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Google Hangouts is a great messenger app, but it has long suffered from bugs, inconsistencies, and the propensity to crash when you have it open in a Gmail tab of your desktop browser. Well, Hangouts has now got a major update on the web in the form of an all new dedicated web app, which promises to fix all its issues.

Much like other messenger apps, Hangouts is focusing on three key features: video calls, phone calls, and instant messaging. And remember, Hangouts encrypts all communication to protect your privacy.

Meet the New Hangouts Web App

New-google-hangouts-web-app

For the longest time, Hangouts on desktop was a nightmare. There was no dedicated desktop client, unlike its predecessor Google Talk, and the only way to use it was as a sidebar in Gmail or through the official Chrome extension Hangouts Extension For Chrome Brings Conversations To Your Desktop Hangouts Extension For Chrome Brings Conversations To Your Desktop Use Hangouts outside the browser. An overlooked Chrome extension from Google lets you chat without opening Gmail or Google+. Read More . In fact, you needed third-party developers to make Google Hangouts better on desktop Someone Finally Made Google Hangouts Better On Desktop Someone Finally Made Google Hangouts Better On Desktop It took someone outside Google hacking away at CSS to finally offer a decent Hangouts experience on desktops and laptops – and you can give it a shot right now if you're a Chrome user. Read More . Well, now you can ditch all that and visit a URL to access just Hangouts, nothing else: hangouts.google.com

The Hangouts web app works with a regular Google account now, and does not need you to have a Google+ profile, in yet another sign of the slow demise of Google+ Google's Plus: The Latest in Long Line of Social Flops Google's Plus: The Latest in Long Line of Social Flops Google's history of launching social network is a series of failures. Read More . The people you talk to or invite will also need a Google account —except for international phone calls.

Hangouts-big-3

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Three large icons invite you to start a video call, a phone call, or a text chat. Your friend list sits on the left, and clicking a name will open an embedded window, much like how Hangouts in Gmail works right now.

The background for the app is a beautiful photo taken from a Google+ user’s public feed, and this will be updated every day with a new image. For once, it seems like Google is following Microsoft Bing’s lead, as the latter is renowned for its stunning daily image of the day Download Bing’s Image Of The Day With A Click [Updates] Download Bing’s Image Of The Day With A Click [Updates] The Bing homepage is one of the distinctive features of the search engine from Microsoft, and something that glaringly separates it from the staid minimal interface of its chief rival. According to the Bing blog,... Read More .

Does It Work Well?

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The new Hangouts web app is a welcome change from the clunky, slow Hangouts that has been a part of Gmail for ages now. It is definitely smoother and lighter, and so far, we haven’t been randomly disconnected even once — a problem that persisted on Hangouts in Gmail.

The text chat is as good (or bad) as it always was, so no complaints or surprises there.

Hangouts-voice-calls

The new Hangouts also places a premium on its cheap international calling through a PC The Best Sites for Making International Telephone Calls The Best Sites for Making International Telephone Calls Read More . You’ll need a microphone connected and some Google Credits to get started. You can find the cost of an international voice call via Hangouts using the official Calling Rates Calculator. And in this case, the recipient does not need a Google account — you can call a mobile phone number unregistered as a Google user.

Before you make a phone call through Hangouts, you should check out the countries it is available in and which countries you can call. Here’s Google’s list of available countries.

Problem with Video Calls

Invite-video-calls

Hangouts has historically been renowned for its video chat feature 5 Reasons Google Hangouts Are Cooler Than Skype For Video Chats 5 Reasons Google Hangouts Are Cooler Than Skype For Video Chats Hangouts is Google's take on chat rooms. Like many times before, Google has turned a good idea into something incredibly useful, while preserving simplicity and ease of use and thus making it fantastic. In this... Read More , which lets you add up to 10 participants to talk at once, for free. Despite cool competitors like Appear.in Move Over Google Plus Hangouts. Appear.in Is Here & It's Really Good Move Over Google Plus Hangouts. Appear.in Is Here & It's Really Good People have been crying out for a decent video conferencing app for ages. We thought that was Google Plus. We were wrong. Meet Appear.in. Read More , Hangouts remains a favorite for video calls.

