December 22, 2014

Hangouts (formerly Google Talk) Android app review

hangouts_720_lead

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.

group-chat-bugs

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.

group-chat2

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.

dropdown

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.

read-to-here

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?



  • PETERO

    Lack of chat availability/status.

    • Jared

      This totally kills Hangouts for me. I can’t believe there is no way to see a list of my contacts with their online status. The only thing I can imagine is that Google is pushing the asynchronous nature of Hangouts. Though, that’s a poor excuse for removing arguably a core feature.

      • cantonweb

        Agreed–I find Hangouts completely useless. Many of us want ONLY an instant messenger, not all the extra bloat added onto it. I also don’t want to run Trillian just to get a simple IM interface back.

        I’m hunting around to find the last version of Talk for Android to side-load it on the phone. Hangouts has proven to be a trainwreck as far as I’m concerned. I need good, fast communication, not yet another social networking toy.

        • L

          A friend just uninstalled the hangouts upgrade and it kicked her back to Talk (on Android)

          • L

            It will still appear as the icon for Hangouts in your app list

          • Guy

            Well, luckly, it looks like Gtalk on my device! :D

          • Guy

            No need to do that. Go to Hangouts, and delete updates. This will bring back Gtalk AND it willl look like the good old Gtalk

    • Tony McAfee

      A lot of people are missing this feature. I believe it was an intentional oversight. Google wants this to replace text messaging. You don’t care if someone is near your when you send a text message, why should you care if they’re signed-in or available? If you have the app on your phone, unless you want to dig around in settings every time you want to sign out, your going to receive communication immediately anyway. I really don’t think Google plans to add that feature. Although I could see adding the “Status” feature or away message.

      • Brian

        You don’t understand how users were interacting with this product – using Talk was a fast and quick way to get a response – in lieu of sending an email which could remain unanswered for hours. Know the person was ‘online’ made it a terrific tool for ‘instant engagement’ Now the tool has been rendered mostly useless – Google and the development team never understood their user base and that is most unfortunate

    • Leif Sikorski

      There seem to be some kind of status. When you start a new hangout chat from within the app you can see that some profile images are bright, and some are some kind of grayed out. So far I couldn’t really figure out what it is excactly, but maybe it shows some kind of activity of the person (?).

      On the other side some other popular messenger apps doesn’t have an online status as well and I also now a few people who hated it. Once people can see your online status they begin to expect an immediate answer, which can get very annoying. Since you can see if a person has read your message or not it should be more than enough.

      • http://jordanhotmann.com/ Jordan Hotmann

        If they are bright, they currently have hangouts open. Also, the position of their image in the list of messages shows the point they have read up to. It’s quite genius actually.

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  • Gary

    Kinda Like a facebook layout for Gtalk

  • harlowgold

    I miss Google Talk – I only use it to chat with a select few people, and I miss the green bubble light to know that they are available. Hangouts seems messier and I don’t like it nearly as much. Is Google Talk going to stick around for those of us who want to continue using it?

    • TeeGee

      Honestly,i hope they dont care about that

    • Siddhanta

      If you want to switch back to Talk then try uninstalling the Android Hangout app. Apparently, according to one reviewer, you can start using Talk again then.

    • guy

      Go to app settings, find Hangouts in the list, and delete updates for it. That will bring back Gtalk

  • keepitsimple

    This sucks. I just set up 4 new gmail accounts here at work to try Talk because I don’t want to go to Microsoft’s IM & now I’ve got to go through miles of touchy-feely smileyface facebook-ish land just to get a friggin simple instant message. I don’t want to hang out. I’m not interested in what other people are doing across the globe. I just want a fast connection to the people at work. I don’t want their personal lives and they don’t want mine. I have several other accounts for my own personal stuff. I’m ranting while logged in on one of them now. Business is business and obviously Talk > Hangouts isn’t.

    • Tony McAfee

      Where in hangouts are you seeing what people are doing across the globe? How is your personal life connected with hangouts or with someone else using hangouts? I’m not sure I understand the points you’re attempting to make.

  • http://jordanhotmann.com/ Jordan Hotmann

    Wow, lots of negativity going on here…I personally am a big fan of this app (I wasn’t a big Talk user though so that may be why). I was a big user of G+ messenger and now use this a lot instead and it works very well for group conversations.

    In reply to people complaining about online status: it’s 2013…we’re all online all the time.

    • banco

      Wow. What a complete disregard for use cases that don’t exactly fit your own. We’re not online ask the time. people often sleep. or might be online with their client open, but be…. I dunno… working? are you dense, or just shortsighted? its got to be one or the other.

