To merge or not to merge text and instant message in Hangouts: that’s the question. On August 18, Google revealed a standalone website for its messaging and chat service, Hangouts. Now, users don’t have to go digging around through Google+ or Gmail and can instead use the new, dedicated URL to access IM, voice calls, video chats, and SMS.
In addition to the new URL, Hangouts received a much-needed “interfacelift.” Users are now greeted by the same sleek design we’ve come to expect from Google, including fewer buttons on the screen and large landscape photography covering most of the background.
But back to the question: should users combine text and instant messaging? The verdict is still out on this question, and the move is likely going to be received with mixed reviews depending on how people interact with these individual features.
On the one hand, it’s nice to jump around from SMS and chat, especially if you’ve got contacts that use the same technology for the same purpose. There’s also an advantage for users who may not check their Gmail inboxes often or rarely leave them open to check messages.
However, things can start to feel clunky and disjointed if your contacts don’t use Hangouts frequently via mobile.
Understanding the Switch
All of the fuss started months ago, when Google felt pressure to create a standalone page for its service, similar to Facebook’s messaging app Messenger, which already has a standalone page.
The overhaul in version 4.0 includes updates for both Android and iOS, but appeals mostly to the already-loyal Gmail user who is most likely to use this free service.
And if that’s a good fit for you, then you’ll surely want to make the mobile connection to various messaging tools within this service. To do that, simply download the latest Hangouts version 4.0 and get into your settings on the left side of the slide-out menu.
From here, you can make Hangouts your default texting app by touching SMS disabled and selecting Hangouts in the list of texting apps.
Next, you need to enable merges conversations, which will merge SMS and Hangouts conversation into one strand. Then you can select SMS, Hangouts, or Google Voice from the touch icon on the left side of the screen while texting.
To enable Google Voice, you need to complete one further step by selecting your Google account instead if SMS under account settings. Then, you should be good to go.