Users of Google Voice have long called for the company to pay more attention to the seemingly forgotten service for quite some time. Unfortunately, they may be getting more than they were hoping for. While many people are thrilled to hear Voice will finally support MMS and become a part of Hangouts in early 2014, Google is also planning to close up shop for all 3rd-party apps that relied on the service for free texting and VoIP calling.
Some of you may have already noticed that your Hangouts video looked significantly clearer the last time you fired it up. That's because Google has transitioned from the H.264 video codec to VP8, and with it, the company has introduced HD streaming. Google started rolling out the change to users in the last few weeks, but it will still be a while before this rolls out to everyone.
Google introduced VP8 back in 2010 as an open and royalty-free format allowing users to watch video in browsers without the need for any additional plugins.
If you hadn't noticed already, any pictures shared with or by your friends during a Google Hangouts chat will automatically sync up with Google+ Photos, organized into albums by conversation. These images are uploaded even if automatic back up is disabled inside the Google+ app. New albums can be found under the "Albums" tab and are titled Hangout: [Your Name] ● [Contact's Name] unless you explicitly gave your hangout a title, so you shouldn't have any trouble finding them.
Everyone expected Google's new Hangouts feature – the long-rumored Babel service – to put an end to multiple messenger applications. We hoped it would combine GTalk, Google+ Messenger, and Google Voice at the very least. Unfortunately, that's not exactly what we got... yet, anyway.
According to a recent Google+ post by Nikhyl Singhal, manager of real-time communication products (like Hangouts) for Google, that could start to change very soon. Firstly, Singhal addressed the removal of outgoing calls for Google voice, stating that "they're working hard to support both [inbound and outbound] calls," and they should both be available soon.
Google may've said during Wednesday's keynote that it planned to roll out Hangouts to Gmail users gradually, but if you just can't wait to integrate the new messaging service into your e-mail dashboard, there's a way to gain early access. Simply log into Gmail, ensure you've signed into Google Talk (if you're having trouble enabling Talk, try installing the browser plugin), click on the thumbnail associated with your account in the Talk sidebar, and select the "Try the new Hangouts" option.
The new Google Messenger is real! It's not called Babel, or Google Talk, but "Hangouts." It also isn't the unified messenger we've all wanted - maybe it will be someday, but Hangouts is strictly a Google Talk replacement - there's no SMS or Google Voice integration.
What Hangouts does have going for it is that it is really pretty. It supports group messaging, pictures, video chat, and even has read receipts!