Hangouts 11 adds video messages and gets rid of merged SMS conversations

Google says merged SMS was confusing and rarely used, so out it goes. At least we got the video messages that have been on iOS for a while.

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While we’re all waiting for the next-generation messaging apps from Google, Allo and Duo, Google is hard at work making sure it updates its many other messaging apps. Apparently, Google’s just going to keep making new messaging apps without retiring old ones, forever. The company just released version 11 of Hangouts, it’s combined over-the-top and SMS client for Android.

So what’s new? First, Android users get a feature that has been available on iOS for quite awhile now: video messages. This isn’t video chat, it’s sending a recorded message. While Google didn’t mention how long the messages can be, the limit is 2 minutes on iOS, and we’d wager it’s the same on Android.

The other major change is that Google has disabled the ability to merge SMS and over-the-top (OTT) messages. The explanation from Google, via it’s support page, is as follows:

Merged conversations used to let you see your Hangouts messages and text messages in the same conversation. We have decided to remove it, because it caused user confusion and had low usage.

For the best SMS text messaging experience, we recommend using Google’s Messenger app.

Hangouts 11 is rolling out now via the Google Play store.

The impact on you: If you were really into merged conversations on Hangouts, this is a bummer. It’s good that we’re finally getting video messages, but Google’s scattered history with messaging apps is a mess. Messenger continues to be popular because it’s needed in areas where users may not have a Google account. Hangouts does the same thing, but not as well, and also provides OTT messaging. Allo is on the way this fall, and it looks awesome, but will it catch on? If Google is to combat Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, it needs a single united front.

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