Google’s new Hangouts app is the next evolution of their Talk app. When first downloading Hangouts, Google informs the user that this new program will replace Talk. Users who frequently use Talk may be a bit hesitant to make the switch, but once they download and start using Hangouts, it becomes obvious that it is more than just a new version of Talk. Instead, Hangouts combines the simplicity of Talk with the level of interaction Google has been growing within Google+ Hangouts.
When first opening Hangouts, users may be prompted to sign in if they are not already. Once they have logged on, users are greeted to a screen that shows off their most frequently contacted friends on Google+, along with their entire list of contacts (both from Google+ and imported from mobile devices). Users can interact with any of their contacts by pressing their name on the list, or by using the search bar. The search bar can find current contacts via name, email, or number, and can add new contacts in the same way. Users can also connect with entire circles at once, but are not able to edit circles directly from the Hangouts app.
Once contacts and circles are selected, users are given two options: “Message” and “video call.” Messaging works just like Google Talk’s instant messaging. Two Google users can send text-based messages to each other over the Hangouts app and in a web browser. Communication between the app and browsers is nearly flawless. The only noticeable issue with messaging is how the emoticons in Hangouts will often not load for users in a web browser. Most users won’t find this to be a problem, but those who rely on heavy use of emoticons may be somewhat disappointed.
The main focus of Hangouts is the video call. Like the Google+ Hangouts feature, the mobile app allows numerous friends to connect with each other through a video chat. As is the case with messaging, mobile app users can seamlessly connect with contacts using a web browser, and vice versa. During our testing, the video call quality ran well when one side was using a desktop and the other on the Hangouts app. Camera quality is entirely dependent on each user’s hardware, but there were not performance issues during testing. The biggest issue with Hangouts is how the video call experience feels less user-friendly than in a web browser. Many of the options from the web can be found in the app, but utilizing them on mobile feels like a hassle.
Hangouts is a great app for straight-up messaging and video calls. Android users will already be signed into a Google account, so the process of setting up contacts is painless. Both messaging and video allow for seamless communication between browsers and mobile, and outside of a couple minor details, performance is nearly identical for both. Users who frequently use Hangouts may prefer to stick with the browser-based experience, but those who need to stay connected on the go will not be disappointed. The only real downside to Hangouts is that contacts need to be signed in to Google accounts, but this won’t be an issue for most users.
You can follow Hangouts’ progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.