Google has officially released the latest update to Hangouts for Android, the company’s official text, voice, and video messaging app for Google+ users. The release was announced on the company’s official Google+ page by one of the developers of the app. The company has called the latest update, Hangouts 2.1 for Android, and has already started rolling out on Google Play this week.
The update to Hangouts is bringing a slew of improvements to the app including merged conversations, a simplified contact list, a homescreen widget, and some performance improvements.
Merged conversations, the biggest feature the update is bringing and one that has long been requested combines SMS and Hangout conversations with the same recipient. Users can choose to send a message via Hangouts or SMS just by flipping a switch on the app. Google has also made it easy for users to tell between SMS and Hangout messages by adding a “via SMS” label below messages received via SMS while sent messages will be differentiated by color – green for Hangouts messages and white for SMS messages. Users also have the option of merging and unmerging SMS and Hangout conversations at will. This kind of functionality is similar to how Apple handles iMessage but without the feature to automatically fall back to SMS messages whenever a data connection isn’t available.
With the introduction of merged conversations, Google has created a much simpler contact list that displays a user’s contacts in two main sections – People you Hangouts With, and Phone Contacts – which compliments the new ability to send messages via either Hangouts or SMS.
Google has also finally released an official homescreen widget for Google Hangouts with this update. The widget will display the user’s most recent conversations for easy access. Additionally, the update promises better quality video calls as well as improved reliability for SMS and MMS messages.
Google didn’t mention anything regarding an iOS release for the 2.1 update to the Hangouts app. Hangouts for iOS received a major redesign last February that brought the app more in line with the iOS 7 design style as well as introduced a slew of new features.