The NEW update to 2.0.15007.9964 brings two small features to the app. The Google Wallet app will now automatically track your online orders and notify you when they have shipped. Also, you can now view your order history all in one place providing information on when the order was placed and when the item was delivered. If you click on one of the transactions you are given even more information. These are great additions to an already great app.
iPhone (and now, iPad) users should soon be getting a significant overhaul for their Hangouts apps, including the unusual iOS-first launch of two major features: stickers and short video messages.
One of the most significant additions is “Stickers,” large animated emoticons which take up an entire message and include backgrounds. They look very similar to the Moods you’ve seen in your Google+ stream, which can be attached to posts from the Google+ app, but there are a lot more of them. Confusingly, these are different from the moods in Hangouts, which display regular emoticons next to your profile picture for a period of time.
Stickers are probably a response to the popular Facebook Messenger feature, which was in turn a response to the same service in LINE, a massively successful messaging app from Japan. What with Facebook’s recent purchase of WhatsApp, a product Google was apparently very interested in, it seems Google is going to make sure Hangouts is as appealing and fully-featured as possible.
Right now, Stickers for Hangouts are much more limited than their older counterparts: in total they comprise what would be just one set out of dozens in LINE and Facebook Messenger. In both of those apps, each set uses a strikingly different set of themes, styles, and characters, including famous brands like Pusheen and Vocaloid. Sets can be downloaded separately in a Sticker Store, allowing some of them to premium in-app purchases at around $2 each.
For better or for worse, Hangouts has started with a smaller set of more generic, pre-installed moods which do a good job at conveying emotion but lack the nuance and charm of a dragon riding a bus or a roll of toilet paper with a face on it. Hangouts could open up a Sticker Store of its own, but considering Google’s recent moves to deeply integrate their emoticons with other products like Google+, Android, and even Chrome, my guess is that they’ll opt for simplicity.
With the app update you’ll also be able to record 10-second videos and send them to everyone in a Hangout, all from within the app. Considering the viral success short videos have seen from mobile apps like Vine and Snapchat, not to mention WhatsApp, this will probably become a widely-used feature on a lot of platforms. This 10-second default for quick videos first appeared in Google Glass, one of the platforms which will hopefully get this update soon.
It’s worth mentioning that these videos are saved to albums associated with each Hangout (like photos already are) and don’t go away once they’re viewed.
A Fresh New Look
The app has been completely redesigned to be consistent with iOS 7’s flat design, compatible with iPads, and generally much more beautiful. There are many more ways to swipe and tap you way around the app. You can switch accounts, view contact information, share your location, and video chat with your friends using the more modern picture-in-picture layout seen on Hangouts for desktop. Favoriting conversations for easy access is another minor but useful iOS-exclusive.
All in all, this is one powerful messaging service: group IM, group video calls, emoticons, moods, device sharing, read receipts, archives, photo sharing, video sharing, location sharing, snooze, and favoriting, all for free. It’s clear that Google has been heavily invested in messaging ever since Hangouts merged most of Google’s chat services at I/O less than a year ago. If Google follows through on the hotly-anticipated integration of their final outlying communications service, Voice, their Google+ and Hangouts platforms will be technically capable of delivering virtually all forms of messaging.
If you haven’t yet checked out Hangouts for iOS yet, make sure you hit the download link under the source at the bottom of the article and let us know what you think.
Why is iOS getting these features first? When will it be everywhere else?
There probably isn’t any conspiracy theory here, Android fans. The announcement was made by a member of the Google+ for iOS team, which is one of several groups of Googlers who work on iOS apps separately from engineers on Google’s own platforms. It’s likely the app overhaul was in progress for a long time, and these new features fit in perfectly with the update’s time frame. Because Hangouts for Android and Chrome is developed by a different set of people, it’s hard to say exactly when this update will roll out to all users, but it probably won’t be much of a wait. Sit tight!
People who have multiple profiles using Chrome OS can attest to the inconvenience that comes up when you are logged-in as one profile and need to switch over to another one just for a moment; and then switch back. It required logging out of one profile, logging in to another; emailing the info that you need; sharing a file via Google Drive or placing the item into a flash drive; then logging out of that profile and logging back into the first profile where you need the info. Even if you have a NEW lighting fast Chromebook, the process can still be tedious. With a NEW flag that was introduced into the Chrome OS Dev channel, it is now possible to log into multiple profiles as needed without logging out.
* At the time of the writing this article, I was not able to see how to ‘sign out’ of one of the profiles once you are logged into two or more. The only option that I could find was ‘Sign Out all’.
To login to another account, click on your profile shown in the menu. You will then see a drop-down that says ‘Sign in another account’. When you choose that option, you are presented with a small banner advising you of the risks of being logged in and no longer needing a password to access your accounts while in that open session. When you click-through that message, you then are given a screen with the accounts currently available to you on your Chrome OS device that you can login to. Once you successfully login into another profile, in the bottom right corner you will see the icons of the profiles that you are currently logged in as. You change between the two different profiles by clicking on the icons. You can also switch between them in the menu.
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