Google recently announced that they would soon be removing SMS from Hangouts within the next month and are moving the Hangouts app into the enterprise sector with two new services called Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat that will compete with GoToMeeting and Slack respectively.
This is a total 180 degree turn from the original Hangouts strategy. It’s initial goal was an ambitious one: to give Apple a run for their money and offer Android/Google users an experience similar to iMessage. At its peak Hangouts did just that. It became the default “G-Chat” in GMail for most users, it had a powerful mobile app, and it had a very successful video chat function that rivaled Skype and FaceTime. The icing on the cake for Project Fi customers was (and still is) the ability to SMS on any device, truly giving iMessage a run for its money.
Then, somehow, over the course of 2-3 years Hangouts degraded over time. The Android app, while never having started on stellar footing, has become progressively buggy over the years. Furthermore, quirks like not being able to SMS/MMS a GIF to my friends (when literally every other SMS/messaging app allow GIFs) really adds to the frustrating mess that is Hangouts.
Yet, even more frustrating, it seems that the only logical reason that Hangouts was left to languish was to make Google’s new messaging service, Allo, a great app. And while it is indeed a great app it comes with its own frustrations (and a subsequent rage that only Google branded market-strategy can instil)l. For example, the fact that Allo launched without a desktop client (that’s still in the works), the fact that it’s only allowed to be active on one phone at a time, and the fact that it’s (for the foreseeable future) not getting SMS or RCS support, has guaranteed abysmal adoption and has earned Google my unfettered wrath.
So here we are. While this change offers us a more coherent strategy, Android users have lost prospects for our great iMessage alternative for what, exactly? A fragmented ecosystem where Google gives us an enterprise-oriented Slack competitor (whose freemium, consumer counterpart in gmail is still sticking around), a consumer-oriented WhatsApp competitor that still doesn’t have a desktop client (and might never have SMS or RCS support), and a plane-Jane SMS app that does nothing other than send SMS and RCS really well.
Good job, Google. You blew it.
While I appreciate finally having a coherent strategy, I very well may ditch Android altogether. Why? Because iMessage still reigns supreme and you’re only moving Android users further and further away from a competitive equivalent.