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

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.4
  • Installation and Setup: 8.0
  • Features and Support: 6.0
  • Interface: 7.0
  • Performance: 9.0
Pricing Unavailable
Reviewed:
Updated:

The Good Google Hangouts gives you quick access to chat with or place video calls with individuals or groups across platforms. The interface is easy to navigate, and the app performs well.

The Bad Unlike Hangouts on the Web, the mobile app doesn't display status messages or show you who is currently online.

The Bottom Line If you use Google Hangouts or you used to use Google Talk frequently, then you should enjoy the convenience of a chat and video-calling app.

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Editors' note: This post was updated July 16, 2013, with more information.

Google Hangouts (iOS | Android) brings the group video chat features you have in Google+ to your home screen with a standalone app, but it might be one too many ways to do the same thing.

Having the app on your home screen gives you immediate access to one-on-one and group video calls formerly found by going through a couple of menus in Google+. With Hangouts, you can have a video call with up to 10 people and you can choose who will be in the hangout through a list of your contacts or by using a search field. During your hangout, the app automatically detects and displays the person who is currently talking, with smaller live shots of the other people in the hangout across the bottom. You also have buttons across the bottom that let you switch between your front- and rear-facing cameras, turn off the camera or microphone, and quit the hangout.

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.

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Where to Buy

Google Hangouts (Android)

Part Number: com.google.android.talk

Free

Quick Specifications See All

  • Category Video and screencasting
    Social networking
  • Compatibility Android