With all the buzz recently (the recently called) "Hangouts Classics" ended, in favor of Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet, we took some time as a group to give Hangouts Chat a handy trial. Needless to say, it did not go smoothly.
Download: Hangouts Chat
Our network of websites, 9to5Google, 9to5Mac, Electrek, etc, uses all collective Slack to communicate. Given that we were already used to the idea of group cats and conversations, Hangouts Chat seemed like it could be a simple break for us.
For the practical trial, we installed all of the Android app or uploaded the web app, started a new room, and used Hangouts Chat as much as possible instead of Slack. This test lasted for as long as we could carry ̵
Strange integration with Google Contacts
When you first install the app or open the web client, if you have not been invited to a room, you are met with the opportunity to start a new conversation or room. Simple enough.
Things get complicated when you try to connect to someone either by direct message or adding them to a room. If the person is not in your Google contacts, they may not even exist in Hangouts chat.
By joining a room, even the entire 9to5Google crew was added to my Google Contacts, no one had a display name . Each person could only see his own name; Everyone else was shown as their full email address. This remained true between rooms and direct messages.
To mention someone in a message requires their entire email address and looks very difficult with two @ symbols. Even your own name, which is marked in other people's messages, appears as your full email address.
Here are the same few messages from two perspectives.
I dug into all possible settings menus I could find and found no traces of renaming contacts or using Google names Contacts.
More Discussion Forums than a Chat Room
For an app with "Chat" in the name that allows you to make group calls called "Rooms" Hangouts Chat does not offer what you can expect from a chatroom experience. Instead of a linear timeline with optional threads (like Slack offers), each new message is a separate call thread.
This is not necessarily good or bad, but you can probably get used to it. It may be useful to keep the context healthy, especially since the leading message on each thread always appears. The model violates Hangouts Chat's current lack of Polish.
If new messages appear in an older thread or a new thread is added to the room, the web client offers you a update button to see the new messages. This is simply clunky. And the Android app, by its means, does not reorder the thread list until you leave the room view and return.
Instant Message Solid and Fair
One-to-one conversation and group messaging work exactly how you expect them to. They behave both as a typical chat conversation, without threads or other quirks that stand between you and your chat. Unlike rooms, direct and group announcements are also a prominent choice for destroying themselves after 24 hours.
From Android, you start a direct conversation with someone for the first time, you'll need to enter their email address to find them in your contacts. On the web, this can be simplified to click on the person's profile picture if you are in a room with them.
In addition to the lesser discrepancy between the platforms, instant messaging was one of the better aspects of my time with Hangouts Chat.
Integration with Google and beyond
With one click or tap either a thread response or a direct message, you can create a new Hangouts Meet video meeting and add it to your message. Then with one click, everyone can join Hangouts Meet.
This was one of the more strange impressive aspects of Chat. If your team often connects via video, this can be an incredible time-saving. Perhaps when this hits the consumers, it will also have Duo integration.
Smart response support was also rolled into Hangouts Chat shortly after we finished our test. I went back and checked the answers offered to previous conversations, and found that, just like in Gmail, it consistently provides reasonable answers.
In addition to Google's own services, it's also a complete suite of chat bots from Giphy, Github, LucidChart, Trello, and dozens more. These integrations were not immediately noted in our tests, as you may see in some of our conversations, but they seemed to work well.
As it stands, Hangouts competes with slug. And in that room, from what we found in our time, I do not think any company would switch from Slack to Hangouts Chat yet. If your organization has never used an app like Slakk before, and is already a G Suite customer, Hangouts Chat can be worth a try, considering that you're already paying for it.
With a move in the consumer selection, but Hangouts Chat would compete with such as Discord. It's enough to say that Hangouts Chat is little or no chance of winning that match without any significant additions.
If Google's development focus is being refined directly and the group reporting experience, be more polished and "funny", Hangouts Chat may potentially be a good product for consumers. Unfortunately, this focus will probably be at the expense of new business market features and sacrificing Google's paying customers and their need to subscribe to a consumer market for whom Hangouts Chat was never meant.
Honestly, as it says, Hangouts Chat has no killer properties to switch to the platform, even though it became big. The clearest last example of this is Google's Allo, which had many "fun" features and a relatively consistent experience for consumers, but offered no reasons anyone could ever do the switch. This eventually brings the platform to Google Cemeteries.
Where Hangouts Chat really stands a chance in the future, continues in the competition with Slack. If Google could only polish the edge of the app and deliver a consistent experience between web and mobile, Hangouts Chat could be a big winner in the corporate world thanks to its deep integration and inclusion in the G Suite.