Last Updated: August 10th, 2012

Google Talk is one of my favorite parts about Android. If you have other Googly friends, between Android, Gmail, and G+, they are almost always available. In Android 2.3.4, Google Talk got a big upgrade in the form of voice and video chat.

There will be many similarities to the to the Ice Cream Sandwich version of Gmail, which was the subject of Part 1 of this series. So go read about it or risk falling behind the rest of the class. Just like that article, Gingerbread is on the left, Ice Cream Sandwich is on the right. The ICS pictures are all from the emulator, which has the occasional rendering issue, so don't judge too harshly.

With the disclaimer out of the way, lets get to it. First up, the about screens:

wm_screenshot-1319316404820  wm_2011-10-22-16h42_37

Oh.. um.. Gingerbread Google Talk doesn't have an about screen. Poor, neglected, Google Talk.

We're moving from version 1.3 (Google Talk with Video) to a suspiciously high 4.0. Apparently "Vidyo, Inc." powers the video chat. It's pretty rare for Google to partner with a company like this. Usually they roll up with a dump truck full of cash and buy the company or, if they resist the buyout, Google just copies them and crushes them.

Friends List

The Gingerbread version of Google Talk is, in a word, grey. The header, your name tag, the background, the mobile indicator - everything is grey. ICS brings a much brighter and higher contrast design that looks less like a rainy day and more like a pleasant, modern app.

Untitled-2  Untitled-1

Wow. Check out that big, green, "YOU ARE ONLINE" status header. That's intense. It turns the appropriate color depending on your status. You will never, ever wonder if you are online or not. And if you think that's bright, check out what happens when you are set to "Busy":


What color would you say that is? "Nuclear Red"? Whatever it is, it's bright. And remember, it's this bright on your crappy LCD monitor, imagine a super vibrant AMOLED.

ICS kills the generic "Available/Away/Offline" status under each name and replaces it with a status circle and an email address. The generic statuses were pretty redundant, but I don't see how an email address is any more useful. If you have a custom status that will show up instead of your email address.

I'm kind of sad to see the death of the little Android guy next to mobile users. It gave the app a little character. Now, from the friends list, there's no way to tell who is mobile and who isn't.

Pretend the microphones in ICS are video cameras, you can't (or at least, I can't) emulate a front facing camera. So Talk drops to voice only mode.


At the top of the app you get the ICS standard app icon/back button, which, if you remember from Gmail, is an app-level back button. Next to that you get the dropdown account switcher, also like Gmail. Oh yeah, new feature alert: Talk now supports multiple accounts. Next to the account switcher is a search button (for contacts or chat keywords) and invite to Google Talk.

Chat Window

wm_screenshot-1319573780223  wm_Untitled-1

The ICS chat window gets a facelift, too. At the top there's the person's status, which in this screenshot is an email address. An email in the status means the person is on a desktop.If the person is using an Android device it will say "On Mobile Device". It does not do this on the main friends list. It should.

Below that is the swipe indicator. Swiping left to right will take me to the "Artem" chat, and swiping right to left will take me to the "Mark" chat. The old version of Google Talk lets you swipe between chats too, you just won't know where it will go until you try it.

The pictures are bigger and have a nice alternating layout. The new "almost Helvetica" font looks really nice here, even with the emulator's crappy rendering. Nametags are totally gone, making the app more dependant on pictures (and Google+) for identification.  You get a new set of emoticons too. Nice to see an Android is still somewhere.

Youtube previews look exactly the same, and a little out of place in the new version. They need to be bigger, prettier and widescreen to fit in with the rest of the design. Somehow Google managed to program in Youtube previews but not picture previews. Though given the identical look of previews on desktop, GB and ICS, I suspect that stuff is server side. Hope for an update.

For longer messages, the old version wrapped edge-to-edge after the chat picture, the new version never fills the space under the picture. So it's the usual ICS tradeoff of less space but a prettier app. I don't think the loss is a big deal.


wm_screenshot-1319334414830 ICS-wm_71

Not much to report in settings. They look better. In ICS the black header floats while you scroll. Settings are split up by account now, so you can have separate ringtones for each account if you'd like. Why doesn't the About section have a link to "About Talk"?

Wrap Up

After having taken a long look at both Gmail and Google Talk, you know what word I would use to describe them? "Consistent." A word never before used to describe Android. Everything looks the same, everything works the same. If you saw the two apps in a lineup you could actually tell they were from the same OS. It's really great to see. Looking like Gmail means Google Talk actually looks good now. Another thing you don't usually say when talking about Android.

Talk 4.0 is a nice redesign, but it's a little disappointing. We're starting to see a trend in Ice Cream Sandwich of all looks and no new features. Talk is full of opportunities for upgrades - it should be Android's BBM killer. Google insists on building Talk into everything, but they never show the feature set any love. Maybe Talk 5.0 will bring the big feature upgrades.

