Google is reportedly going to be shutting down Hangouts for consumers sometime in 2020. This is according to a source familiar with the matter that spoke with the publication, 9to5 Google. This means that 2019 will be the last full year that you will be able to use Hangouts, though Google has not made the announcement that Hangouts is shutting down just yet. So there is still plenty of time to use the messaging app. Google essentially stopped working on Hangouts nearly a year ago, when it decided that it wanted to push everyone to Allo and use Hangouts for its Enterprise users in G Suite. Once Hangouts does sunset in 2020, it will still be available for enterprise customers.
Earlier this year, Google announced Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet, which were two apps that allows users to chat or do video calls – which the names indicate which is which. Those apps will continue to be available, as Google is pushing Hangouts over to its Enterprise users – aka G Suite users. So the writing has been on the wall for a bit already, in regards to Hangouts for consumers. It's unclear where Google is looking to send users when it does end Hangouts in 2020, but knowing Google, it will likely announce yet another messaging app at Google I/O next year in Mountain View. Even though we already have Allo, it's really not a replacement for Hangouts, since it is missing a lot of its key features. It appears that like Google+, Hangouts will also be shutting down for consumers, but sticking around for enterprise users. A bit odd that Google is shutting these down for consumers, but keeping them for its Enterprise users.
Background: Google debuted Hangouts back in 2013, as a replacement for Google Talk. It was supposed to be the single messaging app that would bring all of Google's services together. It launched on virtually every platform, with desktop clients in tow as well. But it has always had some issues. Whether that was notifications not working on some devices, SMS/MMS not being available, or something else. But for the most part, it has been a decent messaging client from Google. Though in recent years, it has been stripping out features, including SMS/MMS functionality that did finally get added in. Meaning that you could not use it as a text message app replacement on your smartphone. Of course, that is what Allo was supposed to do, but that didn't happen. When Hangouts debuted, Google had a ton of different messaging apps already available, basically a different messaging system for each product. Hangouts was supposed to unify that, but in 2018, Google still has a ton of different messaging apps. Including Hangouts, Allo and Android Messages to name a few – with the latter two being pre-installed on your smartphone.
For years, Google has struggled to get its messaging game together. It has repeatedly tried to get a unified messaging app/service together for Android and desktop, but has continued to fail, miserably. It's pretty shocking that a company as large as Google just cannot get the messaging thing together. It's one of the core parts of the smartphone user experience. Whatever Google decides to replace Hangouts with, hopefully will be a better experience and unify all of its services, but don't hold your breathe, as we have heard this all before. Earlier this year, however, there was an exclusive report from The Verge, stating that Google's next big fix is going to be messaging on Android. Now that is a good thing, as we already have a ton of messaging apps we have to use on Android. However, "Android" is the key word there. Messaging on Android. Not messaging in general. Which means that this is likely something that is coming to Android and won't include support for messaging on the desktop unfortunately. Of course, we know very little about this plan at this point, so it's hard to say, really. Messaging has always been an issue for Google, and it is something that it needs to rectify pretty soon, hopefully that will be a big part of Android Q next year, but likely whatever Google does, will include RCS. Which is the new protocol that Google has been pushing for messaging on all carriers.
Impact: This is going to impact virtually everyone that uses Android (or at least Google services on Android), as just about everyone uses Hangouts. There are some that don't use Hangouts and use something like WhatsApp and then Android Messages or Allo for text messages, but that is a pretty small fraction of the Android population. There's going to be a lot of upset people, because Hangouts was a great option for a lot of people. It did not require a phone number, so it could be used on a tablet that didn't have a phone number. And thus allow kids to message their parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and even their friends. Without giving them a phone. But many messaging apps are going the route of using a phone number to sign in, including WhatsApp. Which is going to make this even harder for them.
It's important to remember that Google has not officially announced that it is shutting down Hangouts, but given the evidence that is available, it's not a surprise to see this report coming out today. Google likely won't announce that it is shutting it down until sometime next year. Usually these things get announced about a year (at most), before it actually shuts down. Like Google+, it was announced a few months ago, and it is being shut down in the Spring of next year. But we should still take this all with a grain of salt until Google actually announces that Hangouts is being shut down. Now is a good time to start looking at some other messaging apps out there. WhatsApp is a good option since it is available on virtually every platform, however the fact that it is owned by Facebook is going to steer some people away from it.