Google shuttering Talk, removing SMS support from Hangouts in new messaging shakeup

The changes, which will begin on May 22, are part of a continuing attempt to consolidate its many messaging apps.

hangouts android
Credit: Derek Walter

Messaging has never been Google’s strong suit. Aside from the various messaging apps from Android phone makers, it also has its own problems, with numerous overlapping apps that all have similar functions: Allo, Android Messages, Hangouts, Duo, Google Voice, and Google Talk. Now, Google is taking some much-needed steps to consolidate its efforts.

On June 26, Google will finally be closing Google Talk for good. The instant messaging service affectionately known as Gchat is one of Google’s oldest messaging apps, having been in existence since 2005. Way back in 2013, Google began encouraging Talk users to switch to Hangouts, and on June 26 the transition will be complete and its doors will be closed for good. On that day, any straggling Talk users will be automatically transitioned to Hangouts for good, where they can continue chatting with their friends. (And for anyone who was hanging on just for the interface, Google notes that the Dense Roster setting in Hangouts will provide a similar experience.)

Also part of the change will be the removal of SMS support from Hangouts. That change will happen on May 22, at which point Google will force all users to Android Messages for their texting needs. This doesn’t come as a surprise, since Google announced a business-minded revamp for Hangouts a couple weeks back and also recently announced Android Messages, a new push and name for its previous SMS app, Messenger.

While we’re sure to hear more about this new strategy at Google I/O, it looks like Android Messages is the new app to rule them all: “We’re focused on making Android Messages the primary place to access SMS and are working with carriers and device manufacturers to include Android Messages natively in Android devices. Over time, we’re working with partners to upgrade SMS to RCS—the next standard in carrier messaging that will bring features like read receipts, group chat, hi-res photo sharing and more.”

Talking points: Any time Google makes a change to one of its messaging apps is usually cause for concern, but this is a good thing. Google Talk hasn’t received any official support for years, and Hangouts can now be what it’s supposed to be: a modern replacement for Gchat. Losing SMS support in Hangouts isn’t a huge deal either, since Google seems committed to making Android Messages the default texting client that we actually want to use. But that’ll take two things: merging it with Allo so we can enjoy stickers and Google Assistant, and developing a proper backup system so we don’t lose all our conversations when we switch phones.

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