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SMS integration coming to Google Hangouts. Will Google Voice follow?

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Google’s(s goog) 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.

New Google HangoutsAfter 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.

13 Responses to “SMS integration coming to Google Hangouts. Will Google Voice follow?”

  1. I don’t care what Google does with Hangouts, but I’m sure it will please many if they “integrate” Google Voice into it sooner rather than later. I do however hope that whatever they do, they will allow the existing Voice to continue functioning as it always has. I am extremely reluctant to “update” to Google+, thereby linking my private life (search, apps, music, etc.) with my public persona. If this integration push continues, I worry I’ll have to stop using Google entirely.

    • IvanFHagar

      You can still use it from your cellphone. And in Gmail, you can still revert to Talk. The question is, will we ever be able to do it from Hangouts? This is what I was Googling when I got to this article.

  2. My own guess is that internally Google views the public switched telephone network as legacy technology and simply doesn’t want to invest any more resources into it. What they are probably looking for is some type of system that will eventually become a universal communications protocol that will bypass the whole works.

    Ideally I think they would like to see Hangouts become that replacement, but I suspect they are realistic enough to recognize that it probably won’t happen. Instead what is needed is an open protocol similar to email to link the various communications apps together (e.g. Hangouts, Skype, Whatsapp, etc).

    WebRTC is a possible solution, but it is yet to be seen whether Microsoft, Facebook and even Google itself are willing to sit down and work out their differences for the greater good. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was partly what Larry was thinking about when he took a swipe at MS during his I/O talk (at 3:05:45).

  3. I am concerned about Google Voice. Google never really followed through on the full potential of Google Voice. Consequently, it’s one of those services with limited users. I wouldn’t be surprised if Google Voice has less number of users than Google Reader. That being the case, will Google Voice become another target of Larry Page’s efforts to cull less popular products/services?

  4. Culpritus

    I can’t find the “phone” option in the Hangouts version of chat in gmail. I had to revert to the old chat in gmail to get it back. I’m really interested in GV becoming a real VoIP solution integrated with Hangouts. I’m a bit concerned this hasn’t been addressed during I/O.

  5. apimpnamedslickback

    I’m not sure, but I just received a Google Voice call through the Hangouts app on my laptop a moment ago. With this being the case, I think complete Google Voice integration is a lot closer than you think.