do is a send a text message, not interested in a million Emojis and only now and again I want to send a photo across, which is why SMS is fine for me most of the time.
    How many of these messengers like Signal and telegram require your phone number? Don't need that for facebook messenger.
  • Anyone have any thoughts regarding Signals vs Telegram?
  • I've been using Telegram for years, could not find anyone using telegram among my contacts, had to revert to sms function on it. I'm also on WhatsApp because all the sports/dance groups for my kids are on WhatsApp.
  • For me, the inability to sync WhatsApp messages across all of my devices makes it a non-starter. Same is true for Signal, WeChat, and Line; they can only be used on one device at a time. Because of my need for multi-device support, I like Telegram, Facebook Messenger, and Google Hangouts.
  • Signal works on my laptop just fine with the plug in.
  • I honestly have no reason to leave Hangouts. All I use is SMS (Personal use), Google Voice (Work use), and Hangouts ( Personal with the kids who don't have phones). No reason for anything else.
  • That dork Zukerberg will never see one bit of my info. No Facebook, What's App, or any of their other garbage.
  • sorry to break this to you, but he doesnt need you to see your info, as long as you have contacts who does use facebook, he'll get some info on you
  • That's part of the issue isn't it? And people keep on supporting him.
  • Exactly. The Stasi may have spied on me a bit through other people, but that doesn't mean I'm going to join it and let one of their officers root around my house.
    Have we learned nothing from the Nazis and the Soviet Union?
  • Whatsapp doesn't have voice and video desktop or Chrome extension. Being able to seemlessly switch to my laptop, from my mobile, to finish my conversation - and/or video chat on a larger screen - is what keeps me tied to Hangouts (along with all the ongoing conversations with peeps still using using Hangouts/Chat/Whatever it is these days).
  • The problem for WhatsApp and others is it's only a phone app. I can't use it on my iPad, I guess I can use some web client or workaround to get it on a browser if I tried. It's tied to a phone # and not an account, and I think that is restrictive. If you have no need for tablet use, I guess the app is pretty good.
  • Anyone that moves from any app to Whatsapp has serious problems. This blok should not be writing articles for anyone! Not only does Whatsapp have major security flaws, but the app can only be open on one computer/device at a time! Viber, line, WeChat, imo, anything, would have been a better suggestion than Whatsapp!
  • I wish Hangouts got the attention from Google it deserves. From the start, Google should have had it automatically sync contacts from phone, Gmail, and Google contacts and have it installed on every Android and Chrome browser (extension) thus making it essentially Skype and iMessage all in one on most devices. The integration would have been magical like one expects from Google. Anyways, GroupMe is my favorite for group chatting otherwise. The features are really cool and fun. Also, people with "dumb" phones can still use it as well which is really unique. Only thing missing is a chrome extension or desktop app. You can use the website though but Hangouts is still better integrated for use on a computer. For no reason, I also don't use it for chatting with individuals, but it is capable.
  • Everyone been using whatsapp since 1998. You're very late.
  • You're writing this article with out first looking into what Google is doing? You're right it is on the back burner cause it's going away. It's getting replaced by the amazing product called Chat. It's been available for enterprise customers for almost a year and it's coming to gsuite customers soon. You should have known this if you're a content creator... This entire article is void.
  • Why would anyone write an article considering today's alternatives with something that's not out yet nor is it clear when it will come out? Your post is void.
  • Actually, your conversations aren't tied to one device but to one number. Irrespective, that is a major limitation for quite a few people. Important conversations are lost! And there is no way conversations can be transferred from one number to another. For me, that is a serious limitation and prevents me from switching completely to WhatsApp.
  • I gave up on all of these and just use regular Android sms now. I don't feel like trying to convince someone to use something else and I can't stand FB messenger. I really wish Google would have gotten it together with Hangouts.
  • I'd like to see an article that compares the various chat apps:
    GroupMe
    Hangouts
    Signals
    Telegram
    Viber
    WeChat
    WhatsApp I think many folks would find that very valuable. I'm sure there are other apps I've missed.
  • http://tiny.cc/e7oz6y
  • Your experience is so similar to mine I could have almost written this article word for word, I too gave up on Hangouts and Allo a few months ago and went to WhatsApp. I dislike the fact is owned by Facebook alot, but most of my contacts are on it and it works pretty well.
  • Telegram all the way. Whatsapp blatantly copies from telegram and their security is null with all the backdoors they have in place. https://telegra.ph/Why-WhatsApp-Will-Never-Be-Secure-05-15?fbclid=IwAR37...
  • What prevented you to install both apps? :) « has a wonderful web chat experience«  I never found it wonderful but very frustrating, it is always disconnecting after a while so i just stopped using it...