Google Thursday provided an update for users who still rely on Hangouts to chat with friends and family. The search giant said that during the first half of 2021, Hangouts users will be migrated to a free version of Google Chat – the competitor Slack and Discord currently available to corporate users.
Google will automatically migrate Hangouts conversations during the transition, as well as contacts and saved history. Once the transition is complete, the free version of Google Chat will be available as a built-in experience in Gmail and as a standalone app.
The cat will understand familiar features of Hangouts, such as direct and group messaging, as well as new additions, such as faster search and emoji reactions. Free Google Chat users will also be able to share and collaborate on files and assign tasks. The free version of Google Chat will always include additional phishing protections as part of Google’s Safe Browsing initiative.
Since Hangouts will make way for Chat, that means Google will need to make changes to Hangouts for Google Fi users. This includes removing Fi support from Hangouts early next year. Google is going instead make Messages its main platform for Fi, it will therefore add new features in the coming weeks. Google said Fi users will be able to make voice calls and check their voicemail from Messages for the web, migrate their existing Hangouts conversations, and manage conversations from Messages on all devices.
Google is also changing some things related to telecommunications and Hangouts with Google Voice. Later this month, Hangouts Voice users will be directed to the Voice app for text messaging and calling in the future. Voice assistance in Hangouts will then be phased out early next year. Meanwhile, Google has said that in order to comply with new regulations introduced in the EU and US in 2021, it is removing calling phone functionality from Hangouts. By November of this year, Google will update the group video calling experience in Hangouts with Meet.
Google has said the timing for some of these changes may change, but with 2021 on the horizon, you may want to start preparing for the changes now.
Update 1: Hangouts shutdown delayed for Google Fi users
In October, Google finally presented its roadmap for when it planned to shut down Hangouts. For most users, Google plans to migrate them to the company’s new platform called Google Chat. This transition is slowly underway, with Chat already supported to show individual Hangouts conversations. For subscribers of Fi, Google’s MVNO, Google plans to migrate them to the company’s Messages app which supports SMS / MMS and has a web client through which you can send SMS, view your voicemail and make voice calls. While the Messages app has already brought full Fi integration, Google has decided to give Fi users more time to migrate to Messages by delaying when Hangouts will lose key features (via 9to5Google).
From March 2021, Fi users will no longer be able to use the Hangouts app to send or receive text messages, or make or receive voice calls and voicemail messages. If you haven’t yet started the process of syncing all of your conversations and voicemail messages with Messages, now is the time to do so. If you wait until the deadline has passed, you won’t be able to seamlessly transfer your SMS / MMS history to Messages. Instead, you’ll have until September 30, 2021 to manually use Google Takeout to export text messages from Hangouts.