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Google Hangouts on Android is a lot of things — a mobile chat client, the landing spot for old Google Voice features and an app that Google requires Android devices to have pre-installed. One thing it’s not, however, is the default SMS messaging app on stock Android Lollipop, starting with the Nexus 6.
In the screenshots that [company]Google[/company] published when announcing its new Nexus devices, many noticed that the Hangouts app was no longer a stock home screen icon, replaced instead by a new app called Messenger. Google confirmed that Messenger is the new default SMS app, providing a statement to Android Police:
Messenger and Hangouts offer users choice, each have their own benefits. Hangouts work great for cross platform (web, iOS, Android) and cross medium communications (video, voice,messaging, SMS). Messenger will be specially designed to be a quick and easy way to send and receive SMS and MMS messages on Android; more to come (Nexus 6 will come with both apps).
I can see why Google made that choice. Most of Google’s hardware partners, like Motorola, Samsung, and HTC, have continued to install their own messaging app even as they’ve taken other Google-made apps as their defaults. The carriers, which are selling Nexus devices for the first time, would probably prefer a messaging app that doesn’t have an easy way to bypass SMS charges. And let’s face it: As it stands today, Google Hangouts is kind of a kludge.
Google Hangouts has a ton of features, but for someone who just wants to text message, it’s way too complicated. I understand that Google wants to have a one-stop messaging app, but I don’t think Google chats (“hangouts,” as they’re now officially called) are the over-the-top messaging solution it’s looking for. Lots of people consider Google’s chat network to be something they use at their desk in a Gmail tab, and are bewildered when they receive them on their phone.
Hangouts isn’t going anywhere: It’s still going to be pre-installed on tens of millions of Android devices. It’s just that text messaging is simply too important to screw up with confusing feature bundling. Apple has said that its Messages app is the most used app on iOS, and I suspect usage is similar on Android as well. Even as the phone becomes simply an app on a smartphone, the humble text message remains the main way to communicate for a lot of people.