Google's Hangouts has had an eclectic existence to say the least, and the latest attempt at focusing it comes in the form of ripping out its SMS capabilities, a change that will be happening on May 22. According to an email received by a user and posted to Reddit, Google is planning to phase the capability out with ample time for users to pick up another SMS app, and will begin showing Hangouts SMS users a warning and directing them toward other apps on March 27. From then on, if a user has another SMS app on their phone, Hangouts will recommend setting that app as the default. Otherwise, users will be encouraged to head to the Play Store and pick up a new SMS app.
The change will not affect Google Voice users, who will still be able to send and receive SMS messages within Hangouts. Those who use SMS through their carriers, however, have a silver lining in all of this; their existing SMS messages will not be held hostage in Hangouts. Once these users make the switch to a new app, Hangouts will, if it's able to, automatically port in your SMS messages to whatever new app they've chosen. The notification will only be shown to those using SMS on Hangouts, so users that won't be affected by the change won't see any evidence of it aside from losing the option to enable SMS on Hangouts once the change fully goes through on May 22.
This is the latest in a long line of changes that Google has made to Hangouts in an effort to change its image to one that's more enterprise-focused, while shifting consumers toward the likes of Allo, Duo, and Android Messages. While Google has made no mention of getting rid of the consumer version of Hangouts at this point, the changes might suggest otherwise; Allo seems to be getting a desktop client soon, Android Messages is being positioned as the top provider of RCS messaging on Android thanks to worldwide carrier partnerships, and more and more exclusive features are hitting the enterprise version of Hangouts with each update.