Google today updated its Hangouts for Android app with a trio of new features. You can download the new version now directly from Google Play.
If you’re not seeing the update yet, that’s likely because it’s a gradual rollout. Google engineer Mike Dodd says the new version will be available “this week” and the Android account on Google+ says “over the next few days” so you should get it soon enough.
While the changelog for version 2.1 isn’t on the Play store just yet, Dodd has shared it on Google+:
- Merged conversations: SMS and Hangout conversations with the same recipient are now combined into a single conversation. You can control whether you want to send a message via Hangouts or SMS with the flip of a switch, and different message types will be easy to tell apart in the conversation. Of course, you can always merge and unmerge conversations if you’d like.
- Simplified contact list: Now there are two main sections in contacts — People you Hangout With, and Phone Contacts — making it simpler to navigate, and easier to use for SMS.
- Homescreen widget: Add the Hangouts widget to your homescreen for quick access to your recent conversations.
- Performance improvements: Today’s update includes better quality video calls, as well as improved SMS and MMS reliability.
Google released version 2.0 of Hangouts for Android in November 2013. That was naturally a much bigger release, as it included SMS support (as well as MMS support on Android 4.0 and up), animated GIFs, and one-tap location sharing.
Yet today’s update is nothing to scoff at. Merged conversations as well as the new contact list will likely both be seen as very useful or quite annoying, depending on how you feel about Hangouts increasingly taking over all your communications on your Android device. Personally, I’ve found myself using Facebook Messenger more and more, but because Hangouts still handles SMS on my Nexus 5, I look forward to, as well as dread, testing updates like this one.
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