Android App Review: Hangouts

Google is doing the brilliant thing of bringing its Nexus-exclusive apps to the entire Android spectrum. Since the release of KitKat, Google’s accelerated these app releases.

Even though I’ve been using the sideloaded version of Google+ Hangouts for about 3 weeks, I noticed today that the app has a new update that officially allows Hangouts to replace your default text messaging program.

Hangouts Google Play

Of course, there will be some tin foil hat folks who are scared about using Hangouts for default SMS. I’m not worried because Google and the NSA already know my habits. Plus, my text messages aren’t that secure — I’d never send client confidential messages via text message — and usually deal with Mrs. The Droid Lawyer asking when I’ll be home.

Hangouts On My Way Home
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Setting Hangouts to replace your default text messaging app is easy. Click the Menu in the upper right-hand corner, then select Settings.

Hangouts Settings
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Next, select SMS from the Settings menu:

Hangouts Settings Menu
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You’ll have the option to Turn on SMS and make other settings adjustments.

Hangouts SMS Setting
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That’s it. Once you associate Hangouts, the app should automatically act as your SMS client.

I like using Hangouts because the app acts as my unified messaging center. Hangouts allows me to send text, chat or video message all from one source. If my contacts have a Google account, I can chat and video conference with them, and not have to give out my cell phone number.

New Hangout
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Thus, I can still communicate with creepy guys like Lawyerist’s, Sam Glover, without worrying whether he’s going to send me a ton of text messages — kidding! Of course, with unlimited text messages, overusing isn’t really a concern.

Hangouts isn’t perfect, such as the fact I’d love to automatically associate Google accounts with phone numbers, but I’m sure improvements will be forthcoming over time.

Overall, I give Hangouts 4 of 5 stars.

Get this app on Google Play

Update: I hadn’t really had many opportunities to group text. But today, I had a series of about three different group texts. Hangouts is the first real text messaging app that properly handles group messaging. Instead of breaking each one separately, or incorrectly displaying the sender, Hangouts groups the message together for great delivery.

Update: Several people are confused about the cost of Hangouts, so here’s the skinny:

  • Text messages are charged at standard text messaging rates. Thus, if you send a message to another cell phone (i.e. 555-555-5555 to 555-555-5552) you will be charged for sending the message. Most people shouldn’t be concerned, since by now you’ve upgraded to your carrier’s unlimited voice and text plan.
  • Chat messages (i.e. Hangouts user to Hangouts user) are sent via the internet, therefore, there’s no cost. Thus if your friend has a Hangouts (Google+) account, you can talk back and forth without incurring fees.

You’ll know whether your message is being sent through Hangouts or by text (SMS) from looking at the sender’s information on the top of the message.

Hangouts Message

33 Responses to Android App Review: Hangouts

  1. Hey now, who’s creepy!

    Seriously, I love Hangouts. It’s the first messaging service/app/system that actually works like I expect it to, on all my platforms and devices. It’s nearly replaced text messaging, except for a couple of friends who don’t use their Google Accounts.

    The only thing I want it to do is support video messages. It doesn’t, at least on iOS. That’s the only thing I still have to use iMessage/MMS for. I assume it’s coming; I’m just anxious.

  2. If you dont have unlimited text… And if u use this app as primary mms application all mms sent and recived will count from ur mms plan?

  3. I am a little confused. When I did an upgrade, my phone automatically switched my messaging to Hangout’s system. Does it cost? Also, I am worried about it storing my messages. I noticed when I tried to delete one, it said “archived”. I really don’t want my messages saved like Facebook does. So, I uninstalled the update, but I am kind of bummed because I liked the way it looked. Anyone know how to get around it saving my messages FOREVER!?

    • I guess, but why? Text costs pennies, but carriers “rape” consumers with their data plans. Hangouts functions like chat, so if your friend is visible in Hangouts you’ll be able to converse. Otherwise, you’re stuck.

      • Texts are billed by att at $.20 incoming and again at $.20 outgoing, I was using this app thinking it had replaced the free texting option that google voice provided, and I just got dinged $45.00 for texts. Pennies it is not.

