Google's new Messenger app just adds more clutter to your Home screen

messenger intro

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Have you been feeling overwhelmed by Google Hangouts lately? I have. I start it up every morning on my ride in to work to chat with friends and check up what’s going on at the office, though I’m constantly bombarded by messages from Google Voice, my regular phone number, and Google Talk.

I think to myself: would this be easier if I had two separate apps to keep the noise down to a minimum? Google’s new Messenger app reminded me that it’s better that Hangouts integrates everything into a single app, because having two messaging apps to contend with is actually more of a struggle than it’s worth.

If only life were as simple as this interface

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Chatting with my friends via Material Design.

Google’s Messenger been made-over with Material Design and there’s not much else to it. If you see blue, you’re in the main application screen, and if you see orange you’re in a messaging thread.

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Orange means you’ve in a thread.

To send a message, tap the plus icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen to start a new thread. It’s exactly how the recently made over Google+, Google Docs, and Google Calendar apps work, and it’s another testament to how consistent and useful Material Design’s design standards are.

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Easily block contacts or see who else is in the conversation. 

The Messenger app also offers a handy button to place a call to the person you’re chatting with. And just like in Hangouts, you can add people to your Google contacts, give them a special text tone (Seamus gets Boxwood), and see who else is in the conversation.


Tap on a person’s name to bring up whatever Contacts app you have as your default.

Tapping their name will bring up whatever Contacts app you have as your default; mine is Sense 6’s, because I’m on the HTC One (M8). In this case, it offers a handy link to move over to Hangouts so I can start a video call or continue chatting in Hangouts.

Not a handy companion to Hangouts

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Two apps that serve the same purpose.

Annoyingly, Messenger asks you if you want to use Hangouts or Messenger as the default text messaging app—you can’t use both at the same time. And as soon you designate it as the default, Hangouts will transfer all text message threads over to Messenger so that it only handles Google Voice and Hangouts threads.

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How annoying: I can only send a text message through Google Voice.

I’m not much of a fan of the fact that the two apps don’t work in tandem. The default SMS app for Sense 6, for instance, will still sync text message conversations with Hangouts regardless if it’s the default app. It’s nice to have that respite from all of the crazy conversations happening in Hangouts once in a while without having to go back in the Settings to switch the default.

The Messenger app is both archaic and unnecessary, despite its neat Material Design makeover. I prefer the ubiquitous nature of Hangouts, and I think it makes the most sense for the markets that Google’s big in, like emerging market. There are people who pay as they go for text messaging and phone calls, and would likely prefer using Hangouts to send over-the-top messages using data—I do this when I go overseas.

Thus, there’s no need to overcomplicate your life. You’re better off sticking with Hangouts all of your messaging needs. 

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