Google Hangouts might be one of the most underrated web and mobile apps out there today. The interface lets you text and make phone calls through the internet. But a new update advises that users should switch to Google Messenger for texting function, which seems to hint that the SMS capabilities may no longer be available in the near future.
But that is not necessarily a bad thing because the update also appears to have improved the call quality “by routing audio and video over a direct, peer-to-peer connection, when possible” according to the company.
This could mean, then, that Google is focusing on improving their phone call functions too, and not just things like web-based apps. Of course, making a direct call to the person you are calling is far more efficient than trying to route it through Google’s massive—and very busy—servers.
Some analysts suspect that Google may be using a technology that they have supported for a long time, a technology that is not necessarily the most popular. This technology is called WebRTC, or Web-based Real Time Communication. It is an API which supports browser-to-browser voice and video calling without the need for pesky (and heavy) plugins. They had originally announced this technology back in 2011 and have actually incorporated it into all concurrent versions of Chrome (except Chrome for iOS).
It should be noted, however, that while Google web and [Android] mobile apps have been largely free, this new direct connect feature might carry a small price (in terms of data rates, for example). Still, it will improve the voice and video capabilities of the Hangouts app.
But in addition to this voice and video calling, it is also important to note that rumors suggest Google is currently working on a machine learning, AI-powered chat service. If this is, in fact, true, then fans of Hangouts could have lots of polish and updates to look forward to in the very near future. For example, Google just acquired the CTO of Voxer, which is a messaging app with a walkie-talkie-like feature. That could definitely be a good sign of things to come in terms of improving Hangouts.