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Hangouts v14 adds app shortcuts for 7.1 Nougat, changes setup steps for group chat, and reorganizes several chat settings [APK Download]

Earlier this year Google's VP of Communications, Nick Fox, declared Hangouts would be refocused on the enterprise market where it had found much more adoption. Ironically, the couple of updates since that statement haven't exactly screamed professionalism, or even added much of anything particularly relevant to the workplace. That changes with v14, which cleans up and improves various aspects of group chats. This version also enables app shortcuts (formerly Launcher Shortcuts) for use on Android 7.1 and makes a few other tweaks, as well.

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Google is demoting Hangouts to "optional" in the Google Apps package for Android, to be replaced by Duo

In an email sent to Google Mobile Services partners on October 5th, Google outlined a significant change to the core GMS package (AKA gapps) for telephony-enabled Android devices (basically, smartphones). As of December 1st, Google will no longer require Hangouts to be bundled with new hardware. An excerpt of that email follows.

Today, we are announcing that Google Duo will replace Hangouts within the suite of core GMS apps, and Hangouts will become GMS Optional for telephony products. This change will take effect on December 1, 2016.

This does not mean Hangouts, or Hangouts for Android, is dead. It does mean that manufacturers may opt to stop including it on smartphones released in 2017, so you'd have to download it from the Play Store after initial setup.

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Google Allo hits 5 million downloads in the Play Store, is #8 in Top Charts

Google Allo, the second of Google's two new messaging apps, has just hit five million downloads in the Google Play Store. All the anticipation for Allo (let's forget about the subsequent letdown for now) has made its download numbers soar. However, the aforementioned letdown is quite apparent in its current ranking in the Play Store; while Allo sat at #1 in Top Charts just five days ago, it's since fallen to #8.

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Hangouts v13 adds many more easter egg phrases, an in-app web browser, and prepares launcher shortcuts for Android 7.1 [APK Download + Teardown]

Hangouts v12 came out last month and we took an opportunity to have a couple laughs at its expense over what appeared to be the only actual new feature: a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ emote, accessible by typing /shruggie into a message box. With this update, that little guy brought all of his friends. Yes, the rest of the emote list is now accessible in Hangouts v13. There is also a new option to open web links with an in-app browser, though it may not be available to everybody just yet. And finally, the teardown shows Hangouts will have its own launcher shortcuts when Android 7.1 comes out.

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Allo vs. Hangouts: Should you make the move?

Google has dug itself a deep hole with Hangouts by integrating multiple messaging protocols and a myriad of little-used features. It's become a lumbering beast that often lags behind other Google apps in adopting new features as Android itself evolves. Enter, Allo—Google's new consumer-facing messaging client. It's faster, simpler, and it has Google Assistant built-in. So, how do these apps stack up? Let's find out.

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[Update: Now live] Hangouts Chrome extension updated with new UI

Hangouts on the desktop has always been a mess. First, there was the Chrome extension that always sits in your taskbar/menubar, with separate windows for every conversation. Later, Google released a Chrome app that looked (and functioned) much more like the Android app, with all of your conversations in one window. For some reason, both have remained on the Chrome Web Store.

Recently, Google announced that they will phase out Chrome apps, with Google recommending that existing apps be converted into extensions or Progressive Web Apps.

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Google Cast now fully integrated with Chrome, allows casting to Hangouts

Google has been testing Cast support in Hangouts for over a year, with the most recent sighting back in July. The feature never rolled out widely or was officially acknowledged by Google, until now. Casting directly to Hangouts is coming to everyone soon thanks to full Google Cast integration with Chrome on the desktop.

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Hangouts v12 finally adds the most important ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ever and will eventually ask other people if their messages are important [APK Teardown + Download]

Forget video messaging, direct share, and whatever happened here. The most important update in Hangouts history finally happened and you're all here to witness it. The Master of Meh has come to Hangouts for Android and really wants you to know it's all okay. It's Shruggie! Yep, the latest update brings Google's greatest non-easter egg to the messaging screen in all its unconcerned glory. You're honor-bound to get the update immediately and begin showing just how unimportant things are to you, too.

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[Revolutionary] Google Allo will let you search all of your conversations... inside the app

One thing has always annoyed me about Hangouts: there's no search option. How can you have a messaging service and not allow people to search through their conversations inside the service?! That's beyond comprehension. Of course there's a way to circumvent it by searching through chats in Gmail. But that neither was intuitive nor made sense unless you were familiar with the feature.

According to screenshots we've received from a test preview version of Allo, Google's new messaging app doesn't suffer from that silly limitation. Search is well implemented and it's universal throughout the app. There's a search icon on the top right of the main screen that lets you look for a contact/group's name (in case you have lots of chats and need to quickly find a specific person/group) or any word(s) inside a chat.

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Unlike Hangouts, Allo lets you delete messages from your chat history

Aside from the privacy of Incognito chats in Google's upcoming Allo app, there's one more way you can save yourself from embarrassment if you sent or received something that you don't want to stay in your chat's history: delete.

Based on the screenshots we've obtained from people testing a preview version of Allo, it looks like you'll be able to select any message (no multiple select yet we're told) and just delete it from the chat's history.

The top bar switches to show share, forward, copy, and delete options for a selected message, an interface that reminds me a lot of WhatsApp. In the first screenshot below (leftmost), "Message 3" is selected — you can tell because it looks a tad darker than the others.

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