So how do you like the new design? Do you have any questions about Talk 4.0? Hit that comment button!

Ron Amadeo
Ron loves everything related to technology, design, and Google. He always wants to talk about "the big picture" and what's next for Android, and he's not afraid to get knee-deep in an APK for some details. Expect a good eye for detail, lots of research, and some lamenting about how something isn't designed well enough.
  • Justin

    Does it have a "Copy-Paste" feature? Can I share Location via GTalk?

    • Ron Amadeo

      I'm not sure what you mean, you can paste in the chat window. You can't copy text the other person has written.

      Google Talk STILL doesn't register itself as an Android "share" handler (GRRRRRRR), so no.

    • Randy K

      There is a way to use Latitude to set your GTalk status to your location, if that's any help. That feature has been there for a few years now.

  • wazel

    yea i will miss the mobile indicator on the main friends list as well. it usefull to know who is mobile.

  • P4ulm86

    Google Is def Dropping the Ball with GTALk. While iMessage brings a new feature to IOS and BBM is still a used messasing features google Should integrate GTALK with Google Plus. and add Features


    S & R Messages ( BBM , IMessage)
    Emoji or Better SMileys
    Message Broadcast

    • http://whosthisguy.com Brendan

      Google Talk is already integrated with Google+. It's right there, at the bottom of the left column, under the list of circles.

  • Jason Beatty

    I think Talk is destined for the dustbin. They will keep it alive for a while, but I think the google+ messenger will be the new default sooner rather than later.

    • Ron Amadeo

      I think if they were going to kill Talk for a Google+ thing they wouldn't have integrated it into G+ desktop. They didn't just integrate it, the G+ version of Google Talk is upgraded from the Gmail version and behaves differently.

    • https://plus.google.com/117702410245683101961/posts Lucian Armasu

      More likely they'll end up killing the G+ one. I've been a heavy user of both Yahoo Messenger and MSN Messenger in the past, and I couldn't see myself using Gtalk then, but now it's my main messenger.

  • Xcom923

    I don't get why G+ messenger and Gtalk are even separate. Google has never been good at integration despite having a ton of products. If they can get over that with their Google overhaul that they are currently doing they may decide to get rid of G+ messenger or integrate it to Gtalk and huddle and Gtalk do the same thing to >_< I'm so confused.

    • Jason

      G+ Messenger connects to people in your G+ circles, including everyone you're following on G+. Google Talk connects to people in your main Google contact list, which should be a much more personal set. As long as the lists are separate, Google will have to keep the desktop applications separate.

      Unless, of course, Google allows its Google+ users to combine the two and define contacts and circles as either personal contacts or acquaintences (those who we're just following). Then Google could merge the two properly.

  • droidddd

    Google+ desktop already uses GTalk as the chat messenger. Why they don't integrate it with the mobile app so you don't need "huddle" or "messenger" is beyond me. I think Google should combine Google Talk, Google Voice, and Google+ messenger because they have too many messenger apps that don't do the same thing. Either that or merge GTalk and G+ messenger.

    • Ron Amadeo

      Right on. The Voice app needs to be taken out back and shot. In the face.

      • http://www.thepixelpuse.com aj

        Twice. But seriously. If they just integrate everything that is Voice, into Talk that'd be awesome. Make that shit cross platform on everything and ditch Google+ Messenger too. That's what I want.

  • dextroz

    This is more of the same shit Google did with Orkut.

    The retards had the #2 social network but immediately stopped development after purchasing it.

    Now, they are going all out on a prematurely released Google+ with little to no attention to detail and use-cases.

    This is the beginning of the end for Android IMO if they don't get their shit together and kick some serious Mathias Duarte/ Andy Rubin ass for featureless minor upgrades that Gingerbread and ICS are turning out to be.

    Almost everything that ICS is bringing out - is already in CM7. Kind of makes you think; what the hell is the 40+ Android team doing besides sucking on each other's dicks for the last 6 months?

    As a blogger for AndroidPolice, you need to kick some add and bring your criticisms out harder. Especially if you love Android and want it to improve.

    • Phil

      I don't think its anywhere near any end for Android. I don't see where they prematurely released Google+. For me it has been a breath of fresh air from Facebook. I don't even want to visit FB anymore.

      Stock Android has always trailed the modder scene and it does make me wonder what they are doing at Google. BUT I expected it in this release. I knew all along this release was going to be squarely focused on making Honeycomb work on phones. Thats a lot of behind the scenes work thats not going to show up in features that you can see. They also did what many people asked anyway which was to stop with new features and clean up whats there.

    • gfinale

      I've been developing systems for 20 years and what's obvious to me is that Google has some great search algorithm PROGRAMMERS.  It would seem they put these people and others who are inexperienced in the lead of managing systems development.  It seems like a bunch of 22 year old buddies having fun there.  Nothing wrong with having some fun but you need tons of experience and knowledge about handling projects to lead.

