One of the big misconceptions about Project Fi is that you are absolutely required to use Google Hangouts for your SMS/MMS and Instant Messaging app. Here is a quote from a post I made a couple of weeks ago on the subject: If you are a new Project Fi users, chances are you are a bit confused. That confusion surrounds SMS and which app you can use for getting your text messages on your Nexus phone using Fi. On the surface, it looks like you are required to use Google Hangouts, the voice, video and yes, text messaging integrated app. But that not necessarily true and in fact, even Google suggests that you use Google Messenger, the default SMS app on Nexus devices, for texting.
That said, for those of us on Project Fi, there are some benefits to having everything in one app like Hangouts. Not only does it give you one app to go to for your communications, the information synchronizes with Hangouts on your PC. That means you can get your messages and your texts on your desktop, read them and reply to them. If you haven’t considered moving your SMS/MMS communication to Hangouts, read this article and see if it is right for you. A lot of it will depend on how you communicate and with whom. But after being an avid Messenger user for most of 2015, when I switched to Project Fi, I embraced Hangouts and haven’t looked back.
Google Hangouts for Texting, Instant Messaging, Video and Voice Calls – One App to Rule Them All
Without much doubt Google wants people to use Hangouts. It is agnostic from a mobile platform perspective (you
can get it for Android and iOS) and it provides a rich suite of communications in one place. That means for individuals as well as small businesses, Google has provided you with a free app and by-and-large free communication on that app with any other mobile device user in the world. So long as they have Hangouts installed, you can communicate with them.
Specific to Project Fi, when it comes to Text Messages, you have the ability to send those texts either via cellular or via Project Fi. This is done in how you configure that app and by allowing Project Fi to send the messages instead of traditional SMS. This is critical for the benefit of having your SMS messages synchronize with Chrome on your desktop. To do this, go to Hangouts on your Fi enabled phone and go to settings. There, tap SMS then make sure that you have enabled your Project Fi email address as your default SMS Messaging Account. Now you will receive both SMS and Fi Instant Messages in the app and they will be sent via the Fi network.
To be clear, just because you have your SMS sent via Fi doesn’t mean you are limited to other Fi users or can’t send a text to anyone else. You very much can do so. In my case for example, neither my wife, son or daughter are on Fi but I can send a text to them via Fi, it goes to their number just like a normal text. They don’t see any difference.
For me however, the difference is that I can seamlessly sync those texts along with IMs and even non-Fi sent SMS’ to my desktop via the Hangouts site or the Hangouts plugin for Chrome. The plugin is free and when you enable it, you are able to see all of your messages regardless of type that have come to your device via Hangouts. This is available for your Chromebook as well as Chrome for PC and Mac. To get the plugin, go to this link and add it to Chrome.
Having explained all of this, do you really have to do this if you just aren’t a fan of Hangouts or prefer to keep your text messages separate? The short answer is no. If you do not use Hangouts on your PC, Mac or Chromebook or prefer to keep your SMS in one app while your IM in another, you do not have to do this merge. You can continue to use the apps you like for your various communications.
For me however, having the ability to reply to a Hangouts IM or text my wife from my Chromebook or PC is a big benefit. It means I can do it without having to pull my phone out of my pocket and, because Hangouts is Android Wear enabled, I can reply to her messages just by speaking to my Moto 360 and not touching my phone if I’m driving or otherwise busy. Ultimately it is your choice on how you work day-to-day and what makes the most sense for you.
To conclude, I will say that if you have not tried Hangouts or if it has been a long time, take a look at it again. The last few updates to the app have been very impressive and it is very stable. Plus you can get Hangouts for iOS to chat with your iPhone friends and, of course, can get your SMS along with those IMs.
Textra fully supports Project Fi as well by setting MMS Behavior to “System” in the app settings. It’s a far superior app to Google’s offering.
I hate having SMS in Hangouts. No one I talk to uses it for IM (we all use Facebook), and Hangouts doesn’t make it easy to know whether it’s sending via SMS or IM.