Don’t look now, but Hangouts for Android could be losing some big functionality in the near future. According to a trusted source familiar with the matter, the next version of Hangouts for Android will bring about what’s sure to be an unpopular change: the removal of its SMS/MMS feature.
Hangouts was one of the main apps folks were begging to get proper SMS capabilities once Android started natively supporting third-party apps, but the functionality was a bit janky in the early going. Bugs were plentiful, with things like MMS and group texts (this feature arrived later than standard SMS and MMS) sometimes failing to work consistently. The app also had the tendency to send messages late for some folks.
Most of the aforementioned issues have been cleaned up by now — so much so that we’d consider it a legit texting app — but 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.
So what’ll you have to do for texts now? Well, the app — which is currently being dogfooded to Google employees — will have a prompt that encourages you to try out Google’s dedicated Messenger app. It doesn’t hurt that Messenger is a lot more customizable than Hangouts and is a more fleshed out experience overall. You could also download a third-party app like Textra or use whatever messaging app came stock on your phone.
One last note about this forthcoming change: it’s not yet clear whether this means Google Voice users will lose their ability to message within Hangouts, but our guess is that they won’t as Project Fi uses Google Voice (whose home is now primarily within the confines of the Hangouts app) to allow you to send and receive messages from any of your Android devices. This change is likely only to affect those who used Hangouts as an alternative to the default messaging app. [UPDATE]: We can confirm that Project Fi and Google Voice functionality will remain. Only carrier/native SMS will get the axe.]