G Suite's Hangouts Meet Gains In-Call Instant Messaging

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Hangouts was split into two apps for G Suite users a while back, but it seems that the video chatting app Hangouts Meet is gaining back a bit of the functionality it lost during the shift by gaining support for in-chat instant messages. The feature manifests as a chat tab within video calls when on a vertically-oriented smartphone, but on screen-filling landscape calls, as well as calls made on PCs, Chromebooks, and the like, the messages pop up in the middle of the video feed, and can be opened to start a full-on chat thread with a click or tap. This means that colleagues can talk amongst themselves during a presentation or speech, somebody can put a comment out to a group meeting without disrupting it, and colleagues can share links related to the current conversation, among other use cases.

Anybody involved in a meeting can chime in and chat with either the group or an individual, even if they're not signed in on a Google account. This means that you don't necessarily need to have one. The feature is rolling out in the next 1-3 days to all G Suite users, and will be available on all devices that can run Hangouts Meet, including Chromebox for Meetings. The new feature is coming alongside an update to Hangouts Meet that will bump the app's version number up to version 4.5.

Hangouts Meet is accompanied by Hangouts Chat for G Suite users. Hangouts Chat retains all of the text-based and rich messaging features of the consumer version of Hangouts, though it did see SMS functionality removed at the same time as its consumer-facing counterpart. There has thus far been no announcement of any plans for Hangouts Meet to supplant Hangouts Chat, and since Hangouts Meet only has text chat functionality within video chats, the chances of that happening are extremely slim. The consumer version of Hangouts remains unchanged, with full function for text and video chats intact, though consumers saw a divergence of their own with the creation of Google Allo and Google Duo. Consumer Hangouts being replaced by these two apps is entirely possible, though the two newer apps still lack some fan-favorite functions that Hangouts has, such as syncing conversations across devices. In any case, Google seems adamant that Hangouts will be sticking around, at least for now.

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