Back when Hangouts first debuted, it was quickly discovered that Google's messaging app included several easter eggs, ranging from ponies prancing across the screen, to a weird dinosaur hiding behind a house, to changing your chat's background color at random. Until yesterday, though, these bonus features weren't available for those using Hangouts on Android. As of the 2.1 update, users can make use of three easter eggs - one that will stream an infinite line of ponies across your screen, one that will send just one pony across, and one that will send an angry mob across, pitchforks and torches included.
Today's Hangouts update was a bit of a surprise. Besides landing on Monday, the update was a fairly large one. Users of the latest version of Hangouts are already enjoying merged SMS/Hangouts threads, improved status markers, a new home screen widget, new sound effects, the ability to share contact cards, and other touches. But - as with any Google update - it's worth looking a little deeper in the app to see what may be hiding in the code.
For over a few hours on Monday, several Google services came crashing to a halt. Users all over the world were unable to send messages via Hangouts, engage in video chats, or check Google Voice. Some people trying to create spreadsheets with Sheets were met with 502 errors, and people taking advantage of the multi-player aspect of Google Play Games were also affected. All of this apparently resulted from an oops during a routine hardware maintenance event where the company miscalculated available capacity.
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.
No, you're not alone – Google Hangouts has crashed and burned this morning. Reports are popping up all over the web, and none of us are able to connect on the desktop or web. There's no word from Google yet, but there are probably engineers running frantically around a data center somewhere in California right now.
Google is rolling out an updated version of Hangouts, and while version 2.0.2 doesn't introduce much in the way of exciting new features, it squashes a handful of annoying bugs introduced when the app took on the ability to handle SMS and MMS messages.
The newer, SMS-tackling version of Hangouts came with a few quirks that have been rubbing more than a handful of users the wrong way. For starters, the app converted any text message sent to multiple receivers to an MMS, which is chargeable for many people.
At some point in your childhood, one of your parents may have warned you against making faces - "knock it off," they said, "or your face will freeze like that." That sound advice might not actually be true, but it seems to have a pertinent application for the latest versions of the Hangouts app on Android. Reddit user Recon2012 found an app-killing bug within Hangouts relating to the new emoji functionality in the Android keyboard.
It's been a long time coming, but Google's distributed video advice service is finally live. Helpouts is a video chat service with a Google backbone, built on the interface and servers of Hangouts. But this is no mere chat service: it's designed specifically for users to connect with and learn from experts in their respective field. You can access the videos from the web or, naturally, the Android app.
Since you'll be connecting with individuals and companies that are ostensibly experts, you'll have to pay them for their time, either on a minute-by-minute basis or in a session fee.
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.