Google's Hangouts for Android could get text-message support

Unified messaging still is a distant dream, but Google could be working to marry SMS with its video and text-chat app for Android, according to a report.

This screenshot, published at Android Police, shows that text-messaging could be coming to the Google Hangouts communications app.
This screenshot, published at Android Police, shows that text-messaging could be coming to the Google Hangouts communications app. Android Police / screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

It looks like Google's Hangouts app could soon absorb new communications abilities with integration of text and picture messaging, according to screenshots and a report that surfaced Monday.

Hangouts originally debuted as a video chat tool for Google+, but Google built into it the instant-messaging ability that formerly shipped in the Google Talk app for Android. Now it's possible that SMS and MMS services also could be built in, according to a report at Android Police.

Google has promised SMS integration into Hangouts, so the biggest question about the feature was when and how it would arrive.

The screenshots posted there show messages received "via SMS" text messaging and a text-input field that prompts, "Send an SMS message." It also shows options to turn on SMS messaging and to retrieve MMS picture messages.

It's not clear whether the existing Messaging app for handling text and video messages will be phased out or will continue as a standalone option. With so many communication conduits, some fragmentation can be expected. For example, Gmail users already can send text messages, including from mobile devices.

Text messaging remains very popular around the world, in part because it works even when data services are unavailable and requires only a phone number, not an account on one service or another. At the same time, SMS itself is threatened by other services such as Skype, Facebook messaging, WhatsApp and Viber.

CNET contacted Google and will update this post with any comment.

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