      • http://jordanhotmann.com/ Jordan Hotmann

        Maybe I’m shortsighted or dense or don’t use the internet correctly, but only talking to people who are currently online with their chat client open is so 2001…

        • Stefan

          You’re point leaves be a bit surprised: sending someone a message by chance and not knowing if that person will be replying in 2 minutes or two hours THAT is 2001 (or even earlier). It is not about seeing if somebody is just online or offline. It is about that neat little status: “Available” or “Busy” or just a custom status. SMS is so dead since Smartphones have been around – why this step back now? Furthermore I don’t understand the lack of XMPP. We are speaking of key features here that define the very core functionality of a modern communication client.
          And to you, Tony: Having no status message or icon means you actually have to type something like “Hey, are you there? Wanna chat?…” to several contacts which is exactly like signing in manually to a chat session. You’re points are just not valid; practically it’s just the other way around.
          For now I’ll roll back to the previous Talk App and use Hangouts via the old G+ App.

          • Tony McAfee

            Stefan,
            I’ve never text messaged someone asking if they wanted to talk. It seems like you’re missing the point of a service that unifies chat and SMS. When I want to talk to someone, I send them a message like “Hey, what are you up to?” or, “Hey! Did you get a chance to read this awesome review I wrote?” If they don’t answer in 5 minutes and I have something more pressing to communicate, I call them. What makes hangouts so very nice, is when I’m reading on my tablet or working on my computer, I don’t have to switch devices to answer a message, just tabs in my web browser.

          • Stefan

            >> I don’t have to switch devices to answer a message, just tabs in my web browser.<<

            Where is the difference to regular Google Talk?? The more I read from you the more I get the impression that you didn't use Talk as frequently as you wrote in your Hangouts eloge. You constantly keep comparing hangouts to texting which totally is not the point of us critics. Chat-wise Hangouts can nothing that Talk could not. For a compromise:

            Would it hurt anyone to add the feature to only show contacts that are currently available for chat? (Adding to that would it hurt to bring back any indication about the availability status of my contacts? I double-checked: right now there is no such thing as a light green bar below the contacts' avatars in my android app as someone suggested earlier!) Would it hurt anyone to add an option to hide any contacts that have neither a Gmail nor G+ account? Furthermore, where is the option to directly start a voice chat? The cumulative problem the majority of the former Talk users have is that Google phrased the "update" as follows: "replaces Talk" – which it actually does not! Availability status gone. Direct voice chats gone. XMPP support gone.

            The overwhelming majority of negative reviews for the new app speaks for itself. It would be nice if you could actually consider the points of the critics instead of repeating strange slogans as "unify chat and SMS" (there is no such thing! Try unifying radio and TV or riding a bike and driving a car. Those are different things. Just because this app features both possibilities to contact someone either by account or by phone number doesn't unify anything because SMS is something very different that technically just lacks some options that IMs and chat clients provide.)

          • Cutriss

            “It seems like you’re missing the point of a service that unifies chat and SMS.”

            This service *doesn’t* unify chat and SMS! It *replaces* chat with SMS! That’s the whole problem!

          • Seshu

            why do you have to wait 5 mins for a reply..? In google talk if you don’t see green bubble.. call them directly.. why this dilemma ?
            Google Talk also gets messages among all devices.. mobile, tablet or PC.

          • Guest

            why do you have to wait 5 mins for a reply..? In google talk if you don’t see green bubble.. call them directly.. why this dilemma ?

      • Tony McAfee

        As I said before, this application is meant to replace text messaging, and unify your text messaging service among your tablet, phone and PC, not to be just another chat client. The point is, we don’t care if someone is “online,” we just message them and let them get back to us when they get a chance. Just like text messaging.

        How is no one getting this?

        The fact is, yes, in 2013 with smart-phones and tablets, with our PCs glued to our fingertips, most people with a career are online all of the time for their jobs.

        I say again, this service is meant to unify SMS and chat across all of your devices. This is not a simple chat client. The days of signing off when you want to end a conversation went away with the invention of silent sign-on. Now you just have to say goodbye when you’re done with a conversation, as you would in person.

        If you have a smartphone you’re connected, if you want an away message, turn it off.

        After all, as Jordan said, it’s not 2001 anymore.

        • cantonweb

          >> The point is, we don’t care if someone is “online,” we just message them and let them get back to us when they get a chance. Just like text messaging.
          How is no one getting this? <<
          I "get it" completely. If someone is online, I expect to contact them and communicate immediately, not when they get around to it. An IM client is "now"; Hangouts is "whenever". The UI is a trainwreck–I have to scroll, scroll, scroll through a few hundred contacts to find a person I'm looking for, with NO indication whether they are online or not…vs. tapping an online contact and having an immediate conversation.
          It's like someone said above: just because some LIKE Hangouts, it is no reason to force their use case upon those of us (and there are many) who neither need, nor want, nor like Hangouts and its failure to provide what we need.
          And so what if it's not 2001? Newer is not always better…and even the latest whiz-bang features in smartphones and tablets still haven't replaced the old talk-by-wire system called the "telephone".

