Project Fi Users, No, You Don’t Have to Use Hangouts

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.

So what gives?  What’s the truth and what is the plus or minus of using Google Hangouts or Google Messenger?  Essentially it comes down to where you want messages to appear and on which devices and how you plan to communicate to friends and family.

To start, let’s talk about Google Hangouts. This app, which is also available for iOS, allows you to chat with friends and family via instant messaging.  As long as they have a Google account and

Google Hangouts and Project Fi
Google Hangouts for Android

have Hangouts, you can send them an IM.  Google Hangout also allows you to make low cost calls to other places in the world and can serve as a SMS app regardless if you are a Project Fi customer or not.

Google Messenger on the other hand is purely a SMS/MMS app.  No video or voice integration like Hangouts.  Like any traditional SMS app, your text messages sent and received are only on that device.  That’s a key thing to consider which I’ll explain below.  By-the-way, you can read my review of Google Messenger at this link.

Benefits of Google Hangouts with Project Fi

For Project Fi users, the benefit of using Google Hangouts for SMS and other communications is two-fold.  First, it gives you one app to get all of your communications:  IM (with others using Hangouts), SMS/MMS, video calls and voice calls (not over the cell network or to other countries). This unified approach makes it easier to keep track of conversations and you can even merge your SMS messages with your Hangouts IM messages for one unified look at a conversation with another person.  Second, and probably the killer feature, is the ability to have all of those messages – IM, voice, video and SMS/MMS – appear across all of your devices that you have Hangouts installed.  I’m not just talking about your Android phone and tablet.  I’m also talking about Chrome on your PC or Mac and Chromebook.  So long as you have the Hangouts app installed on your Chromebook or the Hangout extension in Chrome on your PC or Mac, you can view and respond to SMS’ from those devices.

If you are only going to be doing SMS/MMS then there is no reason to switch from Google Messenger to Google Hangouts. In fact, Google recommends you use Messenger in this scenario.  Sure you can use Hangouts for it but you are not really gaining the benefits of the app without the other types of communication. It all comes down to how you communicate on your Nexus device.

As for me, I have moved all of my SMS activity to Google Hangouts for two reasons.  First, I like the unified “inbox” of having a conversation thread with someone, no matter what media was used, to be in one stream in the app.  Second, the ability to have my conversations across all my devices is key for me.  I do not necessarily always have my phone available to me but I am likely going to be in front of another device at that point. Having all of my conversations a tap or click away is important to me and how I work throughout my day.

The bottom line Project Fi users is that you can use either Google Messenger or Google Hangouts for your SMS needs on your Nexus device. It is up to you and really depends on how and where you want your SMS messages to appear on your phone or other devices.