Despite the constant threat of demise, Google Hangouts keeps getting new features. The latest addition is a bit overdue, sure, but it is something that gets the app on parity with Facebook Messenger when it comes to taking VOIP phone calls.
To get some of you up to speed, VOIP (voice over internet protocol) calls are conversations that happen entirely over a data connection. Apps like Facebook Messenger and Hangouts have both had the ability to make and take calls in their apps with other users, but this newest feature takes that all to a new level for Hangouts.
Basically, using a service Apple provides called Callkit, app developers can leverage the lock screen and phone app when taking calls. Instead of a Hangouts call ringing in with the Hangouts caller interface, the call comes in via the standard dialer app with a small mark under the contact’s name alerting you that the call is indeed a Hangout call. This is helpful, as you can know that any loss in data (dropped WIFI, poor LTE, etc.) would kill the call and you can make the proper arrangements.
The option is, well, optional. If you want to keep things separate and distinct, you can keep the calls coming through their respective apps. Out of the box, this is the standard behavior and this feature actually needs to be turned on. Go to the Hangouts settings inside the app and switch on ‘Answer on lock screen’ to get this going.
Why This Is Really Interesting
I don’t have an iPhone and haven’t since the 4S. This change won’t affect me at all, but I do think it is important. You see, we keep thinking Hangouts, as a consumer-facing product, is on its last leg. Yet, new features keep coming up.
New features mean development is continuing. Google has made a mess of its messaging efforts, to be honest. Too many apps and services, too many missing features.
I know Hangouts for Enterprise (Meet and Chat) is moving forward, but Google has seemed clear that their consumer efforts circle around Allo and Duo.
So my question is: why continue working on Hangouts? Why not just keep it working and focus on making Allo and Duo what you want?
Those questions don’t have answers, but it seems Hangouts might not be going away any time soon. I’d love to hear your thoughts.