In the Hangouts web app, you can start a video call with ease and add people through email, share a direct link, or invite your Google+ contacts. Again, your recipients don’t need a Google+ id, but they do need a Google account.

hangouts-invitations

For the most part, video calls are smooth. While you are talking, you won’t notice any issue with the app at all. However, there is one problem: you can’t be chatting alongside. It’s weird, but video calls take over your existing Hangouts and start as a full-screen window. It’s almost like Google expects you to concentrate on your video chat alone — if you want to have a text conversation with someone else at the same time in a separate chat window, well, you can’t!

The workaround for this is to start the Hangouts web app in another tab. There, you can use the app as you normally do, while switching to your video chat tab to smile and wave.

Alternately, first open a text chat window with whoever you want to initiate a video chat with, and use the video call button in that. That opens the video chat in a new pop-up window, keeping your original Hangouts safe.

How to Disable Hangouts in Gmail

Now that Hangouts is available a web app, you probably want to disable it in Gmail, where it has been notorious for causing the tab to crash. The process is pretty simple:

  1. Click the gear icon and choose Settings.
  2. Click the Chat tab.
  3. Choose “Chat off.”
  4. Click Save changes.

Alternately, you can also switch to the old-style Google Talk, which is more stable than Hangouts in Gmail. When the need arises for a group chat or video call, fire up Hangouts.Google.com in a separate tab.

Hangouts 4.0 on Mobile

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Meanwhile, Hangouts has also got an update for Android and iOS devices. It adds several functionalities, such as:

  • New slick, flat design for iOS, and material design update for Android.
  • It consumes less battery than previous versions.
  • You can change your status message through the app.
  • New Hangouts Dialer app for Android to call any number internationally

In short, it’s faster, it’s better looking, and it has more features. No wonder it’s our favorite all-in-one messaging and calling app for Android The Best All-In-One Messaging & Calling App For Android: Google Hangouts The Best All-In-One Messaging & Calling App For Android: Google Hangouts What if there was one app that could do it all? Meet Google Hangouts for Android. Read More .

Download: Hangouts for Android (Free)

Download: Hangouts for iOS (Free)

Hangouts vs. Messenger vs. WhatsApp

The new Hangouts web app comes on the heels of a standalone web app for Facebook Messenger 6 New Features and Changes to Facebook You Should Know 6 New Features and Changes to Facebook You Should Know It's difficult to keep up with Facebook changes, or know what's new and useful. So we are revisiting the best things to come from Facebook recently, in case you missed any of them. Read More and the long-awaited WhatsApp Web client WhatsApp Web: Everything You Need To Know WhatsApp Web: Everything You Need To Know Along with supporting all mobile platforms, WhatsApp has now launched a web-based client, so you can finally use WhatsApp on your PC and sync with your phone. Read More . Is Hangouts too late to the party now? Are you happy to switch from WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger to Hangouts?

  1. Carl Dean Cox
    August 21, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    The site doesn't work for me. It loads up fine, but then there's some kind of welcome bubble that is blank, and the arrow doesn't respond to advance past it. So, it looks like it's not quite ready for prime time.

    • Mihir Patkar
      August 21, 2015 at 7:39 pm

      I think one of your extensions might be interfering with it. Do you have Adblock or Ghostery or NoScript or something working?

      • Carl Dean Cox
        August 21, 2015 at 7:46 pm

        Yup, that's what it was: my Disconnect extension was the culprit. Once I whitelisted the site, it worked perfectly. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction!

        • Mihir Patkar
          August 21, 2015 at 7:47 pm

          Anytime, Carl, glad it helped :)

  2. Ben Bezuidenhout
    August 21, 2015 at 8:52 am

    I would like a Viber Vs Whatsapp article. I use the Viber Desktop Application fulltime and its flawless. Still can't believe the bad Whatsapp Web Application even exist....

    • Mihir Patkar
      August 21, 2015 at 7:40 pm

      I really like the WhatsApp Web app! I agree it's not fantastic though, it could be much better.

  3. Phil Nolan
    August 20, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    I checked it out but didn't really see the point since i already have it all in Google+, this just means having to go to another website instead of one I'm already on.

    • Mihir Patkar
      August 21, 2015 at 7:38 pm

      Haha stop trying to bait me into another Google+ argument, Phil :D

      • Phil Nolan
        August 21, 2015 at 11:06 pm

        I'm not baiting anything, just sharing an opinion. If you want to argue that's on you.

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