Hangouts and Google Voice are finally getting integrated. Nick covered the start of that yesterday, with Google Voice visual voicemail showing up in Hangouts. The SMS integration took a little longer, but that is being rolled out to users starting today. What does it look like and how does it work? When I opened Hangouts this morning I was greeted with a message asking me to "Receive your SMS and voicemail in Hangouts instead of Google Voice." Easy enough. Just select "Turn it on" and then SMS and voicemail will push from Google Voice into Hangouts. This overrides the notifications in Google Voice and actually turns off all messages going into the Google Voice service. That means that you won't see any messages in the Voice web interface, the Chrome extension, the Voice Android app, or any other place you might receive Voice SMS or voicemail. All of these are now being pushed to Hangouts. I was a little hesitant to make this change because I like the Google Voice web interface. I did it even though I was nervous and I'm finding that everything is working well in Hangouts.
Just turning on the Google Voice SMS in Hangouts functionality isn't the end of the story, though. There's one more step you'll want to take to truly integrate your Voice account with Hangouts. In the Hangouts app on your phone head into the Settings and select SMS. You'll see a new option that says "Send SMS from". Tap this and you will be presented with three choices. You can select to send SMS from your carrier number, your Google Voice number, or use Hangouts Smart Reply. I have used a Google Voice number as my exclusive number for years, so I selected "Google Voice number". That's the only number I want to send SMS from.
This integration also translates to Hangouts on the web. The Hangouts web browser extension, Hangouts in Gmail, and Hangouts in Google+ can all send and receive SMS using your Voice number. Hangouts conversations on the desktop now have an SMS icon for existing contacts, if you have their phone number saved in your Google Contacts. You can switch between SMS and Hangouts messaging all in the same thread. To start a new SMS conversation via Hangouts on the web, just click in the "New Hangouts" box and then click on the phone icon to the right. You'll be presented with phone numbers that you can SMS or call. Anything you send will come from your Google Voice number. There's even a small SMS icon in the top left corner of any Hangouts conversations you are having so you'll always know whether you are using SMS or IM. With the integration of Google Voice SMS and voicemail into Hangouts, Google is presenting us with a truly compelling, all-encompassing messaging platform that is cross-platform and carrier-independent. All of your voice calls, SMS, MMS (some MMS), and voicemail can be managed through Hangouts on a device that only has Wi-Fi connectivity. Wireless carriers may not be happy with this, but I certainly am.