Hangouts is one of Google's more popular apps, and it's easy to see why as it's a simple and robust way to keep in touch with family and friends from around the globe. The app in its current state allows users to initiate hangouts messages as well as video and voice calls, but some time ago Google had also added in the ability to use Hangouts as your default app for text messaging, which was by all accounts a heavily-requested feature from many users. Earlier today a rumor has surfaced which suggests that Google will be removing the SMS/MMS feature from Hangouts with an upcoming update, but in light of this it's also now suggested that the app will gain some new features and functions along the way. This doesn't necessarily replace the SMS default feature, nor does it make up for it's removal if these rumors are true, but it can be looked upon as not being a total loss.
While losing SMS capabilities within Hangouts is sure to have a negative effect on quite a few users, Hangouts will potentially be gaining some new features that enrich the experience further. Part of these will be a quick-reply feature that can be accessed and interacted with via the notification shade when users drag down from their status bars. What's more, is that the quick-reply will have the ability to be opened up on top of whatever screen you're on at current and messages can be typed and sent.
This would allow users to continue using the app they're in without closing it or jumping over to Hangouts to send a message, something which should end up saving users plenty of time in the long run when you think about how much time collectively would be spent going back and forth between apps. In addition to the new quick reply, it's also rumored that Google will be adding the ability to add shortcuts to particular conversations, meaning users will have a way to access specific Hangouts conversations quicker as they can simply tap a button on the homescreen to go right to it. Both of these would be useful improvements to Hangouts, even if it does mean SMS would fall to Messenger or other text apps of the user's choice.