Google’s effort to unify its messaging platforms isn’t done yet. The new Hangouts app, introduced on Wednesday at the Google I/O developer event, will soon see SMS integration.
Community Manager for Hangouts and Chat, Dori Storbeck, confirmed in a Google+ thread that SMS support is “coming soon” and is one of the most requested features. The Verge also noted that the new Google Play Services supports SMS, likely to receive or send game play requests to other users.
After installing the new Hangouts app for iOS and also using the service on my Chromebook Pixel, bringing Chat, Talk and Hangout features all together is a welcome experience. And one that’s long overdue as Google has had several overlapping message services not long after Android arrived on the scene. Oddly, at least to me, is that Google Voice hasn’t been talked about in any of the message unification efforts.
This addition of SMS for Hangouts, which makes sense, is what has me wondering where Google Voice fits in to Google’s grand plans. Since it’s not a true VoIP service, maybe its outside the technical bounds of Hangouts. But traditional SMS is handled by cellular networks and it’s clearly in the scope of Hangouts if it’s coming soon. As a result, Google Voice still feels like the unloved child in Google’s family of services.
I actually use Google Voice to make calls through my computer when working, which essentially are VoIP calls, at least for part of the transmission; the calls originate on my Chromebook over Wi-Fi or LTE. I do this through what used to be Google Talk — there’s a phone icon to place the call.
Perhaps Google is simply leaving well enough alone with Google Voice until data networks mature further and voice over LTE takes root. For now, however, the service just seems left behind while all other Google messaging features are growing up.