Google has today announced Hangouts, a new messaging service that replaces the numerous Google services that currently help you have real-time conversations with other users, such as Google Talk, Google Voice and Google+ Hangouts.
It will launch on most major platforms later today, including iOS, Android and the Web. (Update: grab the iOS version, Chrome app or Android version - the Android version isn’t quite there yet at the time of writing).
Hangouts is a new, standalone application, which Google says is about “conversations which last” and “with people that you love.”
It’s a standalone app, which comes with its own icon both on Android and iOS. The home screen shows a list of conversations with profile photographs on the left-hand side and a ‘plus’ symbol at the top for starting a new message. There’s also a scroll bar down the let-hand side for what appears to be quick navigation throughout the app.
Conversations can either be one-on-one or in larger groups; the new Hangouts app can do both. Hitting the aforementioned plus symbol brings up a new window, with a panel of six frequently used contacts. There’s also a list of secondary contacts below, followed by the option to set up either a text-based discussion or video call.
As with many other apps, such as WhatsApp or even iMessage, conversations support multimedia content, including high-resolution photographs. The design leans heavily on the pale grey found in Google+ and the latest YouTube redesign, showing a renewed consistency from the company.
Google says it wants the conversations carried out in the new Hangouts app to be long-lasting. A party from a month ago, a wedding from last year or even just a simple video call from last night; it’s all there.
“Of course, we give you the ability to turn off history,” Google’s Vic Gundrota said on stage today at Google I/O 2013. “Of course we give you the ability to delete those things. But having the ability so save those conversations, I think is delightful and amazing.”
People involved with the conversation appears as small, square icons at the bottom of the screen, which also expand as the user begins to type. While in a text-based conversation, it’s also possible to drop all the users into an instantaneous video chat by hitting the camcorder icon in the top right-hand corner.
It’s also worth noting that notifications will be synced across accounts; so if you read a conversation on the Web, it’ll be changed accordingly on the Android app, and vice versa.
Reports of a unified messaging service from Google have been circulating since March, when Geek.com suggested that it would be called ‘Babble’. Droid Life followed up with a report that it would in fact be called Babel, a name that stuck amongst Google-watchers’ speculation until Tech Radar reported last week that the service would go under the ‘Hangouts’ name and launch at I/O.
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