August 30, 2014

Hangouts (formerly Google Talk) Android app review

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From the moment it was announced at I/O I was absolutely hooked.

I used talk daily for work and a lot for talking to my fellow Android fanatics, so a face-lift and bundle of new features were definitely a welcome update.

First let me talk about what a huge departure this is from the bland old Talk app. I’m loving the new colorful, happy theme. You have the familiar drop down menu to switch accounts on the conversations list. Although when receiving a message it’s usually easier to just tap your notification to switch between accounts. But this is quick and easy as well. Also in your conversations list you have the holo style “swipe to archive”  we’ve come to know and love from Gmail. Although there doesn’t seem to be an option yet to change the swipe action to delete instead of archive as we’ve seen in Gmail. Hopefully we’ll see that in a future version.

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Moving on to the chat and some new features.

First, you can now see the last message your friend read, this icon also makes it easy to know when your friend is paying attention, when they are, their avatar is illuminated, when they leave, it’s dull and grey. Once they’re caught up on the conversation and begin a reply, a dancing little ellipsis to let you know when they’re composing a reply.

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Here is one of my absolute favorite new features. You see above, I wasn’t actually in a video call at 1.56 AM, I just wanted to get in on the chat, once you join a hangout, you can turn off the video feed and communicate with everyone via chat. Really a cool feature for those bad hair-days when you don’t want to video chat with everyone, but still want to be a part of the fun! Also, you can see this on your device when you have an active video hangout on your PC or other device. I really like that you can use this on multiple devices at the same time.

All-in-all the new app, when compared directly to the old Talk app, is a total “win” aside from the few bugs that accompany such a green app.

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To enable the new Hangouts for you Gmail before Google rolls it out for everyone you just click the camcorder icon drop down menu next to your avatar above the Talk buddy list in Gmail and select the “Try the new Hangouts” option.

For all of you Google apps users, you can still use the Hangouts app to send messages, although you won’t get the suite of features until your administrator switches opts your domain in to try the new Hangouts. Be aware though, if want to check out the new features on your Gmail or Google Apps email account, it apparently breaks your voice calling although there is supposedly an extension you can install to fix it.

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All-in-all, I think Google will have a total winner here once it’s polished. I’ve found myself answering people who send me SMS through the Hangouts app, because I like it more and it seems to be more reliable than the SMS on my network. I’ve never really enjoyed chatting with multiple people at once, but for some reason I’ve found myself looking for groups of friends on G+ I think would be fun to hangout with. The more people adopt Google services like Gmail and Google+ the more friends you’ll have available with whom to Hangout. So everyone, do what I do and get as many of your friends and family using it as possible!

Hit the comments below and let us know what you think about the new Hangouts! Is there anyone out there who misses Talk?