May 20 AT 2:39 PM Dustin Earley 30 Comments

Hangouts is the the future of Google Voice, desktop calling will be back


Back when Hangouts was still a rumor, we were under the distinct impression that it would unify off all of Google’s messaging services. The cold hard truth is, Hangouts is merely a replacement for Google Talk. It didn’t do much to alleviate the confusion of Google’s various messaging apps, and has even stripped some well liked functionality, like desktop calling from Gmail.

Fortunately, Google isn’t even close to being finished with Hangouts. We’ve already heard that SMS integration is a high-priority for the Hangouts team, and now we know that not only is desktop calling making a comeback, but tight Google Voice integration is on the horizon.

In a Google Plus post from this morning, Google’s manager of real-time communication products, Nikhyl Singhal, explained the status of desktop calling from Gmail, which was lost in the move to Hangouts, and the future of Google Voice. According to Singhal, inbound and outbound calls are being worked on. For now, users can still take advantage of inbound calling in Voice, and stick with the old Talk in Gmail. Other than that, users are stuck playing the waiting game.

Singhal also took a moment to address Google Voice a little more in-depth, saying that, “Hangouts is designed to be the future of Google Voice, and making/receiving phone calls is just the beginning. Future versions of Hangouts will integrate Google Voice more seamlessly.”

Hangouts may not be the unified messaging service we were originally hoping for, but it’s being worked on. By the end of the year, I imagine Hangouts will finally combine Google Talk, Google Voice, Google Plus Hangouts, SMS and MMS messaging into one handy app. Until then, things may get little rough while everything is being ironed out.

Source: Google Plus

Dustin Earley: Tech enthusiast; avid gamer; all around jolly guy.

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  • phor11

    I’m liking the hangouts UI, but unless they allow us to sort contacts by who is currently online, I just don’t see how they expect this service to replace Talk.
    Being able to see who is currently available is ESSENTIAL to an IM service.

    Otherwise how is it [functionally] any different than sending an email?

    • MadSam

      Really wish everyone would make the move from SMS to email. They’re functionally the same also right?

      • MadSam

        Just to clarify, not to be snarky, I just mean they are both a form of asynchronous communication.

        • phor11

          Now that most email services support “push”, you are correct.
          However you have to have a smartphone with a data plan for mobile email whereas even the cheapest dumbphone works with sms. So unlike the similarities between hangouts and email, there’s still an actual reason for SMS to exist.

          • ashok pai

            being able to choose your status is SO vital to so many people! anyone who does not need it still can chose to be perennially visible. how does it hurt them ? cutting out features because people can live with it is going backwards!

    • aranea

      That’s a very big confusion for me too. When I try to send a gtalk to someone I have to go through all my list. Worst it’s not the filtered gtalk list either but the whole contact list on google+.

      • Tangent

        This right here is what drove me to install What’s App. I like to keep my contacts list neat and organized. My GTalk contacts were just the few people I used that tool with. Hangouts gave me no choice but to deal with a massive mess of every contact from GMail, Skype, and my phone. Forget it. I like having a centralized place to message somebody, but until I’m allowed to choose who appears in that contacts list I’m out. What’s App works great for me.

    • Jimmy_Jo

      I think that’s the point… Hangouts is not an IM service. It’s a communication service. Just like you send an SMS and don’t find out if the person is available or not til they respond, you send a message on Hangout and see what happens. I really like the potential. And last week I made the same observations as this article. Based on the implications from the Google Team things are looking up.

      • Dave Kratter

        “Just like you send an SMS and don’t find out if the person is available or not til they respond, you send a message on Hangout and see what happens.”

        So we’re heading backwards, towards SMS and away from IM? Hangout shouldn’t be emulating something as antiquated as SMS.

        • ashok pai

          yeah – especially since hangouts will replace google talk. that’s completely stupid IMHO. that’s going backwards!

