In the wake of the tragic events in Brussels today and the recent violence and bombings in Turkey, Google has made calls to both countries free via Hangouts, Hangouts Dialer, and Google Voice. Calls to people on Belgium's biggest carriers — Lycamobile, Mobistar, Proximus, and Telenet — are free, along with calls to all landlines in Turkey. Google's announcement follows earlier news of all major U.S. mobile carriers offering similar free calling and texting to Belgium (Turkey was not mentioned).
In addition, for the Brussels area, Google has been publishing Google Now cards with transit updates, keeping the public informed and up-to-date, plus a direct link to the Government Crisis Centre. Read More
Google, for all its skill in the realms of mobile search, advertising, email, and even operating systems, has never been particularly good at the social thing. Even now, I suspect, someone at Google is fuming at the notion that the company "isn't very good" at messaging or social networks and pointing animatedly at the tens of millions of Google+ and Hangouts users. The problem is and has always been that for whatever success Google has had in social and messaging platforms, it is constantly undercut by the actions of Google itself that say otherwise. There is near-yearly reworking, redesigning, or branching off of these products in ways that very strongly suggest they aren't getting the results Google's Alphabet overlords consider acceptable. Read More
Remember that time you were super jazzed about Hangouts 4.0, and when it finally came out, it wasn't that great? How about when v5.0 began its rollout, and it was basically the same thing, but with working animated GIFs? Version 5.1 is now making its way out into the world, but if you weren't happy with the previous releases, you're probably not going to be too thrilled with this one. It looks like a relatively light bug fix update, and nothing more.
It's probably no coincidence that a v5.1 update was also just released on the iOS App Store with a very sparse changelog. Read More
Hangouts for Android version 5.0 is rolling out to some users now, and it brings... nothing new in the way of features that we can find, actually. We do know this version is supposed to fix the broken animated GIF support that was an annoyance in Hangouts 4 (confirmed: they're fixed), but otherwise, you probably aren't going to notice much. There appear to be some very slight animation changes here and there, as well as a brief splash screen that pops up when the app opens to the main conversation view that wasn't present in the previous version (4.2).
It's possible you might spot some other subtle changes - for example, I noticed at least one checkbox toggle was a brighter shade of green, hooray - but this particular release of Hangouts seems to be mostly about under-the-hood adjustments. Read More
Have you ever been stuck in the middle of the woods with no way back to civilization, no laptop, and your boss expects you to deliver a spectacular presentation to your investors in 15 minutes? Neither have I, but it could happen – life is full of surprises like that. If you ever do find yourself in this situation, all you need is your smartphone, a half-decent wireless connection, and the latest version of Google Slides. Read More
Not many Android apps can say they've been installed a billion times. In fact, before today there were only ten - and out of those ten, only three of them were non-Google apps (and all owned by Facebook). Today Google's first party messaging client, Hangouts, joins this elite group of billion-device apps... notably behind its competitors, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.
A billion installations doesn't mean a billion users, it means one billion different Android devices have downloaded the app once. (Phones and tablets now out of service count, multiple downloads and updates don't.) That said, Hangouts' daily users probably number in the hundreds of millions at this point, if only by virtue of its inclusion as the default SMS app on many Android phones. Read More
It's Father's Day. If you have a dad and you appreciate him, go have lunch with him. If he's too far away, call him on the phone, like people used to do before things like touchscreens and smartwatches and Taylor Swift. Don't send him a text message or IM that says "Happy Father's Day" - that's just so tacky. It's the communication equivalent of a last-minute drug store gift card.
If you decide to ignore this advice, and you send Dad a "Happy Father's Day" message through Hangouts, Google won't judge you as harshly as I will. In fact, they'll actually reward you with a series of custom animations, as is their wont for wide-reaching holidays lately. Read More
One of the best things about tech companies is that they believe in having a little fun around the holidays, and there's no better time to take a beat to enjoy the festivities than New Year's Eve. Facebook just featured a themed selfie frame in its Messenger app, and Google is matching with a dancing emoji when you type the words "Happy new years" to somebody.
This easter egg has actually been around for a few days, but we thought today was the perfect day to highlight it. One more emoji isn't the most exciting thing, but you can have a little bit of fun surprising your uninitiated friends with a little animated treat. Read More
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. Sadly, these apps will cease to function on May 15, 2014.
Google plans to shut down the XMPP interface currently used by alternative Voice apps. Read More
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. Google asserts that streaming HD streams to ten participants using the H.264 codec would have required too much processing power. Read More