As we approach Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet lately (recently rewritten) "Turn off Hangouts Classic," we spent some time as a group to give Hangouts a practical chat experience. Needless to say, things are not going smoothly.
Manual use: Hangouts chat
Our network of sites, 9to5Google, 9to5Mac, Electrek, etc., all collectively use Slack for communication. Considering that we were already accustomed to the idea of group conversations and thread talks, Hangout Chat seemed to be a simple key for us.
For practical testing, we all installed the Android app or loaded the web app, started a new room, and used Hangouts chat as much as we could in place of Slack. This test lasts for as long as we can spend – about an hour and a half.
Strange integration with Google Contacts
When you install the app for the first time or open the web client, if you have not been invited to the room, we congratulate you with the option to start a new conversation or room. Pretty easy.
Things get complicated when you then try to connect with someone, whether directly or add them to the room. If that person is not in your Google contacts, they will not even exist in your Hangouts conversation.
Upon joining the room, even with the entire 9to5Google team added to my contacts on Google, nobody had a display name. Everyone could only see their own name; all others were shown as their full email address. This remained true between rooms and direct messages.
Mentioning someone in a message requires your entire email address and looks very uncomfortable with two @ characters. Even your own name, marked in someone else's message, appears as your full email address.
Here is the same pair of messages from two points of view.
I dug into every possible setup menu I could find and found no sign of the ability to rename contacts or use names from Google Contacts. It is far away of users ready.
More about the discussion table than about chat
For a chat application in the name that allows you to create group conversations called "Rooms", Hangouts conversations do not offer what you would expect from a chat room experience. Instead of a linear timeline with extra threads (such as Slack offers), each new message is a separate thread.
This is not necessarily good or bad, but you may need to get used to it. It can be useful to keep the context fresh, especially when the leading message of each thread is always displayed. The model is breaking up with the current lack of varnish on Hangouts Chat, however.
For example, if new messages appear in an older topic or a new theme is added to the room, the web client offers you the refresh button to view new messages. This is unpleasant. And the Android app does not rearrange the thread list until you exit the room view and do not return.
Direct messaging is solid and clear
Single calls and bulk messages work exactly how you would expect them to. Both behave as a typical conversation in the chat, with no threads or other quirks that stand between you and your chat. Also, unlike the premises, direct and group messages have a visibly presented opportunity to self-destruct after 24 hours.
From Android, by starting a direct conversation with someone for the first time, you need to enter your email address to find them in your contacts. On the web, this can be simplified by clicking the user's photo if you are in a room with it.
Beyond this insignificant mismatch between platforms, direct messaging was one of the best aspects of my Hangouts chat experience.
Integrate with Google and beyond
With a single click or touch in a thread or direct message response, you can create a new Hangouts video meeting link and attach it to your message. Then, with one click, everyone can join Hangouts Meet.
This was one of the most strange impressive aspects of the chat. If your team is often associated with a video, it can be incredible time savings. Perhaps when it hits users, it will also integrate with Duo.
Smart Response Response support was also included in the Hangouts conversation shortly after we completed the test. I went back and checked the answers to previous conversations and found that, just like in Gmail, he consistently offered reasonable answers.
In addition to Google's own services, there is a full set of bots for chat people like Giphy, Github, LucidChart, Trello and even tens. These integrations were not immediately noticed in our tests, as you can see in some of our conversations, but they seem to work well.
As it is currently, Hangouts chat competes with Slack. And in this space, from what we found in our time, I do not think any company needs key from Slack to Hangouts Chat more. If your organization has never used an application like Slack before and is already a G Suite customer, Hangouts can be worth trying, given that you already pay for it.
By switching to user space, however, Hangouts chat will compete with Discovery likes. Suffice it to say, Hangout Chat has no chance to win this battle without significant additions.
If Google's focus on focusing on refining the direct and group messages to make it more polished and "funny", the Hangouts call can potentially become a great product for users. Unfortunately, this focus will likely be at the expense of new features in the corporate market by sacrificing Google customers who pay and their needs to attract the consumer market for which the Hangout Chat has never been designed.
Honestly, Hangouts Chat does not have murder features to get to the platform even if it gets great. The clearest example of this is Google's Allo, which had many "fun" features and a relatively constant user experience, but did not offer any reason for anyone to ever switch to. This led the platform to the final cemetery to Google.
Where chatting on Hangouts really has a chance in the future, it continues its race with Slack. If Google can simply smooth out the rough edges of the app and provide a permanent experience between web and mobile, Hangouts can be a great winner in the corporate world, thanks to both its deep integration and inclusion in G Suite.