Google on Monday introduced a brand new version of Google Hangouts with a bunch of new features that make it more useful than ever, particularly if you use Hangouts to manage SMS. I just gave it a quick install to see what kind of new functions it offers, and maybe, just maybe, I'll leave it as my default SMS app for now.
For starters, there's now merging between conversations. So, when I opened up a chat with our managing editor Roy Choi, I was able to select a small icon in the lower left-hand corner to switch between mobile and Hangouts. The conversation thread remains the same, however, so you aren't constantly trying to figure out which conversation was an online chat and which was an SMS discussion. It kind of reminds me of webOS back in the day, where Palm allowed you to easily switch between chat conversations and SMS seamlessly.
Google also tried to make it easier to reach people you're most likely to connect with, though we aren't finding it that impressive just yet. A new area shows folks you're most likely to Hangout with, which is relatively accurate, but a second section for phone contacts shows some contacts in my phone that only have e-mail addresses attached. That doesn't really do me any good.
Finally, there's a new Hangouts home screen widget. It's useful, though really big by default. I've already deleted it from my home screen. Overall, though, the update — which also fixes bugs and improves performance — is a welcome one. Hit the source below to grab it for yourself.