Friday, May 17, 2013

The New Google Hangouts

So, did you upgrade your Google Talk app in Chrome and Android to the new Google Hangouts platform?  I finally got it on all three of my Android devices, and on Chrome.  Some people are happy with the changes, others aren't so much.  What is my take on it all?  What do I think of the changes we are "stuck with"?  Keep reading.

Honestly, it is nice having a much tighter knit messaging service on my tablets, phone and laptop.  However, I am not to keen on a couple of things.  But let us discuss the positives.

First off, I like the fact that conversations appear to be more tightly synced from device to device.  My biggest issue with Google Talk between browser, desktop (does anyone use the installed version any longer?), and Android.  The whole issue being with "On/Off the Record".  It presented a lot of problems of just picking up your device, and carrying the conversation with you on the go.  Hangouts fixes a big part of that.

I was able to start a Hangout I started on the browser, but I still need to jump in as a new user to "transfer" the conversation to the tablet.  Honestly, there should be a method in place that should let us transfer "device origination/ownership" when we have to go from device to device.  In a Hangout that is full of people, there is no way to jump in on your tablet before closing the browser version of the Hangout.  Once this is fixed, we should be golden in that respect.

Second, as for regular chat conversations, there are NO problems here.  You can be chatting it up with someone on the phone, then move to your tablet without skipping a beat.  Once you reach your laptop/desktop, you can carry on from there.  Not a bit of the conversation is lost.  Something the old Google Talk had issues with.

As for the layout, I do like it.  It is simple, elegant and easy to navigate.  It is cleaner than the old "Messaging" application that was tied into the Google+ add-on for Android.  The Chrome extension retains the feel a great deal, as well.  You have the main pop up that has the same style of friends list, which is more of a "conversations list".  When you open a conversation, or a contact, you get a second pop up that gives you a familiar chat window.  If you go to video call in the extension, it opens the familiar "Hangouts" window.  On the Android app, much the same as it was before really, in the Messaging add-on that is.  It just looks cleaner now.

With the layout aside, here is the issue.  The contact list.  Google seems to be running with the assumption that with an Android device, you are ALWAYS reachable.  However, there are those that have Google accounts, and use the services, but don't have an Android phone or tablet.  They also doubtfully have Google Chrome running in the background with the Hangouts extension.  With that in mind, we don't know if they are actually "online", or present, when we try to contact them.  Google took away the "online/offline" notification icon beside contacts.

This may not be such an issue though.  We must remember that Google has said in a Google+ post recently, as per reported on by The Verge, that SMS is something Google wants to integrate into Hangouts...soon.  There is not timeline at this time, but it does seem to be expected.  One can speculate that this means the outdated and sluggish Google Voice app could be on the way out.  It would also give a pseudo-fix to the whole Google Voice MMS debacle.

So, in closing, with the contact "online/offline" issue aside, Google Hangouts on the web, Chrome, Android and iOS is a wonderful update.  It functions perfectly, and much desired integration of messaging platforms being brought together makes it a very worthwhile program/application to have handy.

-Edit-
Just discovered something I didn't catch earlier.  In the Chrome extension, we lost the ability to make phone calls it appears!  I have tried a few times to get it to work, but it was a no go.  This is a feature that I relied upon a great deal, using my laptop as a speaker phone a great deal number of times.

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