        • kelltrash14

          The availability status was something gtalk uses but none of the services they are combining it with do…so it would be either add that to all the others, which seems about impossible, or take it away from talk. Still, they should allow some of the talk availability features to have equivalents. I don’t mind if it doesn’t show if I’m away or loss of invis status, but I would definitely like a not available currently status of some sort that presents to those who try to message me, not just a snooze button. That seems doable enough.

          • vandint

            … Or you leave status alone for Talk and don’t add it to others (ie you’re “available” iff on Talk and “available”).

            I’m glad it replaces G+ Messenger… but without that basic functionality, it’s pretty poor as a chat client.

    • KC

      I totally agree with you on this. The feature to see which of my friends are ACTUALLY online is so useful. I can tell whether the person is up and about, or still in bed, out of battery, etc. This feature allows us to ping the friend ONLY if he’s online, and not, otherwise.

      Also, a status line is important too. It acts as a notification of what’s happening, or as an info conveyance.

      • kelltrash14

        In browser I used to use the online status like you, but since the people I would use gtalk with are mostly on android phones now, it is less useful as it will show away if they just have the phone in their pocket for a while or whatnot. I suppose I’m saying things are evolving away from the away/present status being useful, though for the full unavailable, I’m with you.

        • aranea

          It’s not only online availability I gtalk with few of my contacts and email or call many more of them. I need a filter to say these are the ones I gtalk or hangout and these are the ones I email or call.

  • Graham Steffaniak

    thank God. Hangouts was a huge disappointment for me.

  • R.S

    Though I wasn’t happy with Hangouts, I wouldn’t say out was disappointed. I have faith that Google will continue to add features and make it better.

    Until then, I will continue to use Google Talk, Google Voice, and Google + like I have been.


    This may be the classic case of getting worse before it gets better. When they sort everything out, it will be great.

    • Dave Kratter

      I had to go back to Google Chat in Gmail because I need to be able to dial out. I hope they rectify that problem quickly.

  • lou2cool88

    I think the biggest drawbacks I see with Hangouts thus far is that a) I can’t tell who’s available on hangouts; b) Even though it has my “most contacted” list, it’s not the same as the “Approved” list of friends I have on G-Chat; c) It still doesn’t integrate all of the google chat services and I miss being able to call from Google Talk/Voice in one place; d) there’s still a Google Messenger App with the Google+ app.

    I do have confidence that it most of these issues will be worked out and fixed soon or at least by the end of the year.

  • dephyre

    MMS for Google Voice? I’ll believe that when I see it.

    • donger

      Would be awesome.

  • murali.ram

    Lots of upgrades is necessary in order to compete with Whatsapp.

  • rahul vr
  • P51
  • tdh

    There is a way to go back to the old Gtalk and maintain your calling options in email. If you click on your name it will produce a menu. At the bottom you will see the option to revert to the old chat. With the Chrome extension installed, you can still use the new Hangouts but still be able to call from Gmail.

  • tommydaniel

    I had a call today come through Hangouts on my Desktop. I was so confused when I heard the ringing.

  • noleman

    This Hangouts app is a clusterfek.

    No list of who’s online? Seriously? The most basic thing possible, sorting online and offline?
    Google, some shred of competence would be nice when rolling out a new product.

  • kinderdm

    Hangouts has me a bit worried. Google always does this. They have a lot of hype around an app, then release it half baked and missing a lot of must have features that are “coming soon”. Those features take longer than expected and then a year down the road after adding maybe one “critical feature” they evaluate the software and see that its not performing like they had hoped and consider scrapping it. No kidding its not performing well, because you released half an app that is no where near your vision for it. I love google’s innovation but they need to realize that something released this early is an early version and that its too early to be evaluating its performance and adoption rates. Give it time to mature before putting it under the gun.

  • Mike

    Before doing anything fancy, they need to fix voice quality. I find Hangouts voice quality to be lousy: echo and stuttering often make it impossible to hear the other side. We’ve given it a try several times in a business context, but ended up switching to phone lines or another service pretty much every time. It doesn’t matter whether it’s from a desktop or phone.