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Hangouts for Android has finally received a long awaited updated. It finally has a material-ish design and seems a bit faster. Unfortunately it falls very short of remarkable.

I have been testing the app for the last few hours and here is a short list of what is still missing and/or broken. I have listed them in order from my highest grievance to the least:

The Ugly

No search
This is truly embarrassing. Google is a search company. They are really good it. Yet somehow they have failed to include any method for searching through past conversations. Can’t remember an address or phone number someone sent you the in the past? Better run to your computer to search.

Google, please let me search through current and archived conversations on my phone. Is that so much to ask?

Can’t attach video/audio in chat
This is 2015 Google. How have you not included an option to send a simple media file? At least act you are trying.

No quick reply
A feature in the Google Messenger app as well as every half decent texting app in the Play Store. Google, take a look how Textra handles it and copy it verbatim. It doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to be functional.

No night theme
I know the Material Design loves to be fun and bright. I personally prefer not being blinded when trying to respond to a message a night. A simple night theme is a basic optional feature that should be included in every major app.

The “signed in as:” message that appears every time you enter the app
Okay, seriously. Why do I need to know what account I’m signed into every time I enter the app? 99% of people are going to be signing into the same account every single time. If I have any question of which Google account I’m signed into I can open the swipe menu to check. 

Gif’s aren’t working on the sender side (works on the receiver side)
Try sending a gif to someone. It’ll probably send just fine. However, on your side, you’ll only see a static image and you’ll question your sanity of whether your friend actually received the gif successfully. 

No real tablet interface
Google had a tablet interface in the old Hangouts. One day the Google Devs decided people didn’t need it and removed it entirely. They removed having separated panels and haven’t returned. Nothing like Google showing support Android tablets.

Downscales images to 480p
Hope you enjoy low res pictures. I sent a 4.59mb, 5312 x 2988 (16MP) image through Hangouts on WiFi. When this image was received from Hangouts by a friend, it arrived at a pathetic 15.4KB at 332 x 187. I understand compressing images when on data but there’s no reason it should compress that much when using WiFi.

Edit: There seems to be an inconsistency here. Whenever I send images out they are highly compressed. However, when I receive images from one of the TechDissected writers using the exact same phone, on WiFi, IM and SMS unmerged, they come in at full resolution. This is almost more frustrating to me since I have no idea what to fix. I’ve contacted a Hangouts developer to try to clear this up. Stay tuned.

No auto-resend of failed messages
If a message fails to send, it fails to send. It will not attempt to send again once you’re in a better service area. You must manually try to resend it.

Can’t swipe back to message list
You cannot currently swipe back to see the list of your messages. You must hit the back key. A minor annoyance but enough to bug me considering it prevalence in other apps… including Hangouts for iOS.

No way of knowing whether someone is available unless you click into the conversation
A simple indicator of whether someone is available prior to clicking into the conversation would be greatly appreciated. Maybe a little green, yellow, or red bubble?

Requiring three clicks and then a search to initiate new message
In order to send a new message, you need to open the app, click the “+” floating action button, click “new conversation,” then type in the name. It’d be really nice to be able to search immediately after clicking the “+” button.

Still can’t send texts from Hangouts on Chrome/Gmail
This is actually one of my biggest annoyances. I listed it last because it’s one I expected least out of Google. The issue is I know it can be done. MightyText already integrates into Gmail as mentioned in my “State of SMS Texting From Your Computer on Android” article.

The Not-So-Bad

It does seem faster for me in my limited testing. I wouldn’t classify it as “snappy” or “smooth.” It’s simply an improvement. The redesign, while not quite as nice as it could be, is a welcomed change. The interface is much cleaner especially without the huge green header at the top. Also, for those that use Google Voice it looks like there are some welcomed changes with support for Group MMS. Lastly it also appears there is better integration with Android Wear.

I know Hangouts for Android will likely never be as good as Apple’s iMessage. I understand if I want really integrated and seamless messaging I’m going to need to switch to iOS. However, could Google at least make Hangouts for Android as good as Hangouts for iOS?

Google: Official Google Blog
App Download: Google Hangouts APK (slightly newer version, updated Aug. 12 @ 2:25 EDT)
Reddit: Join the conversation

About the author

Kael Kanczuzewski

I am the IT counselor for family & friends. I am platform agnostic with a range of devices spanning Apple, PC's and Android.

I am a tinkerer of gadgets, enjoyer of the outdoors, cooker of meals, and brewer of drinks.

  • Matt Lucas

    Night theme is just being picky

    • I’d tend to agree with that, Matt, but a lot of these are legitimate complaints. I haven’t gotten the update yet, but if it forces me to “sign in as” every time I open the app then I feel like I’ll be using Hangouts less…

      • Jeff Trocchio

        It merely tells you who you are signing in as. You don’t have to sign in every time you open it.

    • Thomas Ella

      Every other texting app I’ve used in the last six months has included a night mode except the ones Google makes (Messenger and Hangouts). A night mode isn’t being “picky”; it’s being “practical.”

  • Jason

    i stopped using messenger because i never got MMS messages without trying to download them 3 times and other messages would be delivered out of order. my stock messenger works perfectly. i was going to try hangouts but not after this. why cant google make a better (or at least working) messenger for their own platform than HTC can?

  • Asyd_Rayn

    Pretty spot on — here’s a glitch I’ve experienced: notifications sounds are overridden. Regular hangout tone is replaced with the tone I have set for SMS messages I receive via Google Voice — even though settings shows it correctly. Also, notification pop-ups aren’t resetting so I get a list of messages I’ve already read. What a mess.

  • Hide that damn video call and voice button. Tired of accidentally calling everyone in the hangout.

    • I completely agree, in fact, do you mind if I add this to the list complaints in the article?

  • Jon Mooney

    Would be nice if it allowed you to set a contact picture of somebody that doesn’t use G+.

  • Malachy T Higgins

    Imagine if you could get a group text, instead of 12 response message windows?

  • I’ve left Hangouts for Telegram. Haven’t looked back.

  • Joseph

    I was hoping for In-App sounds in this update. Messenger (as well as Facebook messenger) feature perfect in-app sounds. If I have a conversation open, and I receive a message from that person, I hear a sound or get a vibration to let me know about it.

    This is extremely helpful if I have my phone unlocked on my desk and I’m not actively looking at it. Without in-app sounds, I can easily miss a message entirely, and get no notification.

  • bubbisleepnow

    i can’t get group mms to work since the update. and I’m not talking about on Google Voice number. it doesn’t work on my carrier (att) number. another friend on vzn is having the same issue.

    a group thread can be created but then all replies get their own individual thread in the app. anyone else having this issue?