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Practical: Hangouts Chat can not replace 'classic Hangouts' yet

Recently, after dropping the "Hangouts Classic" (the recently dubbed) "Hangouts Classic" for the Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet, we spent some time as a group to give Hangouts Chat a hands-on trial , Of course it did not go smoothly.

Convenient: Hangouts Chat

The Setup

Our webpage network (9to5Google, 9to5Mac, Electrek, etc.) is using slack for communication. Given the fact that we were already familiar with group chats and threaded conversations, Hangouts chat seemed like a simple switch for us.

For the hands-on trial, we've all installed the Android app or the Web App, launched a new room and used Hangouts chat as much as possible instead of Slack. This test lasted as long as we could stand ̵

1; about one and a half hours.

Strange integration with Google Contacts

When you first install the app or open the web client if you have not yet been invited You are greeted with the option to start a new conversation or room. Simple enough.

Things get complicated when you try to connect with someone, either by direct message or by adding to a room. If this person does not exist in your Google contacts, they may not even exist for Hangouts chat.

When joining a room, even with the whole 9to5Google crew added to my Google contacts, no one had a display name. Each person could only see their own name; All others were displayed as a complete email address. This remained true between rooms and direct messages.

Mention of someone in a message requires their entire email address and looks very awkward with two @ characters. Even your own name, which is tagged in another message, will be displayed as a complete email address.

Here is the same message pair from two perspectives.

I reached into any setting menu I could find and found no trace of renaming contacts or using names from Google Contacts can. This is far from Consumer Ready.

Rather a discussion forum than a chat room

For an app with "Chat" in the name that you can use to create group conversations called "Rooms." Hangouts chat does not provide what you would expect from a chatroom experience. Instead of a linear timeline with optional threads (as Slack does), each new message is a separate conversation thread.

This is not necessarily good or bad, but it can take some getting used to. This can be useful to keep the context current, especially as the leading message is always displayed in each thread. However, the model breaks out along with the current lack of Hangouts chat.

For example, if new messages appear in an older thread or a new thread is added to the room, the web client offers an update button to to display the new messages. That's downright chunky. And the Android app does not reorder the thread list until you leave the room view and return.

Direct Messages Are Solid And Straightforward

One-to-many conversations and group messages work exactly as you would expect. Both behave like a typical chat conversation without causing threads or other quirks between you and your chat. Unlike rooms, direct and group messages have a prominent option of self-destruction after 24 hours.

When you first start a direct conversation with someone, you must first enter their message to find them in your contacts. On the web, this can be simplified by clicking on a person's profile picture when in a room with them.

Apart from the minor inconsistencies between platforms, direct messaging was one of the better aspects of my hands-on work with Hangouts Chat.

Integration with Google and beyond

Click or tap in a thread response or direct message to create a new link to Hangouts Meet video conferencing and attach it to your message. Then everyone can join the Hangouts Meet in one click.

This was one of the strangest aspects of the chat. Connecting your team frequently via video can save a tremendous amount of time. If this hits the consumer, maybe there will be a duo integration.

Smart Reply support was also added to the Hangouts chat shortly after the test was completed. I went back and checked the answers offered in previous conversations and found that, just as in Gmail, it always provides reasonable answers.

In addition to Google's own services, there are a number of chat bots from Giphy and Github, LucidChart, Trello and dozens more. These integrations were not immediately noticed in our tests, as you may see in some of our conversations, but they seemed decent to work well.

Final Thoughts

It looks like Hangouts Chat is in competition with Slack. I do not think that in this area, as we have found in our time to join, any company still should switch from Slack to Hangouts Chat. If your company has never used an app like Slack and is already a G Suite customer, Hangouts Chat might be worth a try if you're already paying for it.

With a move to the consumer area, however, Hangouts Chat would then compete with people like Discord. Suffice it to say that Hangouts Chat has little or no chance of winning this fight without any significant additions.

As Google's development focus is focused on refining the direct and group messaging experience, making Hangouts better and entertaining chat could be a great product for consumers. Unfortunately, this focus would likely be at the expense of new enterprise market features, forcing the cash-rich customers of Google and their needs to move into a consumer market for which Hangouts Chat was never intended.

Honestly, Hangouts Chat does not have killer features to switch to the platform, even though it has become great. The clearest current example of this is Google's Allo, which offers many "fun" features and a relatively consistent experience for consumers, but no reasons for anyone to ever make the switch. As a result, the platform eventually joined the Google Cemetery.

Where Hangouts Chat really has a chance for the future, the competition with Slack continues. If Google could simply polish up the corners of the app and deliver a consistent Web-to-mobile experience, Hangouts Chat could be a big winner in the corporate world with its deep integration and integration with G Suite.

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