Hangouts "Classic" is set to retire somewhere around the end of 2020, at which point users will be transitioned to Hangouts Chat and Meet. That leaves quite a bit of time that people will get to continue on with regular communications. Unlike Allo, Hangouts seems to be getting more attention now that there's a ticking clock on it. A new version of the Hangouts app is out and it's making some noteworthy changes. In fact, this is more activity than we saw in the last year leading up to this point.

What's New

Unofficial Changelog: (the stuff we found)

  • Notification channels
  • Replaced the profile photo setting
  • Added phone number linking

Enabling notification channels and dropping per-conversation ringtones

Hangouts is finally adopting Notification Channels, but it's coming at the cost of some customizability. In previous versions, it was possible to define ringtones for both incoming messages and calls on each and every contact and group chat. However, the latest update is doing away with this and adopting a one size fits all approach.

Left: v27. Right: v29.

The individual settings used to be located in each conversation's overflow menu under Options. After the update, you'll now find those settings are gone, leaving only a single toggle to turn notifications on or off for that contact or group chat.

Left: New notification channels. Right: Channel settings.

You'll now find that there are two notification channels for each of your signed-in accounts, one for messages and one for incoming calls. This is where you'll be able to set ringtones. Unfortunately, this marks the end of using different ringtones for family, friends, and that annoying neighbor that won't leave you alone.

Note: Google posted about this just after this section had been written.

Replaced profile photo setting

Left: v27. Right: v29.

This actually isn't a significant change, but it is worth briefly noting. Under the settings for each account, there used to be an option to change the profile photo others would see in conversations with you. This setting has been replaced with a link to manage your Google account, which still allows you to change your profile photo. Basically, this just adds another tap or two if you want to change your photo, but it's no longer ambiguous as to whether or not this changes the photo on just Hangouts or for your whole account.

Phone number linking

A new "Discoverability Settings" item has been added to the account settings that will open up a page that offers to add your phone number to your Google account. While the benefits aren't exactly spelled out on this page, or particularly well anywhere else, there are two basic advantages to doing this:

  1. People with your phone number will have an easier time finding you and getting contact information. This is particularly useful in apps like Google Photos for the automated sharing feature.
  2. Making outgoing calls or sending text messages with Google Hangouts can show your phone number in the Caller ID data. Note, you can still make outgoing calls and send text messages without adding your number, but it's just better for the recipient if they can see who is calling.

The linking process is simple, you just tap a few buttons and receive a verification code via SMS from Google. Once linked, you can open your account settings to enable or disable a couple options, or unlink the number from your account if you like.

Google Fi branding

Left: v27. Right: v29.

If you're the type of person that cares about such things, or at least finds some novelty in it, you might enjoy knowing that Hangouts is now on board with the Google Fi rebranding.

Download

The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.

Hangouts
Hangouts
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free