        • Well, yes Scott. Hangouts still uses your SMS plan, it just replaces your default SMS program. BTW, why are you still paying for texting? All carriers offer unlimited voice/text plans.

  4. I’ve using Hangouts just yesterday. 🙂 When the wifi is on, do charges still apply? Or if I text thru Hangouts do I still need to pay for the text when the wifi is not on? I have unlimited text plan btw

  5. I just started using the Google Nexus 5 with T-mobile, and while the integration of Hangouts as an SMS sending is streamlined, Hangouts causing headaches, it seems Hangouts has an inability to use mms messages. Google presented an update apparently, but revies claim it doesn’t seem to be doing much, and unfortunately for those with the nexus 5, hangouts is the only texting app available standard. I wish they would fix this, because I didn’t want to download a different app and in theory hangouts is a wonderful way to combine all messaging needs, but it’s not going to be practical if I can’t even send pictures.

    • I’m not sure what the MMS issue is. I haven’t had any issues, and I talked to a couple friends with T-Mobile. I did discover an issue where a friend couldn’t receive a forwarded MMS from me, but he could send and receive pictures. Admittedly, the photo took a bit of time to come through, but the picture eventually arrived.

      I notice that there is a reported issue, so I suspect that Google will have a fix. I looked at T-Mobile’s site and also found this more recent post, which could be caused because of a porting issue.

  6. I’ve had Google Nexus 5 for about a month. I don’t like Hangouts for default SMS. Everything is grey and there doesn’t seem to be an option for customisation. I don’t have all my friend’s gmail contacts in my phone so it doesn’t pick up an image for them. So I find it really difficult to distinguish between me and them.

    Most of my friends have iphones so use whatsapp and imessage instead of hangouts. So that feature is pretty redundant to me.

    I just tried to send my first group text using hangouts and it wouldn’t send (presumably because it defaults to MMS and one person in the group has an old fashioned phone which can’t receive picture messages) It won’t let me copy the text or Forward a message so now I have to write it out again. So I’ve downloaded another app to act as default for SMS.

    Not impressed.

    • Coincidentally, there’s a new Hangouts update that might fix this issue. From the “What’s new” comes this: “You can turn off group messages (MMS) in Setting to send SMS to multiple people.” Might correct the issue.

  7. I thought most apps gave you free texting. With the old GV for example texting is free as it is for newer apps like Whatsapp. I know Hangouts allows MMS as well as SMS, but why does it cost when Whattsapp is free? Most mvno carriers do not provide free texting, but they do allow you to maintain a cell phone on ATT for about $3/month, including limited data (enough for lots of free texting) at $6/100mb. Unless Hangouts becomes free, why wouldn’t WhatsApp remain wildly popular by comparison? ..

    • Well, technically, Hangouts is a free app, but Hangouts only replaces your text message apps. It doesn’t provide a path for sending messages (though you can chat with Google users). If you have text messaging on your device, then Hangouts is a good replacement for the default Android app. If you use another app, such as WhatsApp (other than the fact it’s held by Facebook), you’ll be able to send messages to other users without any charges.

      • Thanks for the reply. Other than the old GV which goes away after May 15, the only way I can send sms free is to go airplane mode then turn wifi back on. Even with whatsapp. I think the problem (Nexus 4 kitkat) is there isn’t an obvious way to select whatsapp as the default app. The only choice is Hangouts other than the native app, and both these cost per text. I wonder if other free Texting apps like TextFree will be affected after May15. I wouldn’t think the text part of TextFree will be affected, but the voice part would.

  8. I have a Samsung Galaxy S3 on Verizon with v4.3. I have SMS enabled for Hangouts. When I receive a text message, I get a notification on both Hangouts and the standard Messaging app… how can I get it only show up for Hangouts?

  9. Hi. If i have unlimited texts in my contract and if i send a message through hangouts bearing in mind that i have unlimited texts in normal messages will it charge me?

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Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.