As someone who uses Hangouts all day, every day, this is an exciting moment. Google has finally overhauled Hangouts for iOS, completely overhauling the design, significantly improving performance, and treating customers to full iPad support, among other things.
Hangouts debuted in May of last year at Google I/O, replacing Talk as the company’s go-to messaging engine. Though Talk still exists in its deprecated form, Hangouts is a better solution for cross-platform synchronization, as messages appear, in real time, across the platforms it supports. At the moment, that limits two-way sync to iOS, Android and the web, but hopefully Google will see fit to add Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10 clients in the future (or, even less likely, open up the API to third-party developers).
Hangouts 2.0 is a polished piece of work, too. Google took its time with this one; the app hadn’t been updated since November, and was the last remaining piece of software still using the iOS 6 SDK on my iPhone. The new design puts four tabs at the bottom of the screen: Contacts, Favourites, Hangouts, and Calls. While Contacts and Favourites could likely be combined into a single tab, with an internal switch to select between All and Favourites, the rest of the design choices are top notch. For example, swiping across an existing Hangout brings up four options: Favourite, Video, Mute and Archive. It’s easy to initiate a video chat with one or many people now, while voice calls — a feature added to the iOS app that is still missing from Android — gets its own tab. Google is really pushing VoIP calls in this version, but it will be an upward battle to get people used to using it over a dedicated app like Skype or even Viber.
On the iPad front, Hangouts is fully optimized, including support for picture-in-picture messaging like its Skype counterpart. Other features, while minor, put the app into the same realm as WhatsApp and Kik: users can send short 10-second videos, in addition to photos, and Google has added a sticker market (though all are currently free) to rival the likes of LINE and Path.
Ultimately, even without the feature upgrades, Hangouts 2.0 is a huge improvement over the older version. It starts quickly — no more load screens! — and the gesture-based navigation makes sense in the overarching iOS ecosystem. The only thing I foresee people taking issue with is that the chat room font size abides by the Dynamic Type setting for the entire OS, which means those who want to make text smaller or bigger will affect every app that uses it.
Still, while Hangouts lacks the overall reach of WhatsApp, or even Facebook Messenger, its ability to accurately sync across devices (read that, iMessage?) is a benefit, and comes out as my favourite messaging client on both iPhone and Android.
Source: App Store