Chances are that when it comes to the cross platform application "Google Hangouts" you fall into one of three categories: 1) I use it everyday or at least regularly 2) I've never heard of it OR 3) It's an app on my phone that I've never used. If you fall into the last category than hopefully what I have to say will make you want to explore it and if you're in the second well, now you've heard of it haven't you?
To be precise, Hangouts is your all around video, messaging, photo/gif sharing app that can be used with Android Devices, iPhones, iPads, iPods, Computers (yes even Macs), and both Gmail/Google+ within the browser.
Initially Google Hangouts was introduced with the release of Google+ and primarily for video only, sure you could chat while in the hangouts but compared to what it is today it has certainly come a long way. When Google decided to get rid of G+ Messenger and Google Talk to implement Hangouts as an all in one messenger its reception was a bit unbalanced. Some people thought it was a great thing because it seemed unusual to have so many apps to essentially do the same thing, while loyal fans of Google Talk took a little more time to get on board.
With this change many wondered when they would be able to send SMS/MMS though the app and if they'd ever consider combining it with Google Voice. They finally got around to the the SMS/MMS functionality last year and just this past week they FINALLY sent out an update to cover it all.
For those of you unfamiliar with Google Voice, its a program that Google started some years ago where you can get a free phone number which can be used to reach multiple lines you may have, you can also make calls and send text messages with this number as well as get transcribed voice mail messages. This video will help answer any questions you may have:
I'm extremely excited for these new updates to the application and can't wait to take full advantage. My favorite part of the integration is being able to make VOIP calls, this is a great feature for folks that have a mobile plan with very few minutes i.e. 100 minutes a month. You can make calls over your cell phone data connection or WiFi. I tested mine a few days ago with a call to my mom and the sound was crystal clear, my mom had no idea I was using my data connection to talk to her. This is great for me because sadly as a Sprint customer, unless I'm on WiFi I can't use my data connection while on a voice call, that's something I really miss right about now that I took for granted with both Verizon and T-Mobile. Thanks to Google I can talk on the phone and still be online if I need to which is a win win in my book. I'm also a fan of the slight UI tweaks in the Android app as well, doesn't take much to satisfy me but the green bar at the top verus the ugly grey one they had previously is a definite step up.
The only thing that really seems to be missing at this point is the lack of a dedicated app for Windows Phone. There are quite a few third-party solutions that I found while using a Windows Phone earlier this year but nothing compares to an official app from Google. I don't know if its fear of competition or what but the lack of Google apps in general for Windows Phone is pathetic and I hope that they will get with the program soon and start developing for this growing mobile platform.