This afternoon Google began pushing out a big update to Google Hangouts, their SMS & IM app for Android. The update brings the app to version 7 and this is one that all users will want to get and try out. Perhaps the biggest new feature is one that many Hangouts users had requested: The ability to do Quick Replies.
Everyone pause for a moment and soak in the glory.
Now on the Notification Shade, you can do a quick reply to a message and send it. It saves you from having to open up the Hangouts app and makes replies, especially while you are on-the-go (but not driving… because driving and Hangouts don’t mix). There is nothing you need to do to enable the feature. It will be automatically started for you after you upgrade to this new version.
Perhaps the other big news is the splash screen when you first start the new version of Google Hangouts that gives you the option to try out Google Messenger for your SMS needs. Users of Hangouts will know that it is not exactly the best SMS app out there while Google Messenger is pretty darn solid (here is my review). Couple that with persistent rumors that Google is going to
introduce a new messaging app and this splash screen starts to make sense.
But here is the thing: You can still use Hangouts for SMS if you want. I do (as a Project Fi user it makes my life a bit easier) and after this update I will say that SMS seems to be a bit more timely. Not one mention of improving SMS is in the release notes so I don’t want to give you that impression. But in my case, on my Nexus 6, they are a bit more reliable on time of arrive.
I’ll keep you posted on if this continues.
There are some other minor changes. You can now “Sae to Home screen” to quickly start a conversation with a specific contact or group. The checkboxes in the app are not toggles, following the Material Design principles and the sharing dialogs are no long Holo designed.
The update is in the Google Play Store now and it should be hitting your device in the coming few days if you already have it installed.