In a continued effort to kill Hangouts, Google is removing video call features and using them to push users to its Meet platform instead.
According to Android Police, Hangouts version 36.0.340725045 on Android, as well as the Hangouts web app, have both lost support for group video calls. The first time you open the Android app following the update, Hangouts displays a banner saying, “Video calls in Hangouts now use Google Meet.” The app also touts the benefits of Meet over Hangouts, specifically mentioning live caption and screen sharing features.
While the statement isn’t entirely correct — Hangouts still supports one-to-one video calls — it’s indicative of where Google is trying to go with Hangouts.
Along with the banner, Hangouts now has a new menu option for sharing Meet links with people. Plus, when you try to start a group call using Hangout’s video button, the app instead pastes a Meet link into the text entry box. Users can then send the link to their group message, and recipients can use it to join the Google Meet call.
Unfortunately, that change isn’t exactly a great way to switch things around. For one, chat messages with Meet links don’t ring users’ phones like a Hangouts call does, making it much easier for people to miss.
While you could avoid the update (or if it’s already installed, downgrade to version 35.x) to keep Hangout’s native group video calling, there may not be much benefit. On the one hand, phone apps update automatically, which means most people will likely end up on version 36 with the new calling parameters. Unless everyone in your Hangouts group is savvy enough to dodge the update or downgrade their app, chances are they’ll lose Hangouts’ native video calling.
On the other hand, Google will likely shut down the back end of Hangouts’ calling capabilities soon, so even if you hold onto an old version of the Hangouts app, it may stop working anyway.
If you really don’t want to use Meet, Google Duo could be an alternative for your video calling needs. If you want a good mix of chat and video calling capability, Discord or Facebook Messenger could also be options.
Source: Android Police