Hangouts in the Play Store
Google released their messaging app called Google+ Hangouts. It's available for download for all Android devices except those that run really old Android versions.
Hangouts bundles Google Talk and Google+ chat. Some call it an integrated chat app, but for a real integrated chat suite the messaging features of Hangouts need to get built into a multi-network chat client like imo so you can hang out on Google, Skype, and Facebook at the same time.
What's in a name?
Because it fits in the new naming philosophy that Google adopted when it launched the Play Store.
We all know the story of the Play Store, right? Android Market didn't cut it, so that stale and rusty name had to go. Let's face it, if you want your employees to download a spreadsheet app for their company-provided tablets, the best way to tell them you mean business is to send them to a place called Play Store. By renaming that old app store Google finally got its foot in the door of the corporate world.
Calling a messaging app something with chat, talk, or messaging in it was not a good idea either. Google saw the errors of their ways and promised to change. It was about time, with WhatsApp sitting on the top spot and Blackberry Messenger about to creep into Android this summer. That's why the marketing department at Mountain View pushed the Google Talk update as Google+ Hangouts. They had no choice. Any other name and you'd confuse it with a social network, a chatroom, or an online street corner next to the mobile liquor store.
All your Hangouts chats are stored in the Google cloud, so you can sync 'em across all your gadgets. You can switch chat history off, but only per chat. There's no "set and forget" switch to turn it off once and for all. You can't appear offline either. If your Android is online everyone can see you're ready to receive messages. If you don't want to hang out with your boss and your ex you'll have to block them.
Want to use Hangouts for a VoIP call? You can, but video is switched on by default. You have to mute the video part of video chat if you just want to talk. Hangouts doesn't do SMS yet, but Google will throw it into the mix later on.
When I opened Hangouts for the first time it populated its "frequently contacted" list with lots of people that I never ever texted, called, or hangouted in any way. With 25 entries that frequently contacted list is way too long, it takes a lot of scrolling to get to the main contact list.
On the bright side, Hangouts lets you hang up. The sign out option is buried deep down in the settings screen, but where WhatsApp and Viber refuse to add an off switch Google Hangouts lets you go incommunicado when you don't have time to chat. You can also "snooze" Hangouts, but you have to choose from a list of six preset durations in excessively large increments. Snoozing leaves you connected, but there'll be no notifications to wake you up. Hangouts won't let you switch off its autostart trigger, but on a rooted phone you can tame it with an autostart manager.
Hang on for more
Because a map sounds like something that your grandfather used back in 2007, and who wants to be seen with that? To regain street cred for their app that navigates the streets, Google decided on Google Breadcrumbs. Point it to a location (like an old skool hangout) and the new updated navigation app will fill your screen with tiny dots that morph into little crumbs of bread when you pinch to zoom in. Be careful though, because you'll end up hopelessly lost if your breadcrumbs get eaten by some Angry Birds.
Want to watch movies on your Android? In a few months Google will merge Androids video player with the movie store from the Play Store into a new movie app called Google Popcorn.
The biggest news comes last. When Google Voice goes global it will be rebranded so that everybody in all 200+ countries on the planet will instantly recognise what the app is for and how it should be used. After months of brainstorming, crowdthinking, and the combined efforts of the worlds ten biggest marketing firms Larry Page himself descended from the cloud to announce that the new überVoIP app will be known in the entire Galaxy (including the Galaxy S4 mini) as Google Bla Bla Bla. According to Google's Android development team they're aiming for a strong brand that elegantly catches the main use of all mobile voice options out there.
And it's not just apps. There's an entire operating system waiting for a new identity. The days of Android are numbered. But what will be its new name?
• Hangouts in the Play Store