Google Hangouts review: Chat and place video calls from one app

But the Hangouts app isn't all about video calling. As the replacement to Google Talk, Hangouts is now the go-to app for chatting with your Google contacts. It lets you start conversations with individuals, groups, or even entire Circles. As you chat, you can embed emoji or attach photos (new ones or existing ones from Google+ or your Gallery) to a message. And with a single tap, you can instantly jump into a video call from a conversation. My biggest complaint is that unlike Google Talk, the Hangouts app doesn't show you which of your friends are currently online. While Hangouts on the Web displays status messages and color-coded status indicators next to your contacts, the mobile app displays neither, which is frustrating.

The strange thing is that even though the Hangouts app effectively takes over all of the text, voice, and video chat functions from Google+, the Google+ app still has a Messenger tab on its main navigation bar. At this point, we can assume that the Messenger tab will eventually go away, but for now, it somewhat awkwardly points you to the Hangouts app.

So why did Google break the Hangouts functionality out of Google+ anyway? I think it's partly for the convenience of the one-tap access to the app, but it's also to create a central app for all communications. According to Dori Storbeck , community manager for Google+ Hangouts & Chat, SMS will soon be part of Hangouts as well. There is one distinct advantage right now for iOS users, however: you can make video calls across platforms -- something FaceTime cannot do.

As for performance, Hangouts had some minor delays, which are to be expected, but it worked fairly well on both Wi-Fi and 4G in my testing.

Overall, Google Hangouts does what it's supposed to do: it makes video calls and lets you message your friends. For iOS users, it has an advantage over Apple's FaceTime in that it can make video calls across platforms. So, if you want a slightly quicker way to access hangouts, or just don't want to get involved with the whole Google+ app, maybe Hangouts is a perfect fit.

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    Google Hangouts (Android)

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    • Regional specs shown for US. AU specs are unavailable.

    • Category Video and screencasting
      Social networking
    • Compatibility Android