Hanging out is made tricky by Google
In 2013, Google developed their own messaging app. Google Hangouts is a communication tool similar to Skype or WhatsApp. You can chat with other users or make phone or video calls. It allows conference calls for up to 10 people and you can send photos, emojis and gifs. All for free! You can also call cell phones and landlines – for a price.
If you already have a Google account or you need a tool for group communication and conference calls, then Google Hangouts is a neat app. The voice calls are known for their excellent quality. One major drawback is that in order to call someone via Hangouts, the recipient will need to have the app open and volume loud. If you have friends or colleagues already using Google Hangouts it could be a wise move. As messaging apps go, it corners the market for video calls.
Multiplatform app for instant messaging, group calls and more
Google Hangouts: more than just hanging out
In the world of instant communication and remote working, apps like Google Hangout are increasing in importance. Maybe you already use apps like Skype, Whatsapp or the iMessenger preinstalled with iPhone. Google Hangouts also lets you chat online with friends for free. Unlike WhatsApp you do not need to sign up with your phone number, but it is for using alongside a Google account. It synchronizes with your Gmail account and you can choose to import all your contacts. You can also search for friends via their email address, name or phone number.
You can send fun emojis, stickers or gifs in your conversation. The instant chat feature also lets you share photos with friends (although unlike other messaging apps it doesn’t save all your images within the app). There is also a search function that allows you to find messages from your Gmail using the Google Hangouts app although this is not always 100% effective. The app leaves a tiny footprint on your iPhone (146.1 MB) and you can turn off notifications for those busy chats and block any annoying users.
Where Google Hangouts truly has the edge is with its group and video calls. Alongside Skype it guarantees exceptional quality and you can add up to 10 people for a conference call. You also have the option of reducing the video quality for bad connections, and the camera will automatically show the person speaking. For corporate communications, Google Hangouts is an excellent choice. It is easy to add users to a group chat and free to make calls within the app. It is also a sensible move for users of other Google services as your conversations and calls will be synchronized across your devices.
For informal chats and ease-of-use however, it has a long way to go. While it was once a popular choice for instant messaging with friends also using Gmail, a lack of upgrades and clunky shortfalls are making people turn to alternative apps. And for good reason. Google Hangouts may be an efficient and reliable tool for communication among colleagues and interactive group calls. First-time users may find the interface limited and unintuitive however. Also the chat options are very limited when you compare it to alternative apps. You cannot send or record voice notes or search within your conversations. You are also limited to chatting with Google Hangout users who are either already online or very quick to get a notification or email about your message. If you want to message a new contact you will need to wait for them to accept your invitation. You are limited to one photo at a time, and you cannot send PDF files or voice notes. You can send a location pin and there are some really neat stickers. There is however no option to edit your chats or delete messages from the recipient’s device after they have been sent. Each new conversation will pop up in a separate window, so if you are chatting to several users simultaneously your screen could get very crowded.
Where can you run this program?
Google Hangouts is a multi-platform program. There is an app version for Android and iOS and you can also use the desktop version on Windows and Mac. Apple users will need iOS 10.0 or later and you can run it on your iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. If you are using it from your laptop or desktop there is the Google Hangouts Extension that you can add to your Chrome browser.
Is there a better alternative?
If you have many colleagues or employees already using Google accounts or as existing users, this may be a good choice. Setting up conference calls is easy and you can share screens which makes presentations more efficient.
Zoom does also offer these functions and is fast and easy to use. Slack and Asana are both first-rate tools for team projects. Using “boards” you can pin tasks, write checklists and send messages to colleagues for effective internal communication. Using instant messaging for personal use, Google Hangouts is far outperformed by worthy alternatives. WhatsApp has more features for easy chatting (voice notes, multimedia file sharing and you can delete messages and whole chats). For secure and private communication, Telegram, Signal and WickR ensure your messages are highly encrypted. Skype is a great choice for group calls and you can also call landlines and cell phones for a small price.
If you are already fully integrated in Google across your devices and use Gmail and Google Drive for your email and Cloud storage then it may be worth checking out. Unless you already have a Gmail account the app is available but no longer free. For communicating with other keen Google Hangout users (who are likely to be on the ball checking their app or email frequently) it offers free calls of a high quality. You can call outwards to landline telephones or cell phones (not SMS messages) for cheap rates so this could be a money-saver. You are limited to sending images only whereas with other apps you can send PDF files, videos and more.
Should you download it?
Unless you are deeply entrenched in Google across the board, then Google Hangouts will not offer you anything you won’t find better elsewhere. No, don’t download it - try WhatsApp or Skype instead.
- Video and audio call quality
- Screen sharing
- Limited features for chatting
- Awkward interface
- Interface not very intuitive