Hangouts may be fun, but it's not all fun and games. It should come as no surprise that in this day and age, many people turn to Google's video chats as a means of getting work done. So the company is rolling out a number of business-related improvements to the service.
For starters, the company is now covering Hangouts under the same terms of service as other Google Apps for Business products.
Google began its transition to Hangouts as a universal messaging platform a little over a year ago, but true SMS integration didn't arrive until much more recently. To encourage use of Hangouts, the company offered forwarding of Hangouts messages via SMS in select countries, but now that's going away as of tomorrow.
It looks like Hangouts on the web is learning a new trick. Some users are reporting that Hangouts can now sketch a message, drawing with a variety of brush widths and colors on a little scratchpad, which is sent to the user on the other end of the conversation as an image. To sketch, users need only hover over the camera icon, click on the pencil icon that appears, then draw away.
That Hangouts update from yesterday has one more trick up its sleeve, and it's an interesting one. Google has opted to change the behavior when you tap on a contact photo so it no longer tosses you to Google+, but opens a contact card like most other areas of the system.
You didn't think you'd get through an update Wednesday without a new Google app APK, did you? Hangouts is getting a version bump today from 2.1.100 to 2.1.223. Despite the small version number change, there are a few new things of note going on.
There should be no doubt, Google is getting ready to make a lot of announcements at I/O. If we've learned anything from past experiences, Google starts packing its apps full of surprises in the weeks leading up to the big show. The latest update to Play Services started rolling out yesterday and it has grown by a whopping 4 MB, almost 30% larger than the previous version. There's obviously a lot of stuff to look at, so let's just jump right in.
Group chats can get confusing, especially if you've got a bunch of big talkers in the thread. If you need to get someone's attention in Hangouts, there's a handy little trick for doing it. Just long-press on the user's avatar and you get an @name reply.
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.
Google has just pushed a new version of Hangouts with version number 2.1 attached. With a whole point update we'd expect to see some notable changes – this one is not disappointing. Google is finally making SMS a bit easier to use, and is adding some completely new features.