Google has just pushed a new version of Hangouts with version number 2.1 attached. With a whole point update we'd expect to see some notable changes – this one is not disappointing. Google is finally making SMS a bit easier to use, and is adding some completely new features.
Google doesn't usually include changelogs in the Play Store until after the rollout is complete, but there is a Google+ post on the matter.
- Merged SMS/Hangout conversations: SMS and Hangout conversations with the same recipient are now combined into a single conversation. You can control whether you want to send a message via Hangouts or SMS with the flip of a switch, and different message types will be easy to tell apart in the conversation. Of course, you can always merge and unmerge conversations if you’d like
- Highlighted outgoing Hangout messages
- Simplified contact list: now there’s two main sections in contacts — People you Hangout With, and Phone Contacts — making it simpler to navigate, and easier to use for SMS
- More Prominent Presence Status (on call, moods, etc)
- New Notification sound
- Separate voice and video call tones
- Performance improvements: today’s update includes better quality video calls, as well as improved SMS and MMS reliability
- Home screen widget: add the Hangouts widget to your homescreen for quick access to your recent conversations
- Long press on images to save media
We're still digging in here, so let us know what you see, but the SMS and Hangouts merger seems like the big headlining feature. There might be more than Google is letting on, so tell us if you find anything of note.
The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.
File name: com.google.android.talk-2.1.076 (1133037-30).apk.
Version: 2.1.076 (1133037-30) (Android 2.3+).
[Thanks, +David Johnson and Joseph Hartley]