Google to divorce Hangouts and SMS

Google is expected to drop SMS and MMS functionality from its popular Hangouts app.

Currently, Hangouts users have the option of routing their inbound texts through the app, to keep all messages in the same place, whether delivered across their network or OTT (over the top). This functionality could soon be coming to an end, though, after a report by Phandroid claimed Google would drop integration in an upcoming update.

Hangouts has had a rocky ride with its SMS integration over the years. Back when it was first introduced in 2013, countless users complained that it was too confusing because of the separate SMS and IM (instant messaging) panes. Google merged the two following user feedback, but whilst this solved the confusion it opened up a world of other bugs, niggles and performance issues, many of which are still to be fully resolved.

It’s thought this poor user experience is what’s driven Google to consider severing the ties between Hangouts and SMS. The search giant hasn’t formally announced the plan, though, so there’s no exact timeline for this potential change.

Phandroid claims that SMS will be removed from Hangouts to allow Google a clearer focus on IM alone. It also said that Project Fi and Google Voice functionality will remain unchanged. This means Hangouts users will still be able to make voice over IP (VoIP) calls.

Trying to find a reason for stripping SMS functionality from Hangouts, Phandroid’s Quentyn Kennemer said: “For one reason or another, Google feels the need to take it out. Why? That’s one question we can’t answer right now.

“It’s possible the company would like to keep the two apps separate to cut down on confusion for the end-user. It’s just that simple sometimes. We imagine it could also allow the Hangouts team to focus on the core experience.”

For Android users currently routing their texts through Hangouts, the alternative options are relatively simple. Google has its own dedicated Messenger app that can accept text messages, or devices may have their own pre-loaded stock apps to do the job.

For anyone making the switch to Messenger, the change could eventually prove to be beneficial. Whilst it means that all messages will no longer contained in one central location, Messenger is said to be much more customisable than Hangouts.

Companies or organisations relying on SMS for their communications needn’t worry about their texts not getting through because of this update. In fact, it should be rather good news, as it means their messages will land somewhere other than the bug-ridden Hangouts app which has prompted complaints from users ever since it first launched.

Of course, this is all speculation. Until Google makes the announcement formally, we don’t know for certain what’s afoot in the next Hangouts update.