Google's messaging situation has been a mess. When Hangouts first appeared, it replaced Google+ Messenger and Google Talk, bringing the company's list of similarly-named Android apps from four down to three. Once Hangouts gained SMS support and replaced Messenger, that dropped the number down to two. Voice is all that remains, and if a report by 9to5 Google is to be believed, we only have a handful of months to wait for it to kick the bucket, with a possible Google I/O announcement seeming increasingly likely.
Google Voice was a hugely exciting service when it launched a few years back, but it seems like Google has put it on the back burner recently. Maybe things are picking up, though. Just last week Google announced that Voice was finally adding support for MMS, and now there's more news on that front. T-Mobile has opted to allow MMS messages sent from its users to be delivered to Google Voice numbers (sort of).
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.
Update: Vic Gundotra, Google's SVP of Engineering, had this to say after posting on Google+ about the new Voice update:
Guys, don't worry. We have massive investment in Android. I promise you will be happy soon. Don't get upset because we show some love to Google users who use iOS. There are a lot of them. And they are good people :-)
So chill out: it looks like VOIP for Voice is coming to Android sooner or later.
Google will soon roll out changes to Voice intended to prevent unauthorized access to our voicemail inboxes. To access accounts via phone, you will now have to call from a verified forwarding number. If you're calling from a number Google doesn't recognize, you will be prompted to enter a verified number instead. In addition to this, PIN codes can now be up to 10 digits long. These changes will take effect starting on the first day of October, and anyone who signs in via a web browser should receive a notification giving them a head's up.
The transition from Google Talk to Hangouts added a lot of new features, but making phone calls from Gmail didn't come along for the ride. There was still a roundabout way of adding phone numbers to a Hangout, but it was too awkward to be useful. Finally, Google has announced that phone calls are again possible from Gmail, but that's not all. Phone calls are now built into Hangouts in Gmail, Google+, and the Chrome Extension.
One issue that has plagued many Google Voice users since the dawn of time (or at least since GV became a thing) is how not good the app itself is. Those who use GV as their primary phone number are stuck using the app for things like sending/receiving SMS messages, and up until now, there was absolutely no alternative.
Today, however, Koush Dutta has announced Google Voice SMS integration in CM10.1 with not only the stock messaging app, but also any third party application you may use (GoSMS, Handcent, etc.).
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.
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!