  • Gaurav

    I can’t send SMS to my friends any more, will this feature be added to hangout.. if not pls advise how to go back to the old gtalk version .. thanks

  • cantonweb

    I just want to shoot a quick message to someone when they are online; NOTHING more. I don’t need the bloat, nor do I have time to screw around in some app trying to guess at who is online IN GOOGLE TALK. It was simple and usable before; now it’s a click away from being uninstalled.

  • Alicia

    I love Hangouts. And you can see who’s online, there’s a green bar under their picture, and it’s brighter than the rest. I indeed have replaced texting with hangouts, especially since I don’t have an unlimited texting plan. The ease of sharing pictures is appreciated as well.

    • Tony McAfee

      Preach it!

      Truly showing off your “enlightened” side with this comment. ;-)

      • Firefly Nerd

        Calling someone “enlightened” when they agree with you is implying that those that don’t agree with you are unenlightened.

        And I concur with those of the respondents who said they simply use Talk differently from the way you do. That doesn’t make us “unenlightened,” it just means we have a different need from our software. Google should be looking to cater to MORE people, not fewer, and definitely not alienating users who saw a feature they found useful eliminated because “we don’t care if someone is ‘online’.”

        What a cavalier attitude!

        • Tony McAfee

          Actually, calling her “enlightened” was more of a reference to the fact that she is a fellow ingress player in my area and is an “enlightened” agent.

          In this case, what would make you “unenlightened” would be playing for the resistance, like myself.

          Thanks for commenting!

          • Firefly Nerd

            You’re welcome.

            Now, you still haven’t (IMO) satisfactorily addressed the issue of how you don’t care if someone is online, but clearly a lot of other people do. The “two minutes vs. two hours” issue referenced above might not matter if you just want to ask someone if they watched a basketball game last night, but what if we have a more pressing question? What if we need an email forwarded to us for a meeting in ten minutes? What if I’m about to leave work and want to know if my wife is cooking dinner or wants me to pick something up? Just saying “this is 2013, we’re always online” IS JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Our intended chat recipient’s phone or PC might have the app open, but have been sitting idle for an hour, and there is an infinite number of reasons why a person might want to know whether that’s the case.

            I uninstalled Hangouts yesterday, and suddenly my phone’s chat feature was useful again – in a way that has meaning for ME.

  • http://about.me/ryanmmoore ryanmmoore

    Hey i recognize those guys in the chat windows…
    handsome fellas!

    • Tony McAfee

      Devilishly so!

  • Sari

    I feel sad without seeing which friends are online. . Google please put it Back in hangout

  • Stefan

    For all those who want to roll back to Talk and wait until Hangouts gets updated to a usable version check this: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2280606

  • Burbrook

    How do I kill this stupid app?

    • guy

      go to settings, apps, Hangouts, delete updates

  • Mihai

    in my opinion, hangouts is crap. they should hang it.

  • Danl

    What happend to the popup bubble that use to occur when you got a message on google talk? I just got a new S4 and hangouts replaced talk. Cant figure out a way to make hangouts do the same thing.

  • Patrick

    I agree that the new featuers in Hangouts are much better than the “old, plain” version of Google talk but the lack of invisibility support and status updates is a major fail for any IM or chat application. I will not upgrade until they support these two critical features.

  • ncb

    I liked the old Talk better. I just want to IM, not video chat. If people are in meetings or school, they don’t want that invitation to join a hangout music going off…

  • Florido

    I don’t see where I can set my status. I am logged in and I send chat messages from pidgin to my hangout user, pidgin complains it couldn’t send the message. They changed a working technology in a broken non standard one, I am not sure I am happy!

  • MrXavia

    Totally disagree, google talk was integrated, I could see who was online IN my phones contacts list and even video call right from there, but now I need to go into hangouts to see if their online AND I have to initiate the call from there… oh and the contacts list in the app is unusable, what a load of junk, I reverted back…

  • roscosis

    Existing users that have talk and not hangouts have to be invited to use hangouts. Sucks. Keep a backup of the Talk apk

  • Ale

    Ok, I’m happy with Talk: simple and effective. Could anybody tell me what are the good things about Hangouts? Any real improvement or it’s not user friendly now?

  • lily

    just uninstalled hangout and have my gtalk back!

  • chopper

    If I’m google i will focus on gtalk text and voice then make it more reliable and require lower bandwidth, this step will kill sms and phone call service from operator and all operator will focus on providing low cost fast internet service, at that time, no more limited bandwidth barrier….i can push my products as far as I can.

  • Jennifer

    And now….with the upgrade to 2.3, it is no longer an option to use Talk. We are forced to use Hangouts….an inferior product. I have been a Google fan. However this trend of forcing us to use these crap products is ridiculous.

    • Jennifer

      Sorry, typo….Android 4.3 is what I meant.

  • greg bishop

    the feature I liked in google talk was the phone call function. Where do I find this on googles android tablet??

  • kendra

    Reverted back to gtalk…thanks “Guy” for helping me figure out how to do this. Definitely like gtalk much better!

  • saifa

    Google Hangouts (Prior known as Google Talk)
    http://goo.gl/2up5JP