Several days ago, I started a series of rumor posts on my personal Google+ account discussing some Android rumors I felt were interesting enough to share, but didn't feel confident enough yet to do so here on the site. The posts were heavily prefixed with disclaimers that none of them may turn out to be true but that I had a certain level of confidence to talk about them in public unofficially.
Hangouts was one of many Google apps that received pretty significant updates last week. Version 1.2 finally brought availability statuses for people on your contact list, better organization of contacts, and several other improvements. Under-the-hood, however, I spotted a few more additions that don't seem to be live just yet, which is exactly what we have APK teardowns around here for.
It's update Wednesday, and Google is making good use of this one. Earlier today the company showed off the new version of Gmail with a card-based UI in the conversation list, and now it's Hangouts' turn to get a nice little feature bump.
The Hangouts update – which brings the app up to version 1.2 for those who like to keep count – brings about some mighty useful (and oft-requested) features:
- You can finally see who is on Hangouts!
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.
Given the major Keep update to v2 today, I got excited when I saw that Hangouts was updated as well a short time after. Unfortunately, it seems like it's a very minor bump: from 22.214.171.1243199 to 126.96.36.1998356.
A quick teardown revealed updated translations and some minor under-the-hood code changes that aren't anything to write home about. The changelog hasn't been updated either and still lists the added emoji support and other stuff from the previous v1.1 update.
Have you ever been stumped by a problem that's clearly outside your wheelhouse? Perhaps you've even fantasized about being able to just dial up an expert to pick their big meaty brain about the problem. That's exactly what Google has just announced with Helpouts. It's a cunning play on words, you see. It's like a Hangout, but it's used to help people. Google is clever.
The idea behind Helpouts is that folks with a certain area of expertise will set up an account with their skills, qualifications, availability, and rate.
Yet another Google Glass update means yet another Google Glass Teardown - we're now up to version "XE8." Despite Glass being a complete nightmare to do diff work on (every file is in every APK), and the highly experimental nature of Glass (stuff gets removed all the time), Glass teardowns have actually had a pretty good hit rate.
Google Hangouts Chat
Finally. A feature I've wanted since the first day I opened Google Glass: Google Hangouts support.
In a detailed post to Google+ this morning, Googler Virgil Dobjanschi announced new and enhanced features for the Google+ Android app. They'll be arriving in an update to version 4.1, set to go live today. According to Dobjanschi, the changes are focused on additions and revisions suggested by end users, and looking at the list, we're inclined to believe him.
First of all: no more Google+ Messenger. Ha-lay-freakin-lujah. Since the new Hangouts app has effectively replaced G+ messenger on the web, the mobile version is following suit, meaning you won't ever have to see that extraneous icon in your app drawer again.
Google Hangouts hasn't had any major changes since its debut earlier this summer, but the latest version of the app adds some interesting tweaks. Google's new, annoying habit of staged rollouts means that a lot of people don't' have access to the updated app, even though it started becoming available on the 23rd. The indefatigable Ron Amadeo had a look inside, and found it to be a housecleaning update, with a lot of tightened code and only a few new features.
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.