Google’s Hangouts app is getting some design touch-ups and useful new communication features in its latest update.
The most unique addition is the ability to auto detect when someone wants to know your location and serving up a button to share it right away.
For example, if your chat partner asks, “where are you now?” a quick-share icon is supposed to appear.
It didn’t turn out that way in our testing, but touching the paper clip icon still gives you the option to share your location, along with taking or attaching a photo.
When performing the location share, Hangouts creates an image of a Google Map pinpointing your whereabouts, which you can then send off to prove you’re really where you say you are.
Also, you can now send wacky stickers just as you can in Facebook Messenger. There are 16 new sticker packs, which are essentially jumbo-sized GIFs and cartoony images. There are some pretty zany choices, including pirates, koalas, Santa, and of course cats in various poses.
Another option is to find other Hangout users by phone number, useful if you’re trying to move all your communications to the instant messaging service and don’t have a contact’s Google account information.
The app incorporates more Material Design principles, with the new slide-out navigation drawer and a darker color scheme that matches the makeover performed on most of Google’s Android apps.
Google’s Rhett Robinson announced the changes in a Google+ post, also hinting about other hidden features bundled inside the app. We’ll keep an eye out for these Easter eggs and update you if anything notable is buried inside.
The update is making the usual, slow trek through the Play Store. So if you want to start sending some oversized stickers to friends now, then grab the APK.
Why this matters: Google continues to hone and refine Hangouts in an effort to make it your all-in-one messaging solution. SMS integration is still rather clumsy, which is why Google recently built a separate app for texting. If Hangouts keeps getting better, it may yet turn out to be the best way to message on Android.