  • Dave


    • Ron Amadeo

      Nope. Links only.

      • Randy K

        Sad when you think that I can send pictures in GTalk from my BLACKBERRY! WTF Over?

        Almost the same situation with Google Voice on the Blackberry... why does the Google Voice App on the Blackberry have more functionality then the Android... why Google, why?

  • Phil

    Yes the Google+ and GTalk duo is retarded. Google seems to have a problem with consolidating products within their walls. Why was Huddle even needed if it wasn't going to just be GTalk. If its better then just push it out as updates to GTalk and change the name to huddle.

  • Sam

    Have they fixed mobile group chat? Its always crashes. We've moved over to G+ Messenger but I hate that it doesn't have a desktop client.

  • scuttlefield

    I'm just happy about multiple accounts. Finally!

  • wackadroid

    I only talk to people through gtalk these days, video and text. If your not on gtalk then youre just not cool.

  • Jason

    I like the new look a lot--it's pretty and well organized--but I'm still waiting for Google to finally merge other protocols into their messaging app. Give it the ability to send messages via Talk and you already have something better than Apple's iMessage.

    Then again, why stop there? AIM, Talk, Voice, Yahoo! Messenger, ICQ, Skype--all of them already exist on Android. They should be able to plug in and allow the messaging app to decide which one will work best for sending messages at any given time. As long as the app keeps conversations together by contact, it wouldn't be a problem.

    I shouldn't need to think about all the ways I can send a message to a particular user before I start typing.

    • gfinale

      Especially GMail, Talk and Voice which are all Google.  It's all kind of a mess and arbitrarily separated.  The PC, web interface and mobile all do different things.  GMail, GTalk and GVoice should be one product.  Email, Chat and Voice Messages are all messaging people.  There should be a filter to see email and/or voice messages.  One set of contacts.  One set of messages.  GTalk call and regular phone call.  Possibly one or more incoming phone numbers.  Done.

  • No screencaps of landscape layout?

    All those whites are really going drain the battery fast on Galaxy Nexus.

    • Ron Amadeo

      Landscape has no special layout stuff.
      Imagine portrait, but shorter and longer. =P

  • http://www.leperkhanz.com rhY

    When can I just magically add Skype and MSN and Yahoo contacts and have the video chat magically integrate? THAT would finally kill those other ones. Google Talk Video is already better than those 4, but lots of peeps are still on Skype... :(

    • gfinale

      There are multi messengers such as IM+ and Nimbuzz.  Google Talk, like MSN Messenger, Skype, etc. try to suck you into their proprietary world so they're not about to accommodate the other messengers.  It's not about using the best messenger, it's who can suck you in and lock you in.

  • JimJam

    I've never used talk before and would be too much hassle to get friends on it. I just say Google should buy Whatsapp and integrate that into the system so it's there but not something seperate. Basically what iMessage is like with a Google flair

  • Jeremy

    In the new version of Talk, it does not seem to be able to view ALL of your contacts without having to scroll through your entire list to find the ones that are actually online. In the old version, you could have all contacts displayed and it would display the online ones first, before the offline ones, which was ok. Now it just gives you one long, unhelpful, alphabetically sorted list. Or am I missing an option somewhere?

    • satya

      am also having same query...did u found any resolution?

  • Ricardo

    This is what I think. Google Talk is a great app but google doesnt concentrate on it that much. They took a step in the right direction. I do believe Google talk should be intergrated with G+ messenger. If thats not a reality atleast give it features so it can compete with BBM or imessage. G+ messenger has picture sharing!. thats wonderful but why doesnt Talk have it? Google talk should have picture, video, and or file sharing in it. It would really attract people to use it. Also they should make it that adding people to google talk easier as to adding their email. I think android phones should recognize when they are communicating with other android phones. alert both parties that they use google talk and see if they would like to add each other. And yes they should have a send and recieve notification because sometimes messages dont go through because of poor signals. and they should improve friends list instead of just having it al in your face. All this is very much possible and easy to do because aim app just came with a big update and google talk should already have those features. If they also really clean up group chat make it more stable nd secure android can really have a killer app. I am a huge google talk fan and i am dissapointed with this uppdate its just a facelift. If google talk team can hear me out atleast once, trust me guys i would convince them to put atleast file trasnsfers.

  • Angiesanchez2010

    Where is the emoticons in google talk? Htc sensation 4g ics... :( I'm trying :( please tell me how I can do it....

  • Er Shushank 09

    Dear Sir,

    I am not able to signin in gtalk in my Galaxy Note7000. So, please help me on this.

  • James Taylor

    So, in ICS, you can use more than one Google account while in 2.3.6, for instance, you are stuck with one?

  • gfinale

    Where can one download Talk 4 for ICS?  My tablet seemingly does not come with.

  • VaUnicorn

    Anyone have any clues how to downgrade from version 4 back